17

March

Green Bay Packers 2010 Player Evaluations – Kickers – Mason Crosby

1) Introduction: The 2010 season would be Mason Crosby’s fourth as a Packer.  Coming off of a disappointing 2009, where Crosby regressed a bit rather than improved, he had some work to do to justify the incentive clause he earned, doubling his salary.

For anyone who doesn’t know, I haven’t been the biggest fan of Mason Crosby. If I’m an NFL coach, my placekicker needs to at least hit 80% of his attempts, which Crosby has never done. I’ve ranted about what I perceive as the unwarranted confidence the Packers show in Crosby ( Mason Crosby: Mediocrity Rewarded). I’ve lampooned Crosby (Mason Crosby Finds the Answer to His Problems).  But despite all of this, I promise to try to stay objective in this evaluation.

2) Profile

Mason Walker Crosby

Position: K
Height: 6-1    Weight: 212 lbs.

Born: September 3, 1984 in Lubbock, TX
College: Colorado (school history)    (Crosby college stats)
Drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the 6th round (194th overall) of the 2007 NFL Draft.

3) Expectations coming into the season for that player: Be a more consistent kicker. The Packers brought no other kickers into camp,  allowing Crosby to totally focus on correcting his right hashmark and confidence  issues from 2009.  Mike McCarthy expressed full confidence that Crosby would be “just fine” and expected as much.

4) Player’s highlights/lowlights: Crosby came out on fire in the Packers’ first game against the Eagles. He hit field goals of 49 and 56 yards, had 3 PATs and was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week. His proudest moment was surely in the Super Bowl, hitting a 23-yard field goal with 2:07 remaining for the Packers’ final points.  His biggest disappointment was probably hitting the upright with seven seconds left and a chance to win the game versus the Redskins. It was a 53 yarder with plenty of distance, and his second miss on the day.

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: Average. Crosby did not have many game-winning opportunities in 2010. He was called upon to salvage three points when the Packers offense sputtered, and did so at 78.6% average, an improvement over 2009′s 75%, but still below the 80% magic number.

16

March

Green Bay Packers 2010 Player Evaluations — Kickers — Tim Masthay

1) Introduction: Signed to a reserve/future contract in January of 2010, Tim Mathsay came to the Packers as a  former All-State High School soccer player, who both punted and kicked off for the Kentucky Wildcats. One thing he had never done, however, was punt in an NFL game. He was brought in to compete with another punter who had never had a sniff of the NFL, Chris Bryan, the Australian Rules footballer. To this scenario I,  like most Packers fans, could only shake my head and ask, “Really Ted?”

2) Profile

Tim Masthay

Position: P
Height: 6-2    Weight: 198 lbs.

Born: March 16, 1987 in Pittsburgh, PA
College: Kentucky   (school history)

3) Expectations coming into the season for that player:  The  expectations for Masthay were pretty low; be better than Jeremy Kapinos was and don’t cost the Packers any games. The knock on Masthay was that he had a slow get-off and was inconsistant, pretty typical for a young inexperienced punter. After beating out Bryan in a tight pre-season battle, Mathsay had improved his mechanics but still had much work to do on his inconsistancy.

4) Player’s highlights/lowlights: Over the first half of the season, Masthay was meeting his low expectations, doing a pedestrian job without making any glaring mistakes. And then came the Jets game. I was at that game, and really couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The Packers had somehow coaxed Ray Guy out of retirement.

Masthay punted 8 times that game, only one was returned (0 yds.) and five were downed inside the 20 yard line. Mike McCarthy called it the finest punting performance he had ever seen and Masthay was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week. Masthay had almost as good a game in the NFC Championship against Chicage, once again dropping 5 of 8 punts inside the 20.

While Masthay didn’t have any glaring lowlights, he was in a bit of a funk (as were the rest of the Packers) for the Miami and Washington games. masthay had only a 35yd net average for those games, allowing 5 of his 11 punts to be returned for a total of 70 yards.

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: Nobody appreciates the value of a good punter and winning the field position game more than I do. I have been told by many people how it’s a different league and punters don’t matter any more. Bull.  Over the second half of the season, Masthay was as important to the Packers as any other special teams player.

13

March

Green Bay Packers 2010 Player Evaluations — Offense — Korey Hall

1) Introduction: A former linebacker at Boise State, Korey Hall was converted to fullback by the Packers after they selected him in the sixth round of the 2007 draft. Hall started 10 games in his rookie season, and caught eight passes for 49 yards while contributing on special teams. Over the next two seasons however, Hall only started a combined 10 games at fullback and dealt with a number of injuries. Durability has been a concern, and Hall missed 12 games in his first three seasons (2007-’09).

