Each NFL roster has its share of non-achievers. Some are just out of college, or have gotten precious little playing time in the pros. Some are players fans have never heard of – and from colleges without strong football programs. Some probably lack the size, strength, or speed to ever become other than standbys or fill-ins.
They are misfits, also-rans, hangers-on, marginally ping-ponging back and forth between the team’s practice squad and roster. They don’t appear to have what it takes to scratch out a career in the big league.
Well, on Saturday evening, it was a motley crew of Packer no-names who emerged from the depths of obscurity to play meaningful roles on Sunday evening. By my count, nine such overachievers contributed to one of Green Bay’s most stirring wins of the last five years.
I think Ty Summers got his first-ever snaps with the defensive unit – he wound up on the field for 44 out of 58 defensive plays. Out of TCU, he was plucked in the final round of the 2019 draft. All he did in quite limited time was tie for making the most tackles at nine, six of which were solo efforts.
The there’s Krys Barnes, a complete unknown when the season got underway. The undrafted rookie, who seems to have come out of nowhere (though actually UCLA), matched Summers’ nine tackles, and did so in limited defensive snaps (28%).
Contributing four tackles to the cause were a couple of others who have seldom previously made significant contributions. One was Will Redmond, who’s been hanging on by a thread in the pros since being drafted by the 49ers in the third round in 2016.
Also recording four tackles was a guy who’s been a whipping boy for pundits and fans alike since being drafted in the third round in 2018 by GM Gutekunst. Out of Vanderbilt, Burks began his third year with the team as a non-entity. He changed that, at least for this one shining game. Well done, Oren Burks.
Who was the Pack’s premier pass rusher on the night? Not Smith or Smith. Instead, the guy getting two sacks – the only two sacks of the quick-pass king on the night – was none other than Kingsley Keke, who was selected in round five in 2019, and who barely got onto the field in his rookie season.
Last, but not least, of Green Bay’s unsung defenders is Chandon Sullivan, a third-year man who went undrafted out of that powerhouse, Georgia State. Though he was only credited with two tackles, he’s been out there for at least 69 percent of the defensive snaps for all three of this season’s wins.
On the offensive side, let’s start with Allen Lazard. Though he’s been called upon increasingly since Week 6 of 2019, not many would have thought he was ready to step right into the shoes of Davante Adams, WR1. Allen went undrafted a year ago despite having a fine career at Iowa State. He even initially failed to make it onto the team’s roster a year ago. The target of eight of Rodgers’ lasers and bombs, he put up these numbers: six catches for 146 yards and one TD, including a 72-yard game breaker right after the start of the second half. His previous highs were five catches and 103 yards.
Robert Tonyan, in his third year out of Indiana State, is yet another undrafted member of the team. His previous best production had been 28 yards, in Game 1 of last year, and his NFL total going into Sunday’s contest was but 12 catches, for 125 yards. Big Bob busted out against the Saints, with five grabs in as many targets, and for 50 yards and a TD. Between them, Lazard and Tonyan accounted for 196 of the Packers’ 283 passing yards.
The Packers’ third best receiver on the night is my ninth over-achiever: Jace Sternberger. Not only did he hold onto his first NFL regular season reception, he was a perfect three out of three, winding up with 36 valuable yards. Aaron Rodgers singled out the importance of his play for the future, saying that both the receiver and Aaron himself were starting to lose confidence in a player who Gutekunst invested a third round draft selection a year ago.
On the game, Sternberger got 32 percent of the offensive snaps, Tonyan got 63 percent, and Lazard got 95 percent. The threesome largely made up for the loss of Adams and lack of receptions by Aaron Jones (2 catches, 17 yards), who was hounded all night – and will be the rest of the season by opposing defenders.
It was Lazard who set up Green Bay’s first TD with his 48-yard reception, and who hauled in the 72-yard bomb setting up the go-ahead score early in the third quarter. And it was Tonyan who delivered the dagger with his 5-yard TD with two minutes left in the game. There simply aren’t enough game balls to go around.
