24

February

Eddie Lacy 2013 Green Bay Packers Evaluation and Report Card

Eddie Lacy

Eddie Lacy

1) Introduction:  Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy was by far the biggest surprise for the team in 2013.  After being projected by many to be drafted in the first round, Lacy fell to the Packers late in round two.  He outgained the three running backs taken ahead of him (Giovanni Bernard, Le’Veon Bell and Montee Ball)  in both yards and touchdowns and is a candidate for the Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year award.  Lacy was voted Pro Football Writers Association Rookie of the Year.  It can be argued that Lacy was the Packers most valuable player in 2013, as he helped re-establish the run game in the team’s offense and was most key in team’s few wins without quarterback Aaron Rodgers this season.

2) Profile:

Eddie Darwin Lacy, Jr.

  • Age: 23
  • Born: 6/2/1990 in Gretna, LA
  • Height: 5’11″
  • Weight: 230
  • College: Alabama
  • Rookie Year: 2013
  • NFL Experience: 1 year

Career Stats and more

3) Expectations coming into the season:  Lacy came into this season expected to be part of a running back committee anchored by DuJuan Harris.  When Harris went down to a season-ending injury early in training camp, Lacy emerged as the starter, edging out James Starks.  The Packers had hoped to bring Lacy along more slowly and as a complimentary back.  But he was thrust into action and often carried 25+ times per game.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: Lacy’s rookie season was filled with many highlights that delighted the team and fans.  He provided something the team had not had since the days of Ahman Green:  a reliable running back capable of picking up a tough one yard or breaking one for 50.  Lacy’s low light of the season was his only fumble in week one against the San Francisco 49ers along with having to miss two straight games due to a concussion.  Lacy’s single biggest highlight was his performance against the Dallas Cowboys where his 60-yard run to start the second half sparked a comeback that was complete with his plunge into the end zone for the go-ahead score.  His late and savvy touchdown run against the Bears in Chicago inched the Packers closer to their dramatic comeback win in week 17.  Lacy also broke a four-year drought of Packers running backs getting 100 rushing yards during the regular season.  He surpassed the century mark three times and went over 90 on two other occasions.  Lacy’s hard work was rewarded when he was named to the Pro Bowl as a substitute for Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.

24

February

James Starks Green Bay Packers 2013 Evaluation and Report Card

Packers RB James Starks

Packers RB James Starks

1) Introduction:  James Starks was, if anything, an afterthought prior to the Packers’ 2013 season. After Ted Thompson spent a pair of draft picks on Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin, the thought was that the rookies, along with a returning DuJuan Harris and/or Alex Green would make up the Packers’ backfield rotation. But that was not the case, as Harris didn’t play a single snap this season, and Green was cut before the season began. Starks was back. And he was pretty good, too.

2) Profile:

James Darell Starks

  • Age: 27
  • Born: 2/25/1986 in Niagara Falls, NY
  • Height: 6’2″
  • Weight: 218
  • College: Buffalo
  • Rookie Year: 2010
  • NFL Experience: 4 years

Career Stats and more

3) Expectations coming into the season:  Slim to none. Two roster spots were claimed by rookies Lacy and Franklin, while DuJuan Harris was expected to play a major role after coming on strong late in the 2012-13 season as the feature back. Starks was very much on the roster bubble headed into training camp.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: The highlight of Starks’ season, individually, was undoubtedly week two against the Washington Redskins. After Lacy suffered a concussion on the game’s first possession, Starks was thrust into the starting role and responded with a 132-yard day on the ground. Starks’ performance against the Chicago Bears in week 17 (88 rushing yards) is worth an honorable mention. As far as low-lights, it’s hard to really pinpoint anything in particular. He exceeded expectations and tied a career high, appearing in 13 games.

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success:  Lacy’s physical running style leaves him susceptible to hits like the one he suffered against the Redskins, so having a capable backup is essential for the Packers. Starks stepped up to the plate whenever he was called upon, and the offense really didn’t miss a beat. His 5.5-yards-per-carry average was easily the best on the team.

6) Player’s contributions in the playoffs:  Starks was good, not spectacular in the Packers’ playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers. He totaled 42 yards on six touches in relief of Lacy.

