6

April

Surviving Sunday: Packers News, Notes and Links for the Football Deprived

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers football.

Take a look at this NFL mock draft at Drafttek.com. There are three tight ends selected before a running back is chosen with the 50th overall pick.

Last year in the actual NFL draft there were two tight ends selected before the first running back was snatched off the board (Giovani Bernard at No. 37).

When I was growing up, running back was the glamour position. When we went out for recess to play football (this was back when you could still play tackle football at recess), everyone pretended to be Barry Sanders or Emmitt Smith, not some tight end. Most teams wouldn’t dream of taking a tight end over a promising running back in the draft.

Times have changed. Running back is a de-valued position in today’s NFL. That’s not breaking news. But has the de-valuing gone too far?

The top two teams in the NFC last season, Seattle and San Francisco, based their offense around bruising running games. The Packers turned to rookie Eddie Lacy to keep their heads above water after Aaron Rodgers broke his collar bone. Even with Tom Brady at quarterback, the Patriots pounded the ball on the ground early in the season, outrushing opponents in three of the first four games and starting 4-0.

Even on pass-happy Denver, with Peyton Manning at quarterback and a stable of exceptional receivers and tight ends, running back Knowshon Moreno finished with almost 1,600 total yards from scrimmage.

For a while, the NFL also appeared to be de-valuing the safety position, but that might be changing.

Only three safeties were picked in the first round from 2008-11. In the last two drafts, four safeties have gone in the first. In the opening days of NFL free agency, the top safeties on the board flew off the shelf for big money.

I think a lot of teams are emphasizing the safety position again because they see the importance of versatility in today’s game. Safeties are often best suited to handle multiple tasks: provide coverage over the top, match up against a tight end, play the slot, stop the run, drill whoever has the ball, occasionally blitz, etc. Take a look at the Seahawks and 49ers again — both were strong at safety.

3

April

Packers Re-Sign Kuhn

John Kuhn

The Packers return John Kuhn on a one-year deal

Fullback and Green Bay Packers cult hero John Kuhn is returning to the team in 2014.  Kuhn has agreed to a one-year deal worth just over $1 million with incentives included.

Kuhn has been with the Packers since 2007 and has become one of the stable veterans on a perpetually young roster.  While Kuhn reportedly had some conversations with other teams, Green Bay seems to be the best fit for him over anywhere else.

Similar to quarterback Matt Flynn, Kuhn flourishes in the Packers offense where he is needed and seems to max out his value potential.

Case in point is last season’s week 17 season finale against the Chicago Bears, when it was Kuhn’s block on defensive end Julius Peppers that allowed Aaron Rodgers to escape the pocket and find receiver Randall Cobb downfield for the go-ahead and game-winning score.  That win helped the Packers secure their third straight NFC North division title.  Now that Peppers is with the Packers, the two can likely share a laugh or two over that monumental play.

The fullback position has changed quite a bit in the NFL overall.  Gone are the days of the I-formation and the need for a bruising fullback to pave the way for the tail back.  With running backs becoming bigger and more versatile and athletic, the traditional fullback is a dying breed.  Green Bay’s offense is no exception.  With the addition of Eddie Lacy in last year’s draft, Kuhn had just 10 rushing attempts in 2013.  In 2010, Kuhn had his career high in carries with 84, mostly due to injuries to other running backs at the time.

Still, keeping Kuhn is valuable for depth purposes and also insurance that there is a wily veteran that can come in on passing downs and help keep Rodgers on his feet.  Kuhn is said to be a great presence in the team’s locker room and will surely assist in bringing the young running backs along as they mature in their early careers.

Of the current Packers backs other than Kuhn, James Starks is the most senior member with four seasons under his belt.  DuJuan Harris, Eddie Lacy, Johnathan Franklin and Michael Hill all have just one season to their credit.  Harris was with the team last year but did not play after being placed on season-ending injured reserve during training camp.

25

March

John Kuhn’s time is up in Green Bay

John Kuhn has been a Packers fan favorite for years. But now, it's time for the team to move on.

John Kuhn has been a Packers fan favorite for years. But now, it’s time for the team to move on.

He’s got his own cheer and he’s been one of the Packers’ favorites for years.

But why in the world are the Packers tinkering with bringing back the eight-year fullback John Kuhn.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a performance or chemistry issue. Kuhn has done everything that’s been asked of him since he came to Green Bay in 2007.

However, his role has shrunk significantly since 2010 to the point that last year it was razor thin with just 10 carries. And even when he’s not getting the ball, he isn’t on the field nearly as much as he used to be.