His signature moment might be when he caught his first and only touchdown of his career in Week 1 of the 2008 season against the Minnesota Vikings. Hall’s catch was also the first touchdown pass for Aaron Rodgers as the Packers starting quarterback.  Interestingly enough, Hall has never carried the ball in his 48 career games in Green Bay.

2) Profile:

Korey Dean Hall

Position: LB
Height: 6-1    Weight: 230 lbs.

Born: August 5, 1983 in Mountain Home, ID
College: Boise State (school history)    (Hall college stats)
Drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the 6th round (192nd overall) of the 2007 NFL Draft.

3) Expectations coming into the season for that player: Low. Hall is probably the least-known and least-respected member of the Packers fullback trio, and there were few people who were talking about him coming into the season. Many suspected the physical blocking of Quinn Johnson to take hold of the fullback position, and John Kuhn was considered a more versatile offensive player.

However, that didn’t mean that Hall was without value coming into the season.

He’s never contributed much offensively, but Hall is an underrated and important part of the Packers special teams unit. From 2007-2009, Hall led the Packers in special teams tackles. The unit has struggled over those years, but Hall was expected to contribute to the turnaround of the special teams.

4) Player’s highlights/lowlights: As a player who touched the ball twice the entire season (two catches for 11 yards), very few highlights or lowlights exist for Hall. Even so, his 17 special teams tackles led the team.

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: Hall began the season as the Packers starting fullback, but his playing time slowly gave way to John Kuhn and  Quinn Johnson. While limited offensively, Hall found other ways to help the Packers during the 2010 season. He was arguably the Packers most important special teams player behind Jarrett Bush, and his 17 tackles on that unit led the team.

13

March

Green Bay Packers 2010 Player Evaluations — Offense — Brett Swain

1) Introduction: Brett Swain wears the underdog crown very well. A seventh round pick in 2008, Swain spent the entire season on the practice squad.  In 2009, Swain beat out Ruvell Martin for a roster spot, but played only six games  before blowing out his knee. More of a contributor on special teams than a receiver, Swain nonetheless would be more active than most teams’ #5 receivers, given the Packers’ Air McCarthy offense and the injury to Jermichael Finley.

2) Profile:

3) Expectations coming into the season for that player: While Swain was the favorite to hold on to the #5 receiver spot, there were serious doubts if he could be even be ready to start the season. He struggled with the leg injury rehab early in camp, but improved dramatically as the preseason progressed. Despite a host of undrafted receivers challenging him, Swain held on to his job, mostly due to his value on special teams. Swain would be expected to continue being steady on coverage teams,  be the emergency fill-in at receiver, and occasionally step onto the field when the Packers went to five wideouts.

4) Player’s highlights/lowlights: Swain caught the first pass of career against the Jets, filling in for an injured Donald Driver. In the Packers’ regular season loss to Atlanta,  Brett Swain saw his most extended action of the season. The Packers went into their “big five” receiver set 15 times in that game, with Swain catching two passes. One was a slant for 31 yards, which was easiest the longest reception of his career. Swain’s lowlight would easily be his drop of  what would have been a key first down on a third and 10 pass in the Super Bowl.

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: Swain did see action in all of the Packers’ games, mostly on special teams. Swain had a pass thrown his way in six regular season games plus the Super Bowl. He finished with 6 receptions on the year for 72 yards.  On special teams, Swain was credited with three coverage tackles during the regular season.

6) Player’s contributions during the 6-win end-of-season run: Other than the Super Bowl, Swain as a receiver over the last six games was  pretty much invisible.  After letting one pass slip through his fingers and the big third down drop, he probably wished he were.  On the other hand, Swain played well on special teams, recording 6 tackles over the Packers’ four postseason games.

12

March

Green Bay Packers 2010 Player Evaluations — Offense — Matt Flynn

1) Introduction: Matt Flynn has a BCS Championship MVP trophy sitting on his shelf. So while there is little doubt he can perform in a big spot, the question on Flynn has always been, does he have enough talent to be an NFL quarterback?

The seventh round draft choice won the Packers backup QB job as a rookie, beating out second rounder Brian Brohm. At the time, I thought Ted Thompson was crazy to not bring in a veteran backup.  Ted rolled the dice with Flynn, and fortunately, he wasn’t needed.

2) Profile:

Matthew Clayton Flynn

Position: QB
Height: 6-2    Weight: 228 lbs.

Born: June 20, 1985 in Tyler, TX
College: LSU (school history)    (Flynn college stats)
Drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the 7th round (209th overall) of the 2008 NFL Draft.

3) Expectations coming into the season for that player: Coming into this season, Matt Flynn was expected to once again be nothing more than the emergency #2 QB for the Packers. But this preseason was a bit different. The Packers had Super Bowl aspirations this year. Consequentially there was an undercurrent among Packers fans wanting to know that Flynn could keep the season on track if Rodgers had to miss a few games. I frankly, didn’t have the confidence that he could and he proved me wrong against the Patriots.