Season Report Card:

(A) Level of expectations met during the season

(C+) Contributions to team’s overall success.

(C+) Contributions to team during the playoffs

Overall Grade:  B

22

February

Johnathan Franklin Green Bay Packers 2013 Evaluation and Report Card

Packers RB Johnathan Franklin

Packers RB Johnathan Franklin

1) Introduction:  Coming into the season, Franklin was expected to handle some return duties and play second fiddle to starter Eddie Lacy. But after an unspectacular training camp, Franklin was buried on the depth chart behind Lacy, James Starks and an injured DuJuan Harris. Franklin’s opportunity would come, but overall, it was a quiet rookie season.

2) Profile:

Johnathan A. Franklin

  • Age: 24
  • Born: 10/23/1989 in Los Angeles, CA
  • Height: 5’10″
  • Weight: 205
  • College: UCLA
  • Rookie Year: 2013
  • NFL Experience: 1 year

Career Stats and more

3) Expectations coming into the season:  Although he was a fourth-round pick, Franklin was expected by some (including himself) to be selected in the second or third round. So from that standpoint, much of Packer Nation was excited about the eccentric rookie runner. However, training camp proved to be a quick drizzle on Franklin’s rookie parade.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: The highlight and low-light of Franklin’s season was Sep. 22 in Cincinnati. Filling in for an injured Lacy and a hobbled Starks — who left the game earlier — Franklin burst onto the scene with 126 total yards and his first career touchdown. “That’s the Franklin we thought we were getting,” Packers fans said. Then, on a crucial fourth down in crunch time, Franklin fumbled, which was recovered by the Bengals and returned for a touchdown. It was the best of times, then it was the worst of times.

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success:  Realistically, Franklin had very little impact on the Packers’ season. He was on multiple special teams units and had the big day against the Bengals, but that’s it.

6) Player’s contributions in the playoffs:  Franklin finished the 2013-14 season on injured reserve and was inactive for the Packers’ wild card playoff game against the 49ers.

Season Report Card:

(C-) Level of expectations met during the season

(D-) Contributions to team’s overall success.

(N/A) Contributions to team during the playoffs

Overall Grade: D+

Note: It was a rough year for Franklin, but I still think he has something. After all, I had him ranked ahead of Lacy (as the No. 2 back behind Gio Bernard) prior to last year’s draft. And yes, I was dead wrong on that.

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.

19

February

Jarrett Boykin 2013 Green Bay Packers Evaluation and Report Card

1) Introduction: When Jarrett Boykin replaced Randall Cobb in the Ravens game, Boykin  looked like me trying to get a date back in high school: awkward, bumbling and completely out of his element. My game never improved. Boykin’s did.

Packers WR Jarrett Boykin

2) Profile:

Jarrett Boykin

  • Age: 24
  • Born: 11/4/89 in Chattanooga, TN
  • Height: 6’2″
  • Weight: 218
  • College: Virginia Tech
  • Rookie Year: 2012
  • NFL Experience: 2 years

Career Stats and more

3) Expectations coming into the season: Be ready in case of injury. With Cobb missing most of the season and James Jones also missing time, Boykin got his chance and made the most of it after a slow start.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: Lowlights don’t get much lower than Boykin against the Ravens. He caught one pass in five targets, dropped two balls and was on a completely different planet than Aaron Rodgers. The following week against Minnesota, Boykin caught all five passes thrown his way and began showing that he may be more than just a backup.

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: Boykin is an aggressive receiver who is tough to deal with after the catch. Might he be the replacement for James Jones if Jones departs via free agency? I would’ve said “no way” earlier this season, but Boykin showed improvement, and with a little more consistency catching the ball and separating from defensive backs, he’ll stick.

6) Player’s contributions in the playoffs: Boykin was only targeted once and didn’t catch a pass. Is Boykin fast enough to separate from good cornersbacks? It didn’t look like it against San Francisco

Season Report Card:

(A-) Level of expectations met during the season

(B) Contributions to team’s overall success.

(D) Contributions to team during the playoffs

Overall Grade:  B-

——————

Adam Czech is a freelance reporter and a Packers fan living in the Twin Cities. Follow Adam on Twitter. Read more of Adam's writing on the Packers here.

