Sunday, November 15, 2009

2009 Green Bay Packers Middseason Report

The NFL Trade Deadline passed a few weeks ago so the Packers have to play with their current roster the rest of the season unless they cut/place someone on the injured reserve and sign a new player. As a result, I thought I would rank the players on the Packers' current 53-man roster from #53 to #1 based solely on their performance this season and what upside they might have for the rest of the season:

To quote Herm Edwards, the most unintentionally funny head coach of all-time, "you play to win the game!" Unfortunately for these guys, they have not played very much...

#53 - Breno Giacomini (T): he only suited up week eight and fortunately did not play. The Italian Stallion is buried deep on the Packers' depth chart for good reason.

#52 - Evan Dietrich-Smith (C/G): edged out the Italian Stallion by one spot because he suited up for five games, although has yet to see any game action.

#51 - Biren Ealy (WR): he did not join the Packers organization until week eight when he was signed to the practice squad. Last week Ealy was active because of all the injuries the Packers have at wide receiver. Coming into the season who would have thought guys like this would be on the active roster when the Packers cut Ruvell Martin at the end of the preseason?

#50 - Jake Allen (WR): spent the first seven weeks on the practice squad, was active week eight and inactive week nine with an injury. Please come back soon Jordy...we need you!

#49 - Jarius Wynn (DE): after being active for the first four games of the season, Wynn has been inactive the last four games. Let's just move on.

At this point the sample size is too small to make a very informed judgment on these guys...

#48 - Matt Giordano (S): signed week three after the Packers finally gave up on Aaron Rouse, the most over-hyped underachiever of the Ted Thompson Era not named Justin Harrell. Another question TT, would you rather have Anthony Smith (a guy versed in the 3-4 that you tried to pick up on the waiver wire a few weeks back) or Giordano?

#47 - Brandon Underwood (CB): a promising project at cornerback (wish that could be said for injury reserve main stay and former second round pick Patrick Lee). Underwood was a highly recruited prospect out of high school. He went to Ohio State but had some academic trouble. Underwood resurfaced at Cincinnati and was All-Big-Easy at safety in 2008. Only time will tell if he turns out to be a 6th round steal.

#46 - Jeremy Thompson (OLB): a converted defensive end but similar to Aaron Kampman, he looks out of place at outside linebacker. This is a good example of where the Packers would be better off with having a veteran (why didn't the Packers pursue Jason Taylor?) instead of the inexperienced Thompson.

#45 - Brad Jones (OLB): looks to possibly start this weekend with all of the injury trouble at outside linebacker (Kampman-concussion and Poppinga-leg injury). Part of the reason Mike McCarthy said that Jones is ready to start is "his good play on special teams." Well that is encouraging since special teams have been horrible all season. What qualifies as good on special teams? Only a few penalties? Only a few missed tackles?

#44 - Michael Montgomery (DE): has had minimal impact thus far. Montgomery's body type does not seem ideal for the 3-4, only time will tell if Montgomery is in the 2010 plans (why didn't the Packers pursue Vonnie Holiday?).

#43 - Korey Hall (FB): after starting week one, Hall has had trouble staying on the field. He has been inactive the last four weeks and with the emergence of Quinn Johnson it is surprising the Packers have not opted to put him on the injured reserve list since the Packers have to be one of the only teams in the NFL to carry three running backs and three full backs.

#42 - Quinn Johnson (FB): Hall's injury has given Johnson a chance to play the last four weeks. Johnson has been compared to a sledgehammer more than once since the Packers drafted him in the fifth round of the 2009 NFL Draft. If the Sledgehammer wants to play more he will have to make better plays then the wild juggling catch against the Queens.

These guys take the special out of special teams...

#41 - Jeremy Kapinos (P): Ron Wolf admitted that one of the biggest errors he made as a general manager was letting Craig Hentrich leave in free agency in 1997. Hentrich is obviously not Ray Guy but since the Packers let Hentrich leave the list of starting punters is ugly: Sean Landeta, Louie Aguiar, Josh Bidwell, Bryan Barker, B.J. Sander, Jon Ryan, Derrick Frost and Jeremy Kapinos...yikes.

