Grading Green Bay Packers' Positional Units at the First-Quarter Mark
The Green Bay Packers have started the 2013 NFL season a rather disappointing 1-2. Yes, their losses were to potential playoff teams in the San Francisco 49ers and Cincinnati Bengals, but the start is still a disappointment.
The good news is that the Packers are coming off a bye week, should be getting a handful of key players back from injury and still have one of the most potent offenses in the league. In essence, Green Bay should be just fine from here on out.
Today we'll give out grades for each position for the first quarter of the season.
Key Player: Aaron Rodgers
Look, there is no denying that Rodgers has been great this year. Through three games he has 1,057 passing yards, eight touchdowns and only three interceptions.
The problem is that we've come to expect more from the game's best quarterback. We expect more yards, more touchdowns and certainly more wins.
Is it fair that everyone holds Rodgers to such a high standard? Probably not, but his ridiculous performances from the 2010 playoffs to now are the reason why we expect so much.
Rodgers has been great, but not as great as he could/should be.
Key Players: Eddie Lacy, James Starks, Johnathan Franklin
Coming into the season, no one expected the group of running backs for the Green Bay Packers to do much damage. However, back-to-back 100-yard rushing games from this unit have made them rather relevant for the remainder of the season.
What's so promising from this group is that all three participants have shown to be able to have a positive impact on the game. In Week 1, it was Lacy. Weeks 2 and 3 showcased Starks and Franklin.
However you want to look at it, the Packers running backs are becoming legitimate weapons for an already dangerous offense.
If we take away the Week 3 performance from these players, we have one of the best receiving trios in the league. Unfortunately, we can't do that.
The good news is that even a poor performance in Week 3 wasn't enough to knock Nelson and Cobb out of the top 20 receivers in the league according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). Nelson comes in graded as the fourth-best receiver in the league, and Cobb currently sits at No. 16 in the league.
Jones hasn't been quite as dominant, unless we're talking about how incredible he was in Week 2. Simply put, all three of these players have the ability to completely take over a game.
This unit has been a strength through the first three games, and that isn't likely to change anytime soon.
Key Players: Jermichael Finley, Andrew Quarless, Ryan Taylor
This unit was carried by Finley through the first two weeks of the season. He has 11 receptions, 121 yards and three touchdowns, and his concentration seems to be much improved.
However, a concussion suffered in the third game of the season put both Quarless and Taylor into the spotlight. While Quarless and Taylor are solid role players, neither one is close to being the same weapon that Finley can be. They struggled in Week 3 against the Cincinnati Bengals to make a consistent impact.
With Finley coming back in Week 4, this unit should get back to performing at a high level. It has certainly gained a passing grade so far this season, but the ceiling is much higher for the Green Bay Packers tight ends.
Key Players: David Bakhtiari, Josh Sitton, Evan Dietrich-Smith, T.J. Lang, Don Barclay
At times the Green Bay Packers offensive line can be quite unimpressive. That's certainly understandable with such a young and inexperienced group.
However, for the most part, this unit has lived up to or exceeded expectations. It grades out as a top-10 unit according to Pro Football Focus in both run blocking and pass protection (subscription required).
Are the 10 sacks of Aaron Rodgers they've given up still a worry? Of course, but overall the offensive line has been good. Look for it to only get better as guys like Barclay and Bakhtiari get more experience.
Key Players: B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett, Johnny Jolly, Datone Jones, Mike Daniels
This unit was in no way considered a major strength heading into the season, but one offseason transaction was expected to make it much better. That transaction was using a first-round pick on Jones.
Unfortunately, Jones has had little impact on the defensive line for the Green Bay Packers. He's only played in 50 snaps in three games and has a grade of negative-4.0 according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
While Jones has struggled, the rest of the defensive line has played well, especially against the run. It'd be nice to see this group get a little more pressure on the quarterback, but it is still playing well overall even without doing that.
Key Players: Brad Jones, Clay Matthews, A.J. Hawk, Nick Perry, Mike Neal
The Green Bay Packers currently have the second-worst pass rush in the league according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). That's a direct result of Perry's struggles and Matthews not doing what everyone has come to expect of him.
Perry has been terrible this year, and Matthews has been nothing more than a decent player. In fact, the only outstanding player from this unit so far this year has been Jones. He's been the most consistent linebacker from game to game and an absolute beast against the run.
The good news for this unit is that the overall ceiling is still relatively high. The bad news is that it has failed to even come close to that ceiling through three games.
Key Players: Sam Shields, Tramon Williams, Micah Hyde, Davon House
With Casey Hayward sidelined for the first three games with a hamstring injury, the Green Bay Packers cornerbacks have had extra pressure on them. While they've done a decent job at times of shutting down opponents (see Shields on A.J. Green in Week 3), they've struggled on an overall basis.
Shields has really been the only bright spot for this group of players. Neither Hyde nor House has had much of an impact, and Williams looks like a shell of his former self.
Getting Hayward back, whenever that may be, will certainly help, but this unit has been rather unimpressive through the first three games.
Key Players: M.D. Jennings, Chris Banjo, Jerron McMillian
The Green Bay Packers safeties have easily been the team's worst unit through the first quarter of the season. And it isn't even that close.
Of course, this group has been without starting safety Morgan Burnett, but that isn't a good enough excuse for how poorly it has played. Jennings and McMillian have been dominated by every team they've gone up against.
If the Packers want to have any chance at slowing down opposing offenses, this group needs to play better.
Key Players: Mason Crosby, Tim Masthay, Jeremy Ross
Let's start with Ross, who is no longer on the team, but still deserves a grade for the first quarter. To be completely honest, things didn't go so well for Ross, which is why he's no longer a member of the team.
Outside of Ross, the rest of the special teams players have been very good. Crosby and Masthay have been extremely consistent throughout the first three games.
If the new kick returner and punt returner can actually provide some positive plays, this unit could be much better. Unfortunately, Ross' poor play through the first three games brought this unit's overall grade down quite a bit.