Packers Periscope: Week 14 vs. Atlanta Falcons

The Past: While the last meeting between these two teams actually occurred in week 5 of the 2011 season (which the Packers won), most fans will remember the NFC divisional game in 2010 where Aaron Rodgers played perhaps the finest game of his career, going 31 for 36, 26 yards and 3 touchdowns, which even then doesn’t show the complete dominance of the performance.  Rodgers simply could not be brought down, often scrambling from surefire sacks, and could not be slowed down, throwing pinpoint darts to receivers who were blanket covered.

On defense, a pivotal interception returned for a touchdown by Tramon Williams at the end of the 1st half was the catalyst that sparked the Packers to dominate the second half.  With Rodgers putting up points with ease, the Falcons offense played to match the Packers point for point; however the Falcons offense buckled under the pressure, most notably with quarterback Matt Ryan making several poor decisions including 2 interceptions and a fumble which sealed the game.

During the offseason, the Packers and Falcons engaged in some more gamesmanship by bidding for the services of veteran running back Steven Jackson, who was a free agent for the first time after playing for the St. Louis Rams for nearly a decade.  In the end, Ted Thompson stuck with his draft and develop and frugal free agency philosophy and let Jackson sign with the Falcons.  However, Thompson perhaps got the last laugh as the Packers drafted Alabama star running back Eddie Lacy, who plays with some Steven Jacksons in him and is a candidate for rookie of the year honors while age and injury has finally caught up with Jackson, who has only started 8 games, rushing 97 times for a paltry 339 yards.



Green Bay Packers 2010 Player Evaluations — Offense — Donald Lee

1) Introduction: A fifth round pick by the Miami Dolphins in 2003, Donald Lee was signed in free agency by the Green Bay Packers in 2005. His career hasn’t been as bright as some other tight ends in Green Bay history; nevertheless, he did serve his role well in the Packers’ “transition” from Bubba Franks to Jermichael Finley. From 2007-2009, Lee had a combined 124 receptions for 1,138 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Donald Lee2) Profile:

Donald Tywon Lee

Position: TE
Height: 6-3    Weight: 255 lbs.

Born: August 31, 1980 in Maben, MS
College: Mississippi State   (school history)    (Lee college stats)
Drafted by the Miami Dolphins in the 5th round (156th overall) of the 2003 NFL Draft.

3) Expectations coming into the season: With the emergence of superstar Jermichael Finley, Donald Lee’s role this season fell significantly. In fact, the only thing keeping Lee on the roster seemed to be his veteran experience. After the Packers drafted Andrew Quarless and signed Tom Crabtree, the tight end position suddenly became more crowded. Lee was still expected to perform to his previous level of play, but it was clear the younger players were taking over quickly.

4) Highlights / Lowlights: Donald Lee finally made an impact on the offense in Weeks 16 and 17 after a long dry spell going back to the very beginning of the year. He scored two goal line touchdowns (one in each game), and the one against Chicago ended up being the only Packers touchdown all game. Lee’s most glaring lowlight of the season was his early fumble against the Washington Redskins in Week 5. Not only did it give up possession, but it was the play in which Jermichael Finley suffered his season-ending injury while trying to make a tackle after the recovery. While Finley’s injury can’t really be blamed on Lee, he did serve as a nice scapegoat for thousands of frustrated fans.

5) Contributions to the overall team success: As I noted in an earlier article this year (“Packing the Stats: Packers Tight Ends Forgotten with Finley Gone”), the tight end position was all but forgotten after Finley’s injury. Donald Lee had arguably the worst season of his career with the Green Bay Packers in 2010. He dropped eight of 55 passes (14.6%), the worst drop rate of his career and on the team. Two of the drops were in the red zone. Even his blocking seemed to lack in effort. While the young guys (Quarless and Crabtree) were rising, Lee was definitely falling.



Green Bay Packers 2010 Player Evaluations — Offense — Bryan Bulaga

1) Introduction: As the sixth Iowa player to be named Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year, Bryan Bulaga was one of the top prospects at his position going into the draft. That’s why many people were shocked when – despite his “dinosaur arms” – he fell to the Packers at the 23rd pick. In what seemed to be fate calling, Green Bay practically had to take him. Not only could Bulaga be considered the “best player available,” he was also filling a dire need for the team that allowed over 50 sacks in 2009. Many fans and media experts saw Bulaga as the Packers’ LT of the future, eventually replacing veteran Chad Clifton.