#40 - Mason Crosby (K): for some reason general mangers always opt for cheaper place kickers. Quick question TT, with $15 million in cap space would you rather have Ryan Longwell or Mason Crosby? How about the two big kicks Crosby missed on the road last season against the Queens and Bears. Instead of finishing 6-10, the Packers finish 8-8. That does not get the Packers in the playoffs but it would have been a nice building block going into the offseason.

#39 - Brett Goode (LS): I put Goode ahead of Crosby and Kapinos not because Goode has played better but more as a slap in the face to the aforementioned underachieving Corsby and Kapinos.

Just not that good...

#38 - Jarrett Bush (CB): he was a restricted free agent in the off-season. The Tennessee Titans offered Bush a three-year, $4.5 million contract. Unfortunately the Packers matched that offer sheet. Since then, the only thing Bush has lead the Packers in this season is penalties on special teams (three).

#37 - Derrick Martin (S): instead of keeping Anthony Smith, the Packers decided to address their issues at safety by trading back-up tackle Tony Moll for Martin. So far Martin has been just as horrible as Bush. Anthony Smith sure looks to be an upgrade over Bush and Martin doesn't it? So instead of having Moll and Smith, the Packers have Martin and Giordano...good Teddy, good (yes that is a Caddyshack reference).

#36 - Brandon Jackson (RB): he has been hurt most of the season (inactive the first four weeks of the season) and when he got his chance made very little impact (12 rushes, 37 yards and one fumble). With Good Ole Rockyman in the fold, Jackson is looking like a second round bust.

#35 - Daryn Colledge (G/T): speaking of second round busts, Mr. Alaska has had a rough tenure in Green Bay. When Ted Thompson drafted Mr. Alaska in the second round of the 2006 NFL Draft, Packers fans thought they were looking at the guard of the future. TT was hoping Colledge would help Packer fans forget that he ran Mike Wahle and Marco Rivera out of town. Three and a half years into his Green Bay career, Mr. Alaska has been marginal at best and is playing the rest of the season for a contract offer since he is a restricted free agent this off-season.

#34 - Donald Lee (TE): one play sums up Lee's season. On fourth down, with the Packers still in the game against the Queens in Minnesota, Rodgers found Lee at the last second...Lee flat out dropped it. Lee is over worked, playing almost every down but that does not excuse his drops this season. Jermichael Finley's injury gave Lee a chance to step up, instead another TE that is ranked much better than Lee made the most of the opportunity.

I wish it were 2004 not 2009...

#33 - Mark Tauscher (T): he is only 11 months removed from ACL surgery. Tausher finally played against the Buccaneers but was unable to finish the game because he re-injured his surgically repaired knee. Tauscher provides a nice veteran presence on the offensive line if he can stay healthy.

#32 - Ahman Green (RB): what a way to become the Packers' all-time leading rusher, a short run in a game that the Packers lost to the 0-7 Tampa Bay Buccaneers...I am sure that is the way Jim Taylor always thought he would lose his record.

How does the practice squad feel Brian Brohm?

#31 - Matt Flynn (QB): sort of speculative at this point. Flynn won a national championship at LSU the year after Jamarcus Russell left for the NFL. At this point most NFL teams would rather have Flynn (7th round pick) instead of Russell (First Pick of the 2007 NFL Draft) or Brohm (2nd round pick in the same draft the Packers took Flynn and one pick ahead of Chad Henne...ouch). Let's hope the only time we see Flynn playing this season is when the Packers are up a bunch.

Who will end the season as the Packers' starting right tackle you ask...

#30 - Allen Barbre (T): marginal at best this season, Barbre does not look like the Packers' right tackle of the future. If Tauscher, Barbre and Lang are healthy I would have Barbre #3 on the depth chart, which is how confident I am in Barbre's ability.

