Green Bay Packers: Midseason Report Cards for Each Positional Unit
With Week 8 for the Green Bay Packers in the books, we've now reached the second half of the 2013 NFL season. Of course, the Packers have only played in seven games due to an early bye, but it still seems like the right time to hand out a midseason report card.
For the most part, the specific units for the Packers have received excellent marks. The majority of the offense has been superb this season, while parts and pieces on the defensive side of the ball have also surprised us.
As a team, the 5-2 Packers have definitely earned a passing grade for the first half of the season. However, let's break the whole team down and look at grades for each position unit.
Key Player: Aaron Rodgers
Simply put, Rodgers has been just unbelievable this season. He's got 15 touchdowns and only four interceptions to go along with 2,191 yards. What's most impressive is the fact that he's doing this with an extremely depleted group of receivers.
Rodgers not only remains one of the premier quarterbacks in the league, but he's also proved that no quarterback can raise the level of talent around him like Rodgers can. As long as he's the quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, they should field an extremely competitive football team.
Midseason Grade: A+
Key Players: Eddie Lacy, Johnathan Franklin, James Starks
It's been a revival of the ground game for the Green Bay Packers so far this season.
Lacy has been worth every bit of a second-round draft pick with his dominant play. He's quickly becoming one of the better running backs in the league. His ability to pick up tough yards and also make an impact in the passing game has been huge.
Even Lacy's backups have been productive when asked to play bigger roles. Both Lacy and Franklin have posted 100-yard games on the season.
The ground game in Green Bay was expected to be much-improved this year, but no one could have predicted it would make this much of an impact through the first half of the season.
Midseason Grade: A+
It's hard to tell how much of the Green Bay Packers wide receivers' success is due to their talent and how much is due to the unbelievable play of quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The most likely answer is that it takes both Rodgers' talent and the receivers' abilities to make such an impact.
With Jones and Cobb sitting out the past two weeks, Nelson has proved just how important he is to this offense. Since Week 6, when Jones and Cobb got injured, Nelson has four touchdowns for the Packers.
However, it hasn't just been Nelson who has been spectacular for Green Bay so far this season. Both Jones and Cobb were having solid seasons before getting injured. Even Boykin has proved to be a valuable asset for this team while showing how deep this receiving corps goes.
While this unit hasn't quite been as explosive as many thought it would be heading into the season, it has still proved to be one of the better units in the league.
Midseason Grade: A-
Key Players: Jermichael Finley, Andrew Quarless, Ryan Taylor
If Finley had been healthy this entire year, this unit would get a passing grade with flying colors. Unfortunately, Finley has battled head and neck injuries this season, and neither Quarless nor Taylor has been able to step up in his absence.
On the season, Finley has 25 receptions, 300 yards and three touchdowns. He was playing with more passion and much more consistency than he has in any other season.
If we were grading this unit on Finley alone, the grade would be quite good. However, we can't do that, so due to the uneventful play of Quarless and Taylor, this unit's grade takes a hit.
Midseason Grade: B-
Key Players: David Bakhtiari, Josh Sitton, Evan Dietrich-Smith, T.J. Lang, Don Barclay
At times, the offensive line for the Green Bay Packers has looked extremely dominant. However, there have also been times when this group has been as bad as people expected it to be before the start of the season.
After a rough start to the season, Sitton is playing like his Pro Bowl self. Both Dietrich-Smith and Lang also have positive grades through the first half of the season according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
Even the rookie Bakhtiari has been improving on what seems like a weekly basis. The weakest link of this group has been Barclay, who has just been playing awfully in recent weeks. In fact, Barclay played his worst game this week against the Minnesota Vikings.
This group has definitely surprised through the first eight weeks, but there is still definitely room for improvement.
Midseason Grade: B
Key Players: Ryan Pickett, Johnny Jolly, B.J. Raji, Mike Daniels, Datone Jones, C.J. Wilson
Few units for the Green Bay Packers have been as surprising as the defensive line. This group was really an unknown entering the season, but it's proved to be the backbone of the defense through the first half of the season.
For starters, the Packers defensive line has been absolutely dominant against the run. The Packers currently have the sixth-best run defense in the league according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
What's put this unit over the top, however, has been the fact that it's been able to create consistent pressure the past few weeks. Guys like Daniels and Jones have been able to get after the quarterback with great success.
It seems that the Packers defense has been improving each week, and the play of the defensive line has been a big reason why.
Midseason Grade: B+
Key Players: A.J. Hawk, Brad Jones, Clay Matthews, Mike Neal, Nick Perry, Jamari Lattimore, Andy Mulumba
The linebackers for the Green Bay Packers have been dealing with injuries all season long. Jones, Matthews, Neal and Perry have all missed time this year with various injuries.
While losing that many players would usually cripple a unit, the Packers have actually gotten better over the past few weeks. Hawk has really stepped up his game and taken on a leadership role, while Lattimore has been an extremely pleasant surprise for Green Bay.
Once Matthews and Perry fully return from their injuries, this unit should be even better. Of course, that's assuming that all the chemistry that's been gained the past few weeks isn't lost with the insertion of new players.
Midseason Grade: B+
Key Players: Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, Micah Hyde, Davon House
The cornerbacks for the Green Bay Packers were absolutely horrid to start the season. They simply couldn't stop anyone and it showed, as the Packers dropped to 1-2 on the season.
Since then, however, this unit has really picked up its game. It has been able to successfully shut down receivers like A.J. Green and Josh Gordon while keeping opposing quarterbacks in check.
The biggest winner so far this season at the cornerback position has been Shields. He's been ridiculously good in man coverage through the first half of the season. As for the other starting cornerback, Williams, he's had a rather up-and-down season.
This unit did get Casey Hayward back last week against the Minnesota Vikings. Considering how good Hayward was as a rookie, that should be a huge boost for this group moving forward.
Midseason Grade: B-
Key Players: Morgan Burnett, M.D. Jennings, Jerron McMillian, Chris Banjo
This unit was an absolute mess for the first handful of games the Green Bay Packers played. The combination of Jennings and McMillian simply didn't work, and the Packers safeties couldn't slow down anyone.
Then Burnett came back from his hamstring injury and the unit has slowly started to get better. It's still the biggest liability on the defensive side of the field for Green Bay, but at least it's improving.
A big reason for that has been the fact that the Packers have removed McMillian from the field. While starting, McMillian graded out as the fourth-worst safety in the league according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
With him sidelined now that Burnett is healthy, the entire play of the safeties has improved. They're still nowhere near where they need to be for the Packers to make a deep run, but there is still plenty of time for that to change.
Midseason Grade: C+
Key Players: Mason Crosby, Tim Masthay, Micah Hyde, Johnathan Franklin
Three things have happened recently for the Green Bay Packers' special teams unit.
The first thing is that Crosby has started to miss field goals. He was perfect through the first five weeks of the season but then missed field goals in back-to-back games in Week 6 and Week 7. Crosby was a big liability last year, and these misses are something to take note of moving forward.
Secondly, the coverage team in Green Bay has been absolutely horrid the past two weeks. It gave up huge returns to the Cleveland Browns in Week 7 and followed that up by giving up a touchdown on a kickoff to the Minnesota Vikings this week.
Finally, the Packers' own return team has finally found an impact player in Hyde. He had his first touchdown off a punt return against Minnesota and has given Green Bay a viable option to replace Randall Cobb in the return game.
What this all adds up to is an extremely difficult grade to process. When this unit has been good, it's been really good. However, when it's been bad, it's had negative impacts for the Packers.
Midseason Grade: B-