Bryan Bulaga2) Profile:

Bryan Joseph Bulaga

Position: T
Height: 6-5    Weight: 315 lbs.

Born: March 21, 1989 in Barrington, IL
College: Iowa (school history)
Drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the 1st round (23rd overall) of the 2010 NFL Draft.

3) Expectations coming into the season: As a first round draft pick, many people expected Bryan Bulaga to be a starter at the beginning of the season. The problem was, however, that there was some uncertainty as to where along the line he should play. Since he was a LG-turned-LT in college, Bulaga was projected to take on one of those positions. Some people said he should only be trained at tackle, others said he was a superior option to Daryn Colledge and should be played at guard. And yet, despite his first round status and the paycheck that went with it, there was the thought that he should be groomed to start in 2011 and play as a backup in 2010.

As the preseason went on, the coaches clearly began to place Bulaga in competition with Colledge as the starting LG. Unfortunately, a hip injury sustained in training camp took him out of the running as a starter. He would be considered a solid backup offensive lineman at the start of the season.

4) Highlights / Lowlights: Bryan Bulaga saw his first significant playing time in Week 2 against the Buffalo Bills after Chad Clifton was pulled due to a nagging injury and poor performance. Proceeding to outshine Clifton as the LT in that game, many fans (and bloggers) started calling for Bulaga to take over the job permanently. If there was any doubt in Bulaga’s playing ability, it was seemingly quelled in that performance, and it gave fans a lot of hope for the future.



Green Bay Packers 2010 Player Evaluations — Offense — Chad Clifton

1) Introduction: A couple of games into the 2010 season, many of us were convinced Chad Clifton was finished. He looked old, slow, overmatched and hobbled. Replacing Clifton with rookie Bryan Bulaga seemed like a logical move to avoid getting Aaron Rodgers killed. But Mike McCarthy insisted that Clifton was banged up, and that once he got healthier (we probably will never be able to say Clifton is fully healthy), he would keep his job. That patience paid off.

2) Profile:

Jeffrey Chad Clifton

Position: T
Height: 6-5    Weight: 330 lbs.

Born: June 26, 1976 in Martin, TN
College: Tennessee (school history)
Drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the 2nd round (44th overall) of the 2000 NFL Draft.

3) Expectations coming into the season for that player: Above average. Clifton signed a three-year, $20 million contract in the offseason. Normally those types of salary figures come with high expectations, but I’m not sure that was the case with Clifton. Everyone could see Clifton was aging and breaking down, and he was resigned because he was the only other logical option (unless you were comfortable with Bulaga the rookie). Not many expected a pro bowl season out of the grizzled veteran.

4) Player’s highlights/lowlights: Clifton took on Peppers for most of the season finale and kept him away from Rodgers. He also handled Lamar Woodley and James Harrison during the Super Bowl. Lowlights included a bad first two games and giving up a costly sack late in the Redskins game.

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: Significant. It was a down year for left tackles in the NFC, but that shouldn’t diminish Clifton’s pro bowl selection too much. Clifton never blinked against the likes of Jared Allen and Julius Peppers. He wasn’t quite lights out in pass protection, but he was very good. Clifton struggled to run block, but he was probably just saving his energy whenever the Packers called a running play so he would be fresh to protect QB1.

6) Player’s contributions during the 6-win end-of-season run: Clifton was a big reason why Rodgers played his best football down the stretch. Clifton was left on an island against some solid pass rushers late in the season, and he delivered big time. You could sometimes see Rodgers get a little jumpy when he saw Bulaga engage his man near the line. That was never the case with Clifton.



Green Bay Packers 2010 Player Evaluations — Offense — Josh Sitton

1) Introduction: As a fourth round draft pick in 2008, Josh Sitton actually had high prospects of starting at right guard his rookie season. Unfortunately, a preseason knee injury sidelined him, and he was replaced by Tony Moll. Sitton only ended up starting two games that season. Fast forward one year, and he swiftly becomes possibly the best player on the offensive line. Josh Sitton was the only Packers offensive lineman to open every game at just one position in 2009. He also played all 1,093 snaps on offense, the only player on either side of the ball to not miss a snap with his unit. In 2010, the NFL Alumni Association named Sitton Offensive Lineman of the Year.

Josh Sitton2) Profile:

Josh James Sitton

Position: G
Height: 6-4    Weight: 320 lbs.

Born: June 6, 1986 in Pensacola, FL
College: Central Florida (school history)
Drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the 4th round (135th overall) of the 2008 NFL Draft.

