The Green Bay Packers: 5 Most Underated and Overated Players
The Green Bay Packers have a wealth of talent on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball, but within those players there are some who get more credit than warranted and other who do not receive the respect and acclaim they deserve.
How we perceive players is based largely based on their play on the field, but other things can have an influence on our perception, like draft status, salary and the position they play.
Here is a look at the most underrated and overrated members of the Green Bay Packers.
Mason Crosby: Overrated
A sixth round pick , Crosby beat out Dave Rayner for the starting place kicker spot for the Packers in 2007.
There is no question the Crosby posses a powerful leg, as evidenced by last week by making a franchise record 56 yarder that looked like it would of been good from at least 60 yards out. However, Crosby's accuracy has been less than stellar. Last season Crosby made only 75% of his field goals, ranking him 25th in the league. In 2008 Crosby made 79.4% of his kicks, but missed kicks at crucial times, which helped contribute to the Packers 6-10 record.
Despite speculation to the contrary, the Packers chose not to bring in any competition for Crosby this training camp, and hopefully that vote of confidence by the Packers management will be enough to get Crosby's confidence where it needs to be for him to be successful this year.
Josh Sitton: Underrated
Despite giving a league high 51 sacks last season, there was one bright spot for the Packers offensive line last season, and that was Josh Sitton.
Sitton, like most offensive linemen, may not get the recognition he deserves, because the fact is, the less you hear about an offensive linemen during a game, the more likely they are doing their job correctly. Sitton is strong at the point of attack and rarely losses one on one battles with opposing defensive linemen.
The 4th round pick, looks like a potential Pro Bowler in just his third year in the league.
A.J. Hawk: Overrated
Go to Lambeau field during a Sunday home game and you are bound to see hundreds of A.J. Hawk jerseys, heck I own one myself, but Hawk has not lived up to his draft status as the 5th overall pick. Packer fans were hoping for the next Brian Urlacher, but instead got a player who has been solid in his play, but has not been the game changer they were hoping for.
Hawk is decent in the run game, but is a liability in pass coverage, so much so that he did not see one defensive snap during last weeks game, where the Packers did not once play in their base defense.
This week there were rumors swirling of a possible trade of Hawk, but finding a team willing to give up anything for a player with Hawk's salary (over $4 million this year and $10 million next year) may prove to be impossible.
Ryan Grant: Underrated
Despite running for over 1,200 yards the past 2 seasons, and over 900 in 2007, when he did not become the starter until halfway through the season, Grant seems to be underrated by Packer fans even more so than by the national media.
With Grant sustaining a season ending injury this past week, the general consensus among Packer fans seems to be that Grant's loss is a minor one, and that Brandon Jackson should be able to take over without the Packer offense skipping a beat. Whether or not Jackson can handle full time duties remains to be seen, but I think Grant's loss is a substantial one.
Grant may not have the speed of Chris Johnson or the power of Adrian Peterson, but since he became a starter in 2007, only Peterson has more rushing yards than Grant, yet Grant has only fumbled 5 times compared to Peterson's 13.
Chad Clifton: Overrated
Chad Clifton has been a fixture on the Packers offensive line since being drafted in 2000. Clifton has done a great job of protecting both Brett Favre's and Aaron Rodgers' blind side, and was selected to a Pro Bowl in 2007.
But the years have taken a toll on Clifton's body, and he has not the same player he was a few years ago. Not only did Clifton miss games to injury last season, but when he was playing he did not seem able to stand up to the better pass rushers he faced. In the first game this season, Clifton looked overmatched early, but was eventually able to settle down, but not before contributing to a sack and numerous quarterback pressures.
The Packers signed Clifton, somewhat out of necessity, to a 3 year contract extension this offseason at a value of nearly $20 with $7.5 million guaranteed, a hefty sum for a player who is past his prime. The good news for the Packers is that if Clifton's play continues to decline, they have what they hope is their future left tackle waiting in the wings in first round draft pick Brian Bulaga.
Donald Driver: Underrated
Donald Driver seems to have the opposite problem that Ryan Grant has, in that he is loved by Packer fans, but seems to get much less national publicity.
Driver is coming off his sixth straight season with over 1,000 yards receiving, and is only 920 yards shy of 10,000 career receiving yards. Driver is already the Packers all-time receptions leader, and after signing a contract this extension this offseason, will almost surely break the Packers all-time receiving yardage record.
Unlike most high profile receivers, Driver goes about his business quietly both on and off the field, which may be one reason why Driver does not get the publicity he deserves, but there are few receivers today who can match his production and durability.
Jordy Nelson: Overrated
The 36th overall pick in the 2008 draft, Nelson still remains behind Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, and James Jones on the Packers wide receiver depth chart.
For two straight offseasons, Packers coaches have praised Nelson for his work in practice, but Packer fans are still waiting for that practice performance to translate to game performance on Sundays. Nelson has caught a total of 56 balls so far in his NFL career.
This season, Nelson will yet again be the Packers kickoff returner, an assignment he took on, but did not excel at last season. There are reasons to be hopeful in this category, as Nelson looked more explosive than he has in the past when returning kicks versus the Eagles.
Cullen Jenkins: Underrated
By nature defensive linemen in a 3-4 defense do not get a lot attention. As a general rule, the defensive linemen's job is to eat up blockers to let the linebackers make plays, and contain the run, and no one on the Packers does that better than Cullen Jenkins.
Jenkins went undrafted in 2003, but has become one of the Packers most important defensive players. In 2008 when Jenkins missed 12 games due to injury, the Packers defense suffered immensely.
Jenkins broke his hand this past Sunday, but luckily for the Packers, he should not miss anytime. The loss of Jenkins to an already thin defensive line could be devastating to the team's Super Bowl hopes.
Atari Bigby: Overrated
In 2007, Bigby, an undrafted free agent who spent time with both the Dolphins and the Jets before landing with the Packers, looked like he would some day join fellow Packer safety Nick Collins on the Pro Bowl roster. Bigby received Defensive Player of the Month honors in December of 2007 and ended the year with 5 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles and 86 tackles.
Since 2007 however, Bigby has been disappointing, missing 12 games due to injury the past 2 years and now starting the season on the PUP list this year after holding out through much of training camp. Although Bigby's absence is a blow to the Packers secondary's overall depth, rookie safety Morgan Burnett looks to have picked up the Packers defense rather quickly, and will probably keep the starting job even after Bigby returns sometime after week 6.
Nick Barnett: Underrated
Now entering his eighth season in the league, Barnett has had over 100 tackles in every full season he has played, yet he has yet to make a Pro-Bowl.
Despite missing much of the 2008 season with a serious knee injury, Barnett was able to play in all 16 games for the Packers last season, accumulating 4 sacks and 105 tackles. And although, he is a little undersized for an inside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, Barnett brings an intensity to the Packers defense that they sorely miss when he is not on the field.
With a year in Dom Caper's defensive scheme under his belt, Barnett could become one of the Packers biggest weapons on the defensive side of the ball this season.