29

March

Ranking the Packers 2010 Roster: Players 10-1

In part three of this series ranking Green Bay’s roster, we look at the top ten list for Green Bay Packers players. You can find parts one and two here:

Ranking the Packers 2010 Roster: Players 67-30

Ranking the Packers 2010 Roster: Players 29-11

10. DE Cullen Jenkins: His injury woes sometimes overshadow how good of a football player he is, but Jenkins is one of the better 3-4 defensive ends in the NFL.

Equally solid against the pass and the run, Jenkins has the versatility to play several positions along the defensive line. This past season, he played both defensive end and on the inside during passing downs, and was effective in both situations.

That package of talents will make Jenkins a wanted man once free agency starts. At 30 years old however, the Packers might not be willing to pay Jenkins what it takes to keep him in Green Bay.

9. TE Jermichael Finley: In a matter of two short years, Finley transformed himself from a immature rookie to the NFL’s most feared tight end.

While injuries have kept him from completing a full season, no tight end can make claim to the athletic package that Finley possesses. That skill set could see him shoot up this list in the coming years.

He needs to stay healthy and put together a complete season, but the sky is the limit for Finley in the Packers’ offense.

8. S Nick Collins: His pick-six in the Super Bowl put him momentarily in the spotlight, but Collins is one of the NFL’s most underrated safeties.

While not a monster around the line of scrimmage like Pittsburgh’s Troy Polamalu, Collins does his best work manning the back of Green Bay’s defense. In that role, Collins has 17 interceptions over the past three seasons and could probably have 5-10 more if he had better hands.

Overall, his range and play recognition have gotten better every season he’s been in the league.

7. NT B.J. Raji: For the better part of his first year and a half in the NFL, Raji wasn’t living up to his 9th overall selection in 2009. An ankle injury during his rookie season was one of the primary causes for his early struggles.

28

March

Ranking the Packers 2010 Roster: Players 29-11

In part two of this three part series ranking Green Bay’s roster, we look at the middle group of Packers. You can find part one here:   Ranking the Packers 2010 Roster: Players 67-30

Some are role players and others may be on the brink of cracking the top 10, but each is an important cog to the Packers’ machine.

Without players 29-11, the Packers simply don’t win the Super Bowl and probably have a hard time cracking .500.

29. QB Matt Flynn: A former seventh round pick, Flynn has progressed into a solid backup with a possible starting future. Of course, that won’t be in Green Bay with Aaron Rodgers in town, but he should be on the roster in 2011.

28. DE Mike Neal: Last year’s second round pick proved he has talent with his early defensive showing. An injury cost him the rest of his season, but the future is bright for Neal as Cullen Jenkins probable replacement.

27. FB John Kuhn: Once an afterthought, Kuhn turned himself into a local hero with his inspired play out of the backfield. Chances are the free agent fullback will be back in Green Bay next season.

26. S Morgan Burnett: The rookie safety showed some flashes during his brief four game stint before getting injured. Burnett will need to battle Peprah for the starting spot, but he has to be the early favorite to take it back next year.

25. RB Brandon Jackson: While he failed as the lead back when Grant went down, Jackson is still underrated as a third down back. It’s doubtful that any team will see him as a 300-carry option and he should be back in Green Bay.

24. WR James Jones: He’s never been a star in the Packers offense, but Jones plays a part and usually plays it well. His big drops are a concern, but Green Bay should be interested in re-signing the talented receiver.

23. G Daryn Colledge: Of the Packers five starting offensive linemen in 2010, Colledge was arguably the worst of the bunch. And while he’s been a reliable starter at left guard, it’s probable that he won’t be back next season.

22. LB Nick Barnett: Lost for the season for the second time in three years, injuries have become an issue for the former Pro Bowler. A.J. Hawk and Desmond Bishop have jumped Barnett on the depth chart as well, and he might have played his last game for the Packers.

27

March

Ranking the Packers 2010 Roster: Players 67-30

As is the case for nearly ever Super Bowl champion, the Green Bay Packers assembled a deep and talented roster for their 2010-2011 championship season.