The reason isn’t because fans are tired of belting out “Kuuuuuuhn” every time he gets the rock. But because the Packers have a guy named Eddie Lacy that runs people over by himself — rendering the fullback position useless.

Kuhn has been an outstanding teammate. You’ve never heard that the Shippensburg product was a locker room problem. And the reason the undrafted free agent is so adored by the Packers fans is because he exemplifies everything they all strive to achieve. Things like beating the odds, never giving up, living out your passion and always outworking the other guy.

Kuhn earned himself a Pro Bowl trip and more importantly helped the Packers win a Super Bowl.

Obviously, it’s never easy saying goodbye to someone that not just fellow teammates look up to but fans from around the league look up to as well.

But it’s time for the Packers to move on.

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Cory Jennerjohn is from Wisconsin and has been in sports media for over 10 years. To contact Cory e-mail him at jeobs -at- yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter: Cory Jennerjohn

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21

February

John Kuhn Green Bay Packers 2013 Evaluation and Report Card

John Kuhn

John Kuhn

1) Introduction:  Green Bay Packers running back John Kuhn is one of only four current Packers players to have played for another NFL team (Ryan Pickett, St. Louis Rams, Matt Flynn, Seattle Seahawks, Oakland Raiders, Buffalo Bills and Khalil Bell, Chicago Bears).  Kuhn has been a steady presence in the Packers backfield for the past seven seasons and is one of quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ personal favorites on the team.  Kuhn proved very valuable to the Packers in 2013 and has a good chance to be back next season.

2) Profile:

John Allen Kuhn

  • Age: 31
  • Born: 9/9/1982 in Dover, PA
  • Height: 6’0″
  • Weight: 250
  • College: Shippensburg
  • Rookie Year: 2006
  • NFL Experience: 8 years

Career Stats and more

3) Expectations coming into the season:  With a crowded backfield and two rookie draft picks entering training camp, Kuhn’s status on the team was unknown.  With all of that youth came the need for a mentor and steady rock in the backfield and hence, Kuhn remained a Packer.  His role was limited to pass protection and lead blocking moreso than carrying the ball.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: One of the reasons the Packers kept Kuhn was for his football intelligence.  Rarely a mental blunder does Kuhn make.  He did have one in particular that he would surely like to forget back in week six against the Baltimore Ravens.  The Packers blocked a punt and in an attempt to recover the ball, Kuhn took a half-hearted swipe at it and allowed a Ravens player to pounce on it and keep a drive alive.  Fortunately the Packers won that game and it didn’t become an infamous mistake.  Kuhn scored his only touchdown of the regular season against his former team, the Pittsburgh Steelers (after which he attempted one of the worst Lambeau Leaps we will likely ever see).  But Kuhn’s biggest highlight of the season came in week 17 late in the game against the Chicago Bears.  On a fourth down play and with the Packers trailing, Kuhn alertly slid over to pick up a free running Bears defensive end Julius Peppers and allowed Rodgers to move out and heave the go-ahead touchdown bomb to Randall Cobb.  That play is the epitome of Kuhn’s career and role in Green Bay:  unsung hero.

22

January

Packers Free Agents: Top 10 to Re-Sign

Sam Shields is only the second most important UFA the Packers need to re-sign. Who's number one?

Sam Shields is only the second most important UFA the Packers need to re-sign. Who’s number one?

A couple weeks ago, our own Adam Czech took a look at the Green Bay Packers players hitting free agency this offseason.  Of the 19 offensive and defensive players, 16 are unrestricted and 3 are restricted. What I’ve done below is made a list of the top ten unrestricted players Ted Thompson should consider re-signing. They are listed in descending order of importance.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree with the ranking? Is there someone you would add or replace? Comment below!

 

10. Ryan Pickett

This could be the first year where Pickett’s age has been noticeable. The “Big Grease” has never been a flashy player, and he’s a true two-gap guy, but even in that role he saw some decline. Pickett could still be useful as a veteran leader and run-stuffer; there’s just not much more than that. If he returns, it shouldn’t be at a price anywhere near his last contract.

9. Matt Flynn

It seems like Matt Flynn is destined to be the back-up to Aaron Rodgers for the majority of his career. He got his payday in Seattle, never really saw the field as a starter, and eventually ended up back in Green Bay. The Packers have Scott Tolzien as a project this offseason, but wouldn’t they want to avoid the mess of a situation they had this year and sign Flynn as insurance?

8. B.J. Raji

This guy is going to be the biggest free agent storyline for the Packers. His performance doesn’t command a big contract, but his draft position does. It will all depend on the market, and I have a feeling Ted Thompson will let him test it. Still, if the price is right, it would be foolish for the Packers not to bring him back on board.