3) Expectations coming into the season: For an offensive line that was coming off a horror of a season in 2009, Josh Sitton seemed to be the only true bright spot. In his first year as a full-time starter, he proved himself to be a reliable lineman (both “available” and “accountable,” to use Coach McCarthy speak). Sitton was a young player with a solid skill set, and it was a performance he was expected to repeat – and improve upon – in the 2010 season.

4) Highlights / Lowlights: If there’s a moment where you can spot excellent play by an offensive lineman, it’s when he has to go up against an elite defensive lineman. In the case of Josh Sitton, he had two very notable chances to do just that: Weeks 4 and 14 against the Detroit Lions’ Ndamukong Suh, the All-Pro defensive tackle who was named the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year.

But don’t take my word for it, take Suh’s: “I would say the guy I respect the most that I’ve gone against on the offensive line is Josh Sitton, Green Bay’s right guard. He’s one that is very patient, and he understands the kinds of moves that you may want to do against him. I’ve found ways to beat him, just as he’s found ways to catch me — in my rushes and so forth — to stop me. He’s one of those guys that I definitely respect.”



Green Bay Packers 2010 Player Evaluations — Offense — Scott Wells

1) Introduction: Those of us in the AllGreenBayPackers.com community consider ourselves smart football fans. Based on Jersey Al’s history of quality content, the recent addition of  some new writers and intelligent discussion in the comments section, I’d say say that assessment  is accurate. We are smart football fans!  But as much as we like to pat ourselves on the back for our knowledge, we shouldn’t kid ourselves and pretend that we have the ability to fully evaluate how a center played throughout an entire season. Intelligent or not intelligent, most football fans only notice the center when he snaps the ball over the QB’s head or gets flagged for holding. Unless you break down film every week, you mostly have to rely on what the coach’s are saying when asked about center play. In the case of Scott Wells, Packers coaches raved about him all season, and most fans barely realized he was on the field. Those two things mean Wells was solid.

2) Profile:

Scott Darvin Wells

Position: G-C
Height: 6-2    Weight: 300 lbs.

Born: January 7, 1981 in Spring Hill, TN
College: Tennessee (school history)
Drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the 7th round (251st overall) of the 2004 NFL Draft.

3) Expectations coming into the season for that player: Above average. Offensive line play was still a concern entering 2010, but nobody worried much about Wells. He was generally regarded as a solid but unspectacular player who wouldn’t get blown up every other play, but also wouldn’t dominate whomever he was lined up against. When you consider the high level of interior lineman in the NFC North and the quality of overall pass protection this season, Wells surpassed “above average” and wandered into ”good” territory.

4) Player’s highlights/lowlights: Handling Casey Hampton in the Super Bowl stands out. Wells’ blocking on the final drive of the first Lions game also was impressive. It’s difficult to pinpoint specific things a center does that are highlight-worthy. Instead you have to ask yourself how many lowlights — dumb penalties, bad snaps, getting run over — come to mind. Nothing immediately pops up, which means Wells had a good season.

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: Significant. I don’t know what Aaron Rodgers and Wells are doing when they walk to the line, but it must be important. Rodgers is always yelling or pointing at something. Wells usually looks around a bit before he starts yelling and pointing too. They are likely setting up pass protection, and they must be pretty good at it. How many times did a defender come through the middle of Green Bay’s line unblocked? Not very often. Good job Rodgers and Wells. Keep up the yelling and pointing.



Green Bay Packers 2010 Defense – Complete Report Card – Player Grades

Here it is, the COMPLETE list of Green Bay Packers Defense Player Grades for the 2010 season. After a fun week of in-depth evaluations, here is the Cliff Notes version for you. Click on any player’s name to see the full evaluation.

(B)   Cullen Jenkins

(A-)  B. J. Raji

(B)  Ryan Pickett

(C)  Howard Green

(A) Clay Matthews III

(C+)  A. J. Hawk

(C)  Frank Zombo

(B+)  Desmond Bishop

(C)  Erik Walden

(A+)  Tramon Williams

(B+)  Charles Woodson

(B)  Nick Collins

(B)  Sam Shields

(C)  Jarrett Bush

(B-) Charlie Peprah

(D)  Pat Lee


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Jersey Al Bracco is the founder and editor of AllGreenBayPackers.com, and the co-founder of Packers Talk Radio Network. He can be heard as one of the Co-Hosts on Cheesehead Radio and is the Green Bay Packers Draft Analyst for Drafttek.com.