#29 - T.J. Lang (T): since taking over as General Manager of the Green Bay Packers, Ted Thompson has drafted 10 offensive lineman in five years: Junius Coston (5th round '05), William Whitticker (7th round '05), Daryn Colledge (2nd round '06), Jason Spitz (3rd round '06), Tony Moll (5th round '06), Allen Barbre (4th round '07), Josh Sitton (4th round '08), Breno Giacomini (5th round '08), T.J. Lang (4th round '09) and Jamon Meredith (5th round '09) source: here. Five are on the 53-man roster, one is one injured reserve and four no longer collect a paycheck from the Green Bay Packers. When all the dust settles Lang might be the best of the group (that isn't really saying much though) although he looks to project better as a guard. Hopefully he is the starting left guard of the 2010 Green Bay Packers in place of Mr. Alaska.

The injury bug is an ugly thing...

#28 - B.J. Raji (DE/NT): after being inactive for the first two games of the season, Raji has started to settle into the defensive rotation. His stats are not that overwhelming (11 tackles with 1 tackle for a loss) but part of that has to do with his tender ankle. The Packers drafted Raji 9th overall in the 2009 NFL Draft because of how much space he takes up. The last few weeks Raji has started to do that on the field, which is nice (yes that is another Caddyshack reference).

#27 - Jordy Nelson (WR): after having a nice start to the season, Jordy was hurt against the Detroit Lions and has missed the last three games. Nelson was competing with James Jones for the third receiver spot as well as serving as the Packers' main return man after the Packers lost Will Blackmon to a season ending knee injury in week #4 against the Minnesota Vikings. Once Nelson returns to the lineup it will help the Packers open up their playbook with 4 and 5 wide receiver sets. That return hopefully comes this weekend against the Cowboys...come on Jordy we need you!

#26 - Atari Bigby (S): after a promising season in 2007, Bigby only appeared in 7 games in 2008. Bigby started week 1 but was sidelined with an injury for the next 3 weeks. Since returning from injury, Bigby is having trouble getting acclimated to the new 3-4 defense. Bigby needs to show he can stay healthy before the Packers make a long term commitment.

Are we looking at Keith Jackson and Mark Chumura circa 1996 minus the prom party?

#25 - Spencer Havner (TE): announcers love to say "player x is just a football player." No kidding, we are watching football players play football. The only guy I will give a pass to announcers using that cliche on is Havner. Originally an outside linebacker, Havner made the Packers' roster through his versatility. The Packers converted Havner to TE and asked him to serve as their special teams ace. Against the Cleveland Browns earlier this season Havner showed why the Packers covet his versatility. Havner caught a short pass and turned it into a long touchdown. On the next kickoff, Havner made the special teams tackle. So yes Troy Aikman, Spencer Havner is a football player.

#24 - Jermichael Finley (TE): a freak of nature and avid tweet. Finley had a breakout game against the Minnesota Vikings but an injury against the Cleveland kept Finley inactive the last two weeks. If healthy, Finley has a chance to have a huge second half of the 2009 season.

You start but does that mean you are good?

#23 - John Kuhn (FB): he is trying to harness his inner William "Floyd" Henderson with decent results so far. Besides his special teams error last week that lead to a blocked punt against the Buccaneers, Kuhn has been consistent all season in place of the injured Hall.

#22 - A.J. Hawk (ILB): for the rest of the season the paper needs to kill Hawk for how bad he is playing. If they do, by the end of the season he might be a pro bowler. Players love to say they never read what the press write about them but the week after Wisconsin papers speculated about Hawk possibly having to take a pay cut to return to the Packers in 2010 he had his best game of the season. Hawk hasn't come anywhere close to living up to being the 5th player selected in the 2006 NFL Draft but he has been playing better each week. In fact he got totally hosed on a holding call last week against the Buccaneers to negate a great athletic play by him on a potentially game changing interception.

They are solid but will they every be better than that?

#21 - James Jones (WR): with Nelson out, Jones has been a very consistent 3rd wide receiver (11 receptions for 263 yards and 3 touchdowns). He joins a long list of quality non-first round wide receivers that TT has drafted (Terrence Murphy, Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson).