7. James Jones

Yes, James Jones can be considered “replaceable.” But this is the same guy who caught 14 touchdown passes for the Packers in 2012. In 2013, he was second in most statistical categories only to Jordy Nelson, and the only player who had fewer drops than him was Randall Cobb. (And Cobb was out most of the season.) James Jones didn’t get much from the market the last time he was a free agent, and he probably see less interest now that he’s hitting 30.

17

January

Veterans Kuhn and Pickett Mull their Packers and NFL Futures

Packers Ryan Pickett - Free Agent

Packers Ryan Pickett – Free Agent

In this year of the free agent (20 of them) for the Green Bay Packers, there are two players in particular where difficult decisions must be made. As much for their leadership and veteran smarts as for their play on the field, John Kuhn and Ryan Pickett will make it hard for the Packers to leave them behind.

But the possibility exists that both players could be looking at very different futures than the ones they’d like to have, thus impacting the official NFL Futures of the Packers. Both have expressed a desire to remain with the Packers, but a cut in pay would surely be required for both. If given a “home town” discount, should the Packers re-sign these grisly veterans? Let’s explore…

John Kuhn has been with the Packers for seven seasons, thriving at a position that is quickly becoming cast aside in the NFL. For Kuhn, the key has been making himself valuable in as many ways as possible. Need to gain a tough yard for a first down? Need someone to lead the way for Eddie Lacy? Need an ultra-reliable pass protector? Need a receiver out of the backfield? Need help with protection calls? Kuhn is your man.

To top things off, Kuhn is a “company man,” having been quoted recently as saying “”I love it in Green Bay, and I love playing for the Packers.”

It’s the little things that all add up to Kuhn being a very good value for the Packers. Not flashy in any way, it’s easy to lose perspective on John Kuhn. This writer is guilty of the same, having recently questioned his value to the Packers on a recent CheeseheadRadio episode.

In an offseason where money must be paid out to more “impactful” players, I found myself wondering if keeping John Kuhn made sense. After all, Kuhn earned a healthy 2.5 million in 2013. Well, after more closely watching his performances against the Bears and in person against the 49ers, I have to change my tune and say YES.

Aaron Rodgers recently said there is no one he trusts more on the field than John Kuhn. If he’s good enough for Rodgers, he’s good enough for me.

30

December

Yell it Loud Packers Fans: KUUUUUHHHHHHNNNNNNN!!!!!!!

Aaron Rodgers

Take that, Chicago Bears. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers celebrates after connecting with Randall Cobb for the winning touchdown.

Since Packers fans at Soldier Field were too nervous to do it during the game, let’s honor Packers fullback John Kuhn right now with the signature yell:

“KUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUHHHHHHNNNNNNNN!!!!!!!!”

Why are we staring at our computer screens and yelling KUUUUUUHHHHHNNNNNN!!!!? Because without John Kuhn, the Packers probably don’t beat the Bears and win the NFC North for the third season in a row.

Facing 4th and 8 with the season on the line, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers hit Randall Cobb for a 48-yard touchdown with 38 seconds to play. Guard T.J. Lang described the pass protection on the play as a “clusterf***”, and he was right.

When rookie left tackle David Bakhtiari didn’t hear Kuhn’s protection adjustment, future Hall of Famer Julius Peppers came unblocked and had Rodgers locked into his sights. Green Bay’s season looked like it was about to end because they forgot to block one of the best pass rushers of the last 10 years.

Then Kuhn dashed over and cut Peppers down at the last minute, allowing Rodgers to roll left, connect with Cobb, and strike the greatest celebration pose of all time (see picture in upper right).

Maybe James Starks or Eddie Lacy is able to make that block, but I doubt it. We’ve seen Rodgers chew out Starks for missing blocking assignments several times and Lacy is still a rookie learning the ins and outs of pass protection.

Kuhn is on the team for his pass blocking and he showed why on that play. Not only did he recognize that Peppers was coming free, but he also made the block. And it was anything but an easy block.

Earlier in the drive, the Packers faced 4th and 1 from their own 22-yard line. Instead of punting, coach Mike McCarthy went for it and Kuhn crashed ahead on the fullback dive, picking up the first down with about 10 inches to spare.

The fullback dive to Kuhn is easily my least favorite play in the Packers playbook. Kuhn isn’t a good runner and when he gets it from the fullback position, he usually doesn’t have enough momentum to surge ahead and pick up the yards he needs. Well, it worked this time and Kuhn deserves a ton of the credit.