The Green Bay Packers have started the 2012 NFL season on quite the roller coaster. The early weeks have seen the team rise and fall as they take their 1-2 record into Week 4 against the New Orleans Saints.
With three weeks in the books, patterns are starting to form and players' stock are starting to become clear. Some players have lived up the expectations and even exceed them, while others haven't and their disappointing play has hurt the team.
After pretty much losing his starting job in training camp, Sam Shields has made the most of Davon House's absence. Shields has started the last two games after Jarrett Bush got the start Week 1.
In the two games, Shields has played lights-out defense and only given up one completion—the "completion" to Golden Tate. The Packers defense has played much better in those two games with the back-to-normal Tramon Williams pairing with Shields for a quality duo.
In addition to his coverage skills, Shields has been much more physical and wrapped up on tackles instead of going for the strip. Shields has been a big reason why the Packers defense has had more success the last two weeks.
If the Packers had lost in Week 3 in any other fashion than the fiasco that occurred, Bryan Bulaga would be taking the heat instead of the replacement refs. Against the Seahawks, Bulaga gave up two sacks and eight pressures on the night.
After a strong season last year, Bulaga's performance this season has been disappointing. He's been part of the reason that the Packers offense hasn't clicked and Aaron Rodgers is the most sacked quarterback in the league.
Bulaga's job is relatively safe as the Packers lack any real depth on the offensive line. He needs to improve over the next few weeks.
When the Packers use him, Cedric Benson has been very good for the offense. He changes the dynamic of the Packers offense and provides the potential for a different approach. He was a big key in the offensive turnaround against the Seahawks.
After getting the ball for just nine carries in Week 1, Benson received 20 and 17 carries in the next two weeks, respectively. In the last two weeks, Benson has also caught eight passes after going catchless in Week 1.
It will be interesting to see how the Packers utilize Benson over the next few weeks. The Saints just allowed over 200 yards to Jamaal Charles, so a heavy dose of Benson could be on the way.
After last year's breakout season, Jordy Nelson hasn't lived up to the hype in 2012. Nelson erupted for 15 touchdowns last year but has failed to find the end zone this season. He has also dropped from 18.6 yards per catch last year to 12.8 this year. He has had a number of drops in the first few weeks as well.
While Nelson is off to a slow start, the whole Packers offense is as well. In the first three weeks of the season, the Packers have played some great defenses that played with two deep safeties to prevent the big play. It's worked, and Nelson's production has been impacted.
The Packers need Nelson to be able to have an impact in the mid-to-short range game when teams sit back. Nelson hasn't been terrible, but he hasn't been the threat he was last season.
Thankfully for Packers fans, last year was an anomaly for Tramon Williams and not the new norm. Williams struggled mightily with a harness on his shoulder to prevent further harm after an early season injury.
In 2012, Williams has been the true shutdown corner that he was in 2010. He did a wonderful job against Brandon Marshall, holding him at bay for much of the game. Williams was huge in limiting Marshall to two catches for 24 yards.
In addition to providing lockdown coverage against an opponent's best wideout, Williams has two interceptions on the year and has looked much more physical when tackling.