Super Bowl 2011: Unsung Heroes For the NFC Champion Green Bay Packers
The Packers lost more starters than any other team to injury this season. Nearing the end of the season at 8-6, it looked like the Packers weren't going to make the playoffs.
They did, and as you know, they very well may be the Super Bowl Champions. While Aaron Rodgers is one of the obvious reasons as to why the Packers are in the Super Bowl right now, surely there must be others.
And by others do you mean Woodson, Jennings, and Matthews?
Yes and No. It's time to talk about some of the players who just aren't as appreciated as they should be.
10. Erik Walden, LB
The former Dallas draft pick will be going back to the city who picked him. Hey, the Cowboys may wish they didn't get rid of him, who knows?
Traded from Miami, Walden was given the opportunity to play for Green Bay soon after. He did, but was rather ineffective, which prevents him from being higher on this list.
However, on the decisive Week 17 game against Chicago, he exploded. Walden was credited with 12 tackles (11 solo) and 3 sacks. One of those sacks was crucial in the red zone and forced the Bears to kick a field goal.
Since then, he has recorded 9 solo tackles a sack and a forced fumble in the playoffs. Since he is young (3 years experience), Walden will hopefully have many more years of success ahead of him.
9. Bryan Bulaga, OT
Bryan Bulaga was this year's 1st round draft pick for the Packers. 1st round draft picks are often expected to get solid playing time and become starters in their rookie season or a couple years down the road. Taken 23rd overall, he was considered a steal to have fallen that far. The Packers were lucky to get him.
Bulaga got to see some action after the injury to Mark Tauscher. He started week 5 in Fedex Field and hasn't stopped since.
Bulaga was solid, but not spectacular. He did give up some sacks though, but a promising future is there indeed.
8. Brandon Jackson, RB
After the injury to Ryan Grant in Week 1, Brandon Jackson assumed the duties for #1 RB. A 2nd Round draft pick out of Nebraska, Jackson never really lived up to expectations. In fact, this year he only had 1 100+ yard rushing game. However, that is not why he's here. Especially with the criticism of the Packers' running game.
Jackson is on this list for his receiving. He provided a solid outlet to Aaron Rodgers. With 43 receptions, he was good for 5th on the team in that category. Add a TD to that total, and also being targeted only 50 times and you have some good hands out of the backfield.
Another popping stat is the fact that he only fumbled once this season, and that fumble wasn't lost.
7. James Jones, WR
James Jones, the man who infamously dropped a sure 63 yard touchdown pass near the end of the 1st half in Philadelphia.
James Jones is often put behind Donald Driver and Greg Jennings in the discussion about Green Bay WR. This is mainly because of his drops. Sometimes he takes his eyes off the ball to catch, and sometimes he thinks he has got the ball 100% and becomes careless.
Lost in all that is the fact that he was 3rd in catches on the team and 2nd in receiving yards. Jones also compiled 5 touchdowns. During the postseason he has added two more to that total.
This man will be a Free Agent, and Packers fans can only hope the organization will resign him.
6. Charlie Peprah, S
While Peprah has bounced around from team to team in his career, this season will surely stop that trend (although he may be traded).
With Atari Bigby injured at the beginning of the season, the team turned to their 3rd Round draft pick, Morgan Burnett out of Georgia Tech for help at the Safety position. After his season ending injury, Peprah was the one to get the opportunity and has made the most out of it.
Despite essentially not playing in the first four games, Peprah has tallied 63 tackles, 2 INT, and 5 Passes Defensed. In the postseason he has added another 15 tackles.
On the Packers defense though, much attention at the Safety position has been directed to the Pro Bowler Nick Collins.
5. Tim Masthay, P
A Rookie Punter on this list?
Tim Masthay has been about as extraordinary this season for a rookie punter as it gets. During the season he averaged 43.9 yards per punt with a long of a booming 62 yards. Masthay also had an In 20% of 35.2.
In some games, Tim Masthay has been the difference. This past weekend against Chicago he punted 8 times on an average of 41.8 yards per punt and a long of 65. 5 out of his 8 punts went inside the 20. Most importantly though, Hester didn't take one to the house.
While you may have heard Masthay's name mentioned every once in a while, it certainly isn't as much as he deserves.
4. Cullen Jenkins, DE
Part of the reason that Jenkins hasn't been further noticed this season is due to his dismal tackling stat.
Jenkins has yet to have a game this season with over 3 tackles. Jenkins has 18 total tackles on the season. On the other hand, he has only played in 11 games, 5 of them gone to injury.
The booming stat for Jenkins is his sacks, 7.0. I have yet to hear Jenkins name this year when mentioned with the top play-makers on the Packers defense. In addition to those 7 sacks during the regular season, he added half a sack in the game against Chicago which was really all his.
I was in shock when an announcer/analyst in one of the later games in the season said that no Packer had recorded more than 4 sacks besides Matthews.
Suffice to say, his work has gone rather unnoticed.
3. Tramon Williams, CB
Tramon Williams is just one of many great cornerbacks on Green Bay's roster this year.
He has emerged as a shutdown corner who does so much against the pass. With 57 Tackles, one Forced Fumble, 6 Interceptions, and 20 passes defensed there isn't much he can't do when working against a Wide Receiver.
I could also put Sam Shields here in this spot. The other fantastic Cornerback for the Packers, Charles Woodson, has partially stolen the spotlight from Williams.
In addition, Williams has performed amazing in the playoffs intercepting 3 passes (one of which was returned all the way to end the 1st half), and defended 3 passes.
Not to say Tramon Williams hasn't gone too much unnoticed, especially in Green Bay.
But apparently not many people knew the name of Tramon Williams outside of the Frozen Tundra and their fans. He was not voted to the Pro Bowl originally, but took the place of Samuel after he got hurt. Obviously since he is playing in the Super Bowl he will not go, but it's the thought that counts.
2. AJ Hawk, LB
One of several Inside LB for the Packers, Hawk has not lived up to expectations coming out of Ohio State. By the way, those expectations were out the roof.
But all of this talk about him never living up to expectations is ridiculous.
This year, he has had a great season recording 111 tackles, 10 passes defensed, and 3 Interceptions. Yet somehow, mainly talks of trade and not living up to the type of expectations that come with the #5 Draft Pick are what comes up when AJ Hawk is brought up.
In addition, Hawk is the signal caller on the Packers defense and a Captain. He is a great leader, and is often overshadowed by the Packers' other long-haired beast.
1. John Kuhn, RB/FB
Not enough can be said about this man.
A growing star in Green Bay, he doesn't put up gaudy stat lines. Instead, he works hard every practice and continues to improve.
Kuhn is a versatile player. The utility man for the Green Bay Packers, Kuhn does everything. Kuhn blocks, he runs, and he catches passes. While he is often blocking, and while not blocking he's running, Kuhn has the ability to catch as well.
Kuhn is mainly used in goal line and short yardage situations, but he has a high football IQ and knows where he needs to get to. He takes shots sometimes, but works for every single yard.
While Packer fans scream his name from the stands whenever he touches the ball, most people don't know Kuhn. In fact, not many outside of the hardcore group of Packers have an idea of who he is.
Most of my friends who are Packers fans don't really know who he is or how many touchdowns he has scored.
Kuhn had 4 rushing touchdowns to go with a pair of receiving touchdowns this season. In the post-season he has one of each.