However, unlike most champions, the Packers had to do it the unlucky way.

15 players—many important contributors—landed on season-ending injured reserve, and Green Bay had to call on the bottom of GM Ted Thompson’s emergency board for players to even field a full roster.

In the first of three articles ranking the Packers’ roster, you’ll find many of those players that no one expected to contribute.

Don’t let the rankings fool you, however. During the Packers’ Super Bowl season, every player on this roster was important to achieving the final goal.

Here are players 67 through 30. (Note: Players who ended on the practice squad are not included, but those who ended on the injured reserve are.) This will be followed up by players 29-11 and then finally, the top 10 players on the Packers roster.

67. CB Josh Bell: Landed on the injured reserve in mid-August with a knee injury and probably won’t be back next season. He might forever be known as the guy who gave up the game-winner to Mike Wallace and the Steelers in 2009.

66. CB Josh Gordy: Activated from the practice squad for the final nine games of the season but never saw the field. The Packers like Gordy however, and he’ll get another look as a project player and is probable to make the practice squad.

65. LB Diryal Briggs: Brought in towards the end of October and contributed a handful of special teams tackles. Briggs is only 25, but chances are he gets flushed out by the return of several IR linebackers this summer.

64. G/C Evan Dietrich-Smith: Was brought back after being cut in training camp on Dec. 31 and served as Scott Wells’ backup for the final stretch. While he never saw the field, he’ll get a chance in camp to win a spot.

63. CB Brandon Underwood: The Packers have high hopes for him but he’s yet to realize any potential. That, along with his recent legal troubles, will make Underwood fight for a spot on this team moving forward.

62. LB Matt Wilhelm: Was added along with Briggs at the end of October as a true street free agent. Wilhelm was also guilty of the facemask that all but gave the Falcons a Week 13 win, and won’t be back next season.

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 — Brandon Jackson

1) Introduction: Brandon Jackson had been envisioned to be the next Ahman Green when he was drafted in the second round of the 2007 NFL draft.  Jackson had a promising rookie season but was eclipsed by the unknown Ryan Grant, who became the primary running back after week 8 of the 2007 season. With a loss of touches, Jackson began to transition himself from an every down back to a 3rd down back with great success; Packers coaches and players have lauded him as one of the best pass protectors on the team, with film of him being used as teaching tape for other running backs learning pass protection. With Grant going to IR after the first game of the 2010 season, Jackson was again thrust back as the primary running back. It will be interesting to see what the Packers decide to do with this free agent.

2) Profile:

Brandon Lamar Jackson

Position: RB
Height: 5-11    Weight: 210 lbs.

Born: October 2, 1985 in Detroit, MI
College: Nebraska (school history)    (Jackson college stats)
Drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the 2nd round (63rd overall) of the 2007 NFL Draft.

3) Expectations coming into the season for that player: Significant role player – Jackson was designated the Packers primary 3rd down back, mostly due to his ability to pass protect, an ability that was in high demand based on the Packer’s pass first offensive philosophy and apparently weakness at offensive line from the 2009 season. Jackson also was expected to be quarterback Aaron Rodger’s check down player due to his excellent hands (especially after the Packers lost tight end Jermichael Finley to IR).

4) Player’s highlights/lowlights: Jackson’s highlights included an 115 yard outing against the Washington Redskins with a 71-yard burst, which was the longest running play of the season. Another was his screen pass for a touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles in the wild card game. His lowlights included 4 games where he didn’t gain 20 yard total and was supplanted by unknown rookie James Starks as the primary ball carrier. Overall, Jackson as the primary back was unsuccessful, he seemed hesitant at picking holes and was often dragged down at or behind the line of scrimmage. He excelled as a pass protector though, and while it might not be reflected in the stats, he was the Packers most important running back of the 2010 season.
5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: His pass protection skills were vitally important for the Packers this year, especially against blitz happy teams such as the Bears, Giants and Steelers.