Green Bay Packers Bye Week Grades
During their bye week, the coaching staff of every team in the league goes through a process called “self-scout.”
This essentially means head and assistant coaches getting together and watching game film. The assistant coaches grade their players based off the film and share those grades with the head coach and upper management.
Since the bye week provides me the same opportunity and I’ve already reviewed the game film in the course of writing the weekly Total View, I will provide my own self-scout and grades based off what I saw from the Green Bay Packers in the first three weeks.
Aaron Rodgers: B- Rodgers is third among starters in quarterback rating, trailing the gonzo Peyton Manning and resurgent Philip Rivers. He is third in yards per attempt, trailing only Manning and Michael Vick. He has three INTs, which puts him on pace for a career high. However, only one of those was really his fault. So far, Rodgers has had two A-caliber games and one D game. His disastrous decision to throw the covered out-and-up to Randall Cobb played a vital role in the Bengals’ comeback victory. Also, Rodgers had the ball at the end of both losses with the chance to win the game. One could argue those are the exact situations that Rodgers gets paid $100 million plus for.
Randall Cobb: A Cobb has been a factor in all three games. He has no big drops so far this year. Not sure what else you could ask from this guy, other than to return punts.
Jordy Nelson: A Jordy looks as good or better than he did in his breakout 2011.
James Jones: B+ He was non-existent against San Francisco and dropped one third down pass. He has been great since.
Jermichael Finley: B+ J-Mike has been flat rag-dolling fools out there. Not his fault he got knocked out of the Cincy game. The Packers need even more from him when he gets back.
Eddie Lacy: C+ Lacy had a terrible start in the first half at San Francisco. However, he rebounded to be a factor in the second half. Again, I can’t fault the player for getting a concussion. Probably not his choice to sit out against Cincy.
James Starks: C- James looked better than ever against the Redskins and in the first half against the Bengals. However, another injury to add to the list partially throws that all away.
Johnathan Franklin: A- Franklin almost single-handedly powered a second half surge by the Packers against Cincinnati that finished with 30 consecutive points, rushing for 103 yards in the half and making plays out of the backfield. Yes, his fumble on fourth down provided the winning points for the Bengals, but even so, I can’t give him less than an A after that performance.
David Bakhtiari: C- Not terrible for a guy making his first three NFL starts, perhaps, and the Packers two longest rushes both came over his side. However, he’s given up 2.5 sacks in three games, by my count, which is the same pace Marshall Newhouse was on last season. And that doesn’t count his failed cut block that ended the Cincy game. He needs to play better.
Don Barclay: B- He has given up two sacks and needs to keep improving as well, though he has held up slightly better than Bakhtiari.
Josh Sitton: B+ He is still the Packers’ best run blocker and most physical lineman. He needs to cut down the penalties.
T.J. Lang: B- After a disastrous start against San Francisco, Lang was adequate against Washington before having the best game of his career against the Bengals. If he can maintain that kind of play, he might be worth his contract after all.
Evan Dietrich-Smith: C You can’t have success running the football without your center blocking someone. So, EDS gets some credit for the success there. However, we have twice already seen defensive ends run him right over, resulting in sacks. There is a reason the Packers repeatedly tried to get Barclay to warm to playing center. I still hope J.C. Tretter is the future at the center position. I have my doubts that it will be EDS.
Clay Matthews: C Clay has a habit of starting fast and cooling off. It would serve the Packers well if he does the opposite this season. He has two sacks, 13 tackles and two forced fumbles, though one of those was actually forced by Datone Jones. I would like to see a better than 10 sack pace for Clay, though he has made other big plays besides the sacks. The main reason for his average grade is that he couldn’t go three games without reinjuring his hamstring. He sat out the second half of the Cincy game as a “precaution” when he could have made the difference in the game.
Sam Shields: A- Against Cincy, he was clearly designated as the Packers’ No. 1 corner even though the Packers said they wouldn’t do that this season. He has covered beautifully for the most part and played tougher against the run. Is that the sound of the cash register?
B.J. Raji: B+ B.J. has pretty much picked up where he left off last season. He remains a monster against the run, and that is the one area on defense where the Packers have been fairly stout. Packers should be negotiating with this guy… NOW.
Ryan Pickett: B I have to believe this is Pickett’s last season with the Packers though he remains strong against the run.
Mike Neal: C- He has an interception, and I’ve liked some of the pass rush he has provided out of the base as an OLB. However, his main role with this team is as a pass rusher in the nickel. He has zero sacks and five tackles so far. That isn’t good enough.
Nick Perry: C- He is strong against the run, rarely giving up the edge and showing a knack for crashing down on runs up the middle. However, zero sacks and nine tackles isn’t good enough. The Packers need more from him.
Tramon Williams: B- He played well against San Francisco but has been mixed since. An injury might have had something to do with Shields playing the No. 1 corner spot against Cincy. We will see if he or Shields gets the call against Megatron. Regardless, with Davon House coming on and Casey Hayward waiting in the wings, Tramon is suddenly expendable.
Brad Jones: C+ Brad has 26 tackles and one FF in three games. That is pretty decent. He has zero plays in coverage though, and frankly, I’m not sure he has justified his role in the dime other than to give Hawk some rest.
A.J. Hawk: B- Hawk has 23 tackles in less snaps than Jones. He has played well, and in his usual, under-appreciated way he is assignment reliable and available. He is a liability in coverage due to his lack of quickness. Teams prefer to run at Jones rather than him, however. Both need to get better on their blitzes.
M.D. Jennings: C- Jennings has 15 tackles, one sack and a fumble returned for a TD. Props. He is also half of the most beleaguered safety tandem this side of Jacksonville. We all hope the return of Morgan Burnett picks up this guy’s game.
Jerron McMillian: F The injury to Burnett gave McMillian his chance to start and make his mark. Unfortunately his mark was an implosion that after only two games landed him on the bench. In his place? A guy dropped by Jacksonville.
Jeremy Ross: F Could it have been much worse? Shouldn’t have made the 53-man roster after a lackluster preseason.
Mason Crosby: A Is 4-4 on field goals. Keep laying low, man.
Tim Masthay: A The Packers’ MVP at this point might be their punter, and that is something I used to only say about the Vikings or Bears.
Mike McCarthy: C- His offense ranks third in yards and second in scoring. Amazingly, the run game is ninth in the league, and second in yards per carry. Despite this, he failed to run the ball in key situations in the 4th quarter of both losses. His team has started slowly again and was surprisingly sloppy during the week before the bye. Bad start. He needs to figure out how to capitalize on the run game to help his defense and his quarterback out.
Dom Capers: D The defense ranks 28th in yards and 27th in points. They have played valiantly through three quarters. Unfortunately, the game is four quarters. The Packers’ defense has all but collapsed in the fourth quarter of all three games, giving up 13 points per game in the final quarter. Give up 13 points in the fourth quarter of every game, and you are going to lose most of them. What is doubly distressing is that San Francisco’s offense was held to three points the week after torching the Packers, and Cincy’s offense was held to six points the week after putting up 34 on the Packers. Detroit is up next. The defense needs to pull it together or this could be Capers’ final season as a DC in the NFL.
Shawn Neuser attended UWGB and lives and works in Green Bay. He enjoys long walks on the beach and being intimate with game film.