#20 - Desmond Bishop (ILB): how is he not on the field more often? Bishop had arguably the best preseason of any defensive player on the Packers not named Charles Woodson. That has translated into situation playing time now that Nick Barnett is fully recovered from his knee injury.

#19 - Brady Poppinga (OLB): probably a little too high on the list but who doesn't like to say his name...Poppppppppinga! With the emergence of Clay Matthews, Poppppppppinga's minutes will be limited the rest of the way but he provides a solid veteran presence on the defense. Speaking of solid veteran presence...

#18 - Brandon Chillar (ILB): unfortunately Chillar broke his hand against the Queens. That means Chillar will have to play the rest of the season with a club on his hand. Chillar has given the Packers versatility on defense by playing safety in the Big Okie set. With his hand injury the Big Okie might get scrapped for the rest of the season though.

#17 - Tramon Williams (CB): a very talented nickel back with a bright future in Green Bay. Williams been lucky to learn under one of the most talented corner back tandems in the NFL for three plus seasons.

Holdovers from the previous management regime that have played a huge role...

#16 - Scott Wells (C): after getting left out of the starting line-up in week one, Wells just went about his business and did not make any waves. After taking over as a starter in week three he seized the opportunity and performed fairly well consider how atrocious the Packers' offensive line has been as a whole this season. Without Wells the Packers would be starting the #52 man on the list (Evan Dietrich-Smith) so yes, Wells has played an important role this season.

#15 - Cullen Jenkins (DE): after publicly criticizing his role in the new defense a few weeks ago, Jenkins backed off those claims and kept a lower profile. Jenkins body type makes him a more ideal fit for the 4-3 defense but he has shown flashes of brilliance throughout the season (remember his pick against the Lions) marred with long bouts of inconsistency (only two games with more than two tackles). Jenkins needs a big second half of the season for the Packers to win games.

#14 - Chad Clifton (T): after getting over shoulder, knee and thumb injuries from last season Clifton looked to regain his form as one of the best left tackles in the NFC. Instead Clifton got hurt against the Bengals and has been shuffled in and out of the line-up. Clifton's play has been inconsistent since re-joining the starting line-up. In a game earlier this season he lined up up too far off the line twice, which some scouts attributed to him trying to compensate for his injury and diminished play. The Packers will only go as far as their offensive line takes them. Clifton, the anchor of the offensive line at left tackle, needs to regain his 2007 form for the Packers to win in 2009.

#13 - Aaron Kampman (OLB): he seems like a fish out of water in the 3-4 defense. After registering the second most sacks in the NFL from 2006-2008, Kampman looks like a shell of himself. Besides that, Kampman suffered a concussion last week in Tampa Bay. There is no reason to rush Kampman back, as research shows it is the second concussion within a few weeks of the first concussion that does much more lasting damage. When Kampman does return, give him a few snaps at defensive end. Yes he is a little undersized but Kampman has made a successful career as an under sized, under appreciated player.

Just give him the damn ball...

#12 - Greg Jennings (WR): Jennings has not been his old self for over a year. He is not the tallest or fastest wide receiver in the NFL but he is one of the most explosive wide receivers when he catches the ball on a short slant. Jennings currently ranks 24th in receiving yards with 498. For the Packers to be successful in the second half of the season Jennings must get more balls thrown to him.

This famous movie exchange sums it all up:
- Game Show Host: "Would you like the Snapper or the box?"
- Johnny Jolly: "The box, I'll take the box!"
- Game Show Host: "What's in the box...nothing...absolutely so stupid!!!!"

#11 - Johnny Jolly (DE/DT): on talent alone Jolly should be higher on the list. He perfectly read a screen earlier in the season and intercepted the pass to save a sure touchdown. For every play like that though, he head butts a player for a personal foul that turns a field goal into a touchdown (remember the Queens game).

Finally the Top Ten...

#10 - Josh Sitton (G): it feels weird to put an offensive lineman in the top ten, which is an indictment on the Packers in general, but Sitton deserves it. He has been the only guy on the Packers' offensive line that has played consistently well all season. At least the future looks bright for one of the five positions on the Packers' offensive line.