A number of these players might not even make the team’s roster next year. Few are likely to have an NFL career of more than five years. But for now that doesn’t matter. On this one glorious evening in the Superdome, these nine guys rose to the occasion, catapulting the team to a 3 and 0 start, and positioning the group as an early and strong favorite to win the division and advance deep into the playoffs.
Just 15 days into the season, the Pack are tied with the Bears, who have pulled off three near-miracle comebacks – by a margin of four points each. The Pack is already two games ahead of the Lions, and yes, they have a 3-game lead over the reeling – and pretty much defenseless – Vikings, who were favored by some to win the division.
The Packers won’t face the Bears until November 29 at Lambeau, and then again to close out the regular season on January 3.
I gotta get this outa the way quick Rob before i lose interest.
I previously mentioned i’d compare the Packers first 3 games this season, to last season. Some of the defense’s differences are amazing and not in a good way. The offence differences….refreshing.
Last season we won the first 3 games on the back of the defense, this year is the offense. Lets compare….
Scoring defense = 11.6
Red zone = 2 of 6
Sacks = 11
YPG = 328
Scoring defense = 28.3
Red Zone = 7 of 10
Sacks = 8
YPG = 362
Its clear to see the biggest difference is scoring, and red zone scoring. The one improvement the defense accomplished last season is gone and regressed so far. So how are we still 3-0? This below should answer that for you.
Scoring = 19.9 PPG
Red zone = 6 of 7
Sacked = 6
YPG = 286
Scoring = 40.6 PPG
Red Zone = 10 of 16
Sacked = 2
YPG = 459
3 game comparison.
The defense is giving up over 17 PPG over last season.
The offense is scoring over 20 PPG over last season.
That’s a 37 point swing….who does that?….lol
If this defense doesn’t straighten up and right itself, that can’t be good news for Mr. Pettine in his 3rd year.
You can’t spend the cash they did on defense, and sit on these results.
Jake Kummerow who?
Good article Rob giving those guys credit.
They aren’t in danger of going to the Pro Bowl, but they’ve been whipped by us pretty good in here. They made some timely key tackles and plays. Did they wiff some…sure. But i’m not going to go blast on anyone that got beat by Kamara. Lets be real…Kamara is a generational player and he can make All Pro linebackers look like they are slipping on banana peels.
Also, very well done for Keke.
Now….how long is Kirksey going to be out for?
I’ll wait for the 411 before i start jawin.
Keke is proof the over drafted Gary at 12. Keke was pick 150. But looking at that draft there is nobody that stands out after 12 as great in the 1st round. Savage, Jenkins and Sternberger may make that draft a winner. Plus future All Pro Ty Summers.
I dunno. He is in the middle of the pack for pass rush win rate, and is at the top in run block win rate. Seems like he is doing well. He doesn’t have the flashy sack stats yet, but he is playing well
We sign Clay Matthews and Snacks Harrison yet? lol. Defensive issues solved for rest of season.
Play him inside.
Good article. I really thought the Packers were going to get killed. But Lazard, Keke and the tight ends really stepped up their game. Of course, I don’t think any of this would have happened if the Packers didn’t have a legit run game instead of a lip service, rudimentary run game they had under Mccarthy. The Saints would have just run a dime defense and teed off on Rodgers. Also, this hard count of Rodgers working on the road has got to be killing coaches.
What’s killing opposing coaches is Rodgers and Co. throwing dimes and averaging 40 points a game.
Some thought Rodgers had lost it…maybe he’s just getting “lucky”…idk.
Back in the day of the Gilbert Burger, long ago, some players were honored for their play by Burger King. It’s nice to see these boys contributing. One can’t help but wonder what a Keke Burger would be like.
How about a Stern-Burger? It would be so great to see a burger named for any or all of these unsung young players. It was a great game, and effort to be proud of. Keep up the good work, and one day who knows what you will eat.
Let’s see, there is an ALL PRO @ LT, an All Rookie team guy who should have been in the ProBowl at LG, A center deserving of All Pro honors, an intelligent C/G who ran the Duke line scheme for DAvid Jones and two veterans to cover the right flank….This level of play should be expected.