19

July

The Packers New Evolutionary Chart: From John Kuhn to D.J. Williams

One of the little quirks that set the Packers apart from any other team in the league at the moment is the Packers’ extensive use of fullbacks.  Where else but Green Bay can a fullback have the fans screaming his name every time he gets on the field?  Last year, the Packers turned some confused heads by keeping three fullbacks on the roster when some teams only keep one, that’s something straight from the Vince Lombardi and Jim Taylor era.

The Packers use the fullback position as something of a jack-of-all-trades player; for instance, John Kuhn alone played the role of blocking fullback, wing-T fullback, short yardage back, halfback, blitz pickup 3rd down back, personal protector on punts, kickoff jammer and to add to that he was a threat on the red zone as a receiver.

Unfortunately, in the Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers era, this plan backfired a little. In essence, the 3rd fullback stole a roster slot from the halfbacks, and when starter Ryan Grant went on IR after the season opener, the Packers were left scrambling for depth behind Brandon Jackson. The Packers managed to hide the issue with a late surge from James Starks and consistent short yardage from fullback turned folk hero John Kuhn. But the problem still remained, the Packers running game was never the same.

But lessoned learned, and probably in a way that many might not have considered; in the 2011 NFL draft, the Packers selected tight end DJ Williams from Arkansas in the 5th round and Ryan Taylor from UNC in the 7th round.

DJ Williams is an interesting prospect because other than the fact that he lacks the prototypical height and size of an elite tight end, he has the skills to be very successful in the NFL and save for his height probably would have been drafted considerably higher.  The winner of the Mackey Award and Disney Spirit Award in 2010 left the collegiate ranks as the leader in catches and receiving yards for tight ends and translates best in the NFL as a “move” tight end or H-back in a west coast offense.

Ryan Taylor, while not as accomplished a receiver as Williams is also a H-back; he set a single-season record at UNC for a tight end with 36 receptions and is also known for his special teams prowess as a former linebacker and special teams captain while at UNC.

24

March

2011 Draft Prep: Green Bay Packers Needs by Position – Running Backs

In this second installment of our 2011 Draft Prep series looking at the Green Bay Packers’ needs by position, we are going to analyze how the running back positions (HB and FB) currently stand. Strengths, weaknesses, depth, and uncertainties will all be examined to determine the urgency of need in regards to next season.

This series is meant to help us figure out the needs of the team and how the draft could be used to improve the weaker areas. While Ted Thompson largely uses the “best player available” (BPA) approach, his decision to trade up or down the board is affected by what position players he would prefer to have. Additionally, the picking up of players in the later rounds and in undrafted free agency is often based on need, since the talent is less defined.

CURRENT PLAYERS:

#25 Ryan Grant
28 yrs. old / 4 yrs. exp.
Signed through 2011

#44 James Starks
25 yrs. old / 1 yr. exp.
Signed through 2013

#23 Dmitri Nance
23 yrs. old / 1 yr. exp.
Signed through 2012

#45 Quinn Johnson
24 yrs. old / 2 yrs. exp.
Signed through 2012

#32 Brandon Jackson
25 yrs. old / 4 yrs. exp.
Free Agent (tender offered)

#30 John Kuhn
28 yrs. old / 5 yrs. exp.
Free Agent (tender offered)

#35 Korey Hall
27 yrs. old / 4 yrs. exp.
Free Agent (no tender offered)

* Contract information acquired from RotoWorld.com

POSITION STRENGTHS:

Having both Ryan Grant and James “Neo” Starks in the backfield next season is an exciting situation for the Packers. Though Mike McCarthy will always run a pass heavy offense, this “one-two punch” could be just what the doctor ordered at running back.

Grant is a dependable workhorse who carried the load for the Packers before his injury, amassing 1,200 rushing yards in both 2008 and 2009. In his first year with Green Bay, he was just 44 yards shy of hitting the 1,000 mark.

Starks, meanwhile, rose to the occasion during the Packers’ playoff run this past year. He showed good vision and was often able to gain a little extra yardage after contact and in undesirable situations. Starks has the potential to be the “primary” back in the near future.