#9 - Nick Collins (S): talent has never been the issue, why else would the Packers let Collins take Leroy Butler's jersey number? Most of that talent has translated into production. Collins is a restricted free agent this offseason so he is playing for a huge contract in the next eight games.

#8 - Al Harris (CB): joined the Packers in 2003 via trade with the Philadelphia Eagles. Harris has been on the end of playoff highs and lows for the Packers. For playoff lows, Plaxico "Shooter McGavin" Burress absolutely torched Harris on the frozen tundra in the 2008 NFC Championship Game. For playoff highs, Harris famously picked off Matt "We'll take the ball and we're gonna score" Hasslebeck for a pick-six to beat the Seahawks in overtime. Harris is getting up there in age (34) but keeps himself in impeccable shape to help form one of the best cornerback tandems in the NFL.

#7 - Ryan Grant (RB): check back next week for a breakdown of how Ryan Grant and his agent fleeced the Packers for what might turn out to be a worse contract then Joe Johnson. In the mean time keep in mind that Grant has 188 yards against the Bears, Bengals and Vikings (twice) while he has 433 against the Rams, Lions, Browns and Buccaneers. May be he shouldn't be ranked #7...since he racked up all of his yards against the pansies of the NFL.

#6 - Clay Matthews (OLB): since taking over at starting ROLB in week four Matthews has been a on a tear. Matthews is one of the only players to provide consistent pressure on the Packers' defense. So far this season Matthews has registered 22 tackles, 4 tackles for a loss and 3.0 sacks. Matthews is helping people forget that Michael Oher (Peter King's mid-season All Pro pick at right tackle) could possibly be wearing a Green Bay Packers uniform.

#5 - Ryan Pickett (DT): he has not put up huge stats but he has anchored the defensive line in their transition from the 4-3 to the 3-4. Nose Tackle is a thankless job in the 3-4 but Big Daddy Pickett has just gone about his business without complaining. Big Daddy is a big reason why the Packers' defense has allowed just 3.47 yards per rush (2nd best in the NFL). Finally, Big Daddy leads the Packers' defensive line with a tackle every 7.2 snaps.

#4 - Nick Barnett (ILB): coming off season ending knee surgery the Packers training staff was cautious with Barnett. That plan seems to be paying off this season. Although Barnett is probably better suited to play in the 4-3 defense (sense a theme here) he has made the transition to the 3-4. Barnett is leading the team with 51 and 6 tackles for a loss.

#3 - Aaron Rodgers (QB): he was Ted Thompson's first draft pick as General Manager of the Green bay Packers. Rodgers also has the unlucky distinction of being the quarterback to take over for Brett Favre. Throughout the entire situation Rodgers has handled himself with class. Even this season as the Packers' offensive line has failed him on a number of occasions Rodgers has not publicly criticized his teammates. Rodgers ranks fifth in the NFL in passer rating (103.3). Despite the impressive offensive numbers, Rodgers will ultimately be judged by his record. If he goes 6-2 in the second half of the season all is well in Green Bay. If he goes out.

#2 - Donald Driver (WR): one of the most likable guys in the NFL. Driver leads the team with 37 receptions, 613 yards and 4 touchdowns. This season Driver also broke the record for most receptions in Packers' history. Driver is on record as saying he wants to play for another four/five years. If Driver keeps producing like he has so far this season, the Packers will oblige and keep Driver around as long as he wants.

#1 - Charles Woodson (CB): the second best free agent signing in Packers' history (obviously behind Reggie White) has produced on the field for the Packers from day one since arriving from Oakland. TT offered Woodson more money then any other team in the NFL (seven year, worth potentially $52.7 million) and it has been money well spent. Woodson is fifth on the team in tackles with 35, second on the team in tackles for a loss with 6 and first on the team in interceptions with 4 (1 was returned for a touchdown).

Please feel free to comment or email me ( your thoughts on the rankings.

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