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19

February

Randall Cobb 2013 Green Bay Packers Evaluation and Report Card

Packers WR Randall Cobb

1) Introduction: The Packers best offensive play in the season’s final two games was to have Aaron Rodgers magically escape the grasp of an oncoming defender or two, scurry outside the pocket, and throw it Randall Cobb, who somehow managed to improvise, get behind the defense and catch Rodgers’ attention. Cobb was slowed by injuries at the end of 2012 and missed most of 2013 with a fractured leg. He’s a free agent after next season and will need to stay healthy if he wants to cash in.

2) Profile:

Randall Cobb

  • Age: 23
  • Born: 8/22/1990 in Maryville, TN
  • Height: 5’10″
  • Weight: 191
  • College: Kentucky
  • Rookie Year: 2011
  • NFL Experience: 3 years

Career Stats and more

3) Expectations coming into the season: This year was going to be another progression in Cobb becoming one of the most dangerous weapons in the NFL. All was mostly going as planned until Cobb fractured his leg against Baltimore.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: Of course, Cobb’s catch against the Bears in the season finale tops the highlight list, not just for Cobb but for the Packers entire season. Receiving honorable mention is Cobb’s long run that woke up the Packers muddling offense against Detroit and a couple of nice catches on improvised plays in the playoffs.

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: Without Cobb, the Packers probably don’t make the playoffs. When he was on the field, Cobb’s speed from the slot and overall playmaking ability made a good offense much more dynamic.

6) Player’s contributions in the playoffs: Cobb only had two catches in the postseason, but they were two memorable catches. Too bad the Packers couldn’t punch it in the end zone after Cobb’s last big catch.

Season Report Card:

(B) Level of expectations met during the season

(A-) Contributions to team’s overall success.

(B) Contributions to team during the playoffs

Overall Grade:  B

——————

Adam Czech is a freelance reporter and a Packers fan living in the Twin Cities. Follow Adam on Twitter. Read more of Adam's writing on the Packers here.

——————

18

February

Jordy Nelson 2013 Green Bay Packers Evaluation and Report Card

1) Introduction:  Remember during the offseason when everyone called the Packers soft and demanded more toughness? People were mostly talking about the defense. Nobody expected a wide receiver to raise the Packers’ level of toughness, but Jordy Nelson did just that.

Jordy Nelson

2) Profile:

Jordy Nelson

  • Age: 28
  • Born: 5/31/1985 in Manhattan, KS
  • Height: 6’3″
  • Weight: 215
  • College: Kansas St.
  • Rookie Year: 2008
  • NFL Experience: 6 years

Career Stats and more

3) Expectations coming into the season:  Bounce back. Nelson spent a good portion of the 2012 season banged up and his numbers nose-dived from his amazing 2011 campaign. He needed to stay healthy this season and return to being one of the more underrated receivers in the NFL.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: Whenever Aaron Rodgers was in trouble, he’d launch an impossible-looking pass toward Nelson on the sideline. Nelson would somehow catch it and get both feet down with a defender or two draped all over him. Any time that happened, it was a highlight. His 22 catches for 20 yards or more was also nice. If you’re looking for a low-light, Nelson “only” had eight touchdowns. Given the Packers struggles in the red zone, it would’ve been nice to see Nelson come down with a few more scores.

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success:  Nelson made the Packers tougher. I know you don’t think of receivers making a football team tougher, but Nelson did. He had knee surgery on Aug. 5, yet never missed a game. He took shots and held onto the ball. He made catches with defenders all over him. He pulled out the Jordy stiff arm every now and then. He was a chore for defenders to bring down on hitch routes. He didn’t quite have the success over-the-top that we got used to in 2011, but he improved in just about every other area.

6) Player’s contributions in the playoffs: It was a strange game on offense for the Packers against the 49ers in the playoffs. Rodgers looked tentative early and the Packers never really got rolling. Nelson caught seven passes, but only for 62 yards. It was a good, not great, playoff game for No. 87.

Season Report Card:

(A) Level of expectations met during the season

(A) Contributions to team’s overall success.

(B) Contributions to team during the playoffs