4) Player’s highlights/lowlights: Matt Flynn threw more passes in the New England game than he had in his first two years in the league. And for the most part, he threw them well. Coming off the horrible loss to the Lions, most observers didn’t give Flynn or the Packers a chance against New England.  Flynn surprised them all by throwing 3 TD passes and just coming up short against the seemingly invincible Patriots.  Flynn’s lowlight came in the aforementioned loss to the Lions, where Flynn threw 2 INTs, including one in the Lions’ end zone. I don’t blame him for the loss, however, as the entire Packers’ team and coaches were just awful that day.

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: Well, there’s only one way to evaluate a backup quarterback’s contribution to a team’s success – how he performs when called upon. Flynn got the call twice this season with mixed results; a below-average performance against the Lions and an above-average performance against the Patriots.

11

March

Green Bay Packers 2010 Player Evaluations – Offense – John Kuhn

1) Introduction: Kuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuhn! It’s surprising that John Kuhn has risen up to be a folk hero with the Green Bay Packers fan base considering it wasn’t even a lock that he would had made the team in 2010. In 2009 the Packers made a highly unusual move by drafting a fullback, and in the 5th round to boot. That created a log jam with incumbents Korey Hall and Kuhn. In a even more unusual move, the Packers chose to retain all 3 for the 2010 season which is surprising since many teams only have one. With the injury to starting running back Ryan Grant in week 1, John Kuhn basically switched to running back for the first half of the season before going back to full back for the second half of the season with the emergence of rookie running back James Starks. But by then Kuhn had not only enamored himself with the fans but also to the offense as he became the primary short yardage back and also clutch goal line receiver for the Packers.

2) Profile:

John Kuhn

Position: FB
Height: 6-0    Weight: 255 lbs.

Born: September 9, 1982 in York, PA
College: Shippensburg

3) Expectations coming into the season for that player: Starter. Kuhn figured to see significant playing time as the starting fullback for the Packers (although Korey Hall typically was listed as the starting fullback Kuhn seemed to be on the field more often), one of the few teams that actually runs the traditional I formation consistently. Kuhn also figured to play on special teams, and even when he became a focal point of the running game he still was on kick offs and as the personal protector for punter Tim Mathsay for punts.

4) Player’s highlights/lowlights: His highlight was undoubtedly during week 4 against the Detroit Lions, where he covered for the fact that Aaron Rodgers was having an off day by essentially running out the clock on his own on the last drive of the game. It is perhaps the only time in the season where they running game came out clutch and won the game for the Packers.

10

March

Green Bay Packers 2010 Player Evaluations — Offense — James Starks

1) Introduction: When the Packers took James Starks in the sixth round of the 2010 draft, there was probably only a handful of fans who knew who he was. Yet after probing into the history of Starks, many fans became enamored with his untapped talent at running back. However, Starks’ inability to stay healthy was also a concern, and he missed his entire senior season at Buffalo with a shoulder injury.

Those injury worries were confirmed when Starks injured his hamstring before the season. He would spend the first six weeks on the PUP list and didn’t see any game action until Week 13.

2) Profile:

James Darell ‘Buck’ Starks

Position: RB
Height:
6-1   Weight: 203 lbs

Born: February 25, 1986 in Niagara Falls, NY
College: Buffalo (school history)
Drafted
by the Green Bay Packers in the 6th round (193rd overall) of the 2010 NFL Draft.

3) Expectations coming into the season for that player: Low, but also optimistic. With Ryan Grant and Brandon Jackson ahead of him on the depth chart, Starks didn’t figure to see the field much in year one. Those expectations were further lowered when Starks hurt his hamstring in OTA’s and missed nearly all of training camp and the preseason. Before the injury however, many thought Starks could add a home run threat to the running back position and possibly contribute on kickoff returns.

4) Player’s highlights/lowlights: Starks didn’t see the field until the Packers’ Week 13 game against the 49ers, and he had a solid showing in his debut (73 yards on 18 carries). He than disappeared again for most of the regular season, contributing only 28 yards rushing and 15 yards receiving while being active in just two of the final four games.

Once the playoffs began, so did Starks’ breakout campaign. In the Wild Card, he rushed for a Packers rookie playoff record 123 yards against the Philadelphia Eagles. Starks’ 123 yards also marked the Packers highest individual rushing total of the season.

Two weeks later, Starks gave the Packers a 14-0 lead over the Bears with a lunging 4-yard touchdown run. He would finish the NFC Championship game with 74 yards against the NFL’s No. 2 rushing defense.

If there was low mark to Starks’ season however, it’d be his 8-yard rushing performance against the Lions in Week 14.