Every year there are players in the NFL who don't play like they were expected to. Players like Alex Smith and Reggie Bush always seem to be ready for a breakout season, but once play begins, they terribly disappoint their team and fans.
Last season was anything but a disappointment for the Green Bay Packers. They battled through injuries and adversities while bringing the Lombardi Trophy back to its rightful home. However, that was last season, and now Green Bay has a giant target on its back. Every team on its schedule will be looking to defeat the defending Super Bowl champions.
The definition of disappoint is "to fail to fulfill the expectations or wishes of or to defeat the fulfillment of hopes and plans." Here are five Green Bay Packers who will do exactly that.
It is difficult for a rookie to step in from day one and be asked to protect the future of a franchise, but that is exactly what Bryan Bulaga did for Green Bay last year.
After being called to start in Week 5, Bulaga continued to play well enough to be named to the NFL All-Rookie team. He was vital to the team's success all season long and played some of his best football during the playoffs and Super Bowl.
Of course, it was an up-and-down season for Bulaga, as it is for any rookie. There were times when he looked overmatched and better suited to play guard than tackle.
Many people are expecting Bulaga to dominate the right side of the offensive line for the Packers, but don't be surprised if he takes a few steps backwards during his sophomore campaign.
There might not be another player that has the combination of size and athleticism Jermichael Finley has. Before his season was cut short by injury, Finley was well on his way to a Pro Bowl-caliber season.
It is difficult for linebackers to keep up with Finley, and no safeties have to size to stop him vertically. He has the potential to be an unstoppable force—the key word being potential.
Finley is supposedly back to new, which is good news for the Packers. Unfortunately for Finley, Green Bay drafted not one, but two tight ends in this year's draft, which should speak loudly about the need for him to produce now.
Coming back from injury is never easy, and I have some doubts about whether Finley can really get back all his athletic ability so soon. Watch out for him to struggle early on and allow rookies D.J. Williams and Ryan Taylor, plus Andrew Quarless, to see some playing time and possibly steal the show.
Ryan Grant is another Packer coming back from an injury that took away his entire season. He was expected to have a huge season after back-to-back 1,200-yard rushing seasons, but that obviously didn't happen.
There might not have been another player the Packers missed more than Grant last year. Green Bay was terrible in the run game all season long, and that was directly related to the loss of Grant. It wasn't until the playoffs and the emergence of James Starks that Green Bay's run offense finally found some consistency.
Now that Grant is back, he should be able to get back on track to being a top-tier running back for a high-powered offense.
If Grant shows signs of being a step slower after his injury, he could be put on the back burner while the Packers go with Starks or rookie Alex Green.
Before the playoffs started, few people knew about Sam Shields. After his two-interception game against Chicago and a stellar shutdown performance against the Steelers, Shields has been on people's radars.
As an undrafted rookie, Shields wasn't expected to see much playing time. However, he has great coverage skills and solid hands. He can keep up with faster receivers and be physical when he needs to be. When thrown into a tough situation during the Super Bowl, Shields showed poise beyond his years.
Shields is currently third on the Packers' cornerback depth chart, but depending on what Green Bay does with Charles Woodson, he could see some starting time. Considering Tramon Williams is one of the best in the game, Shields should see plenty of passes come his way, and he might become overwhelmed and allow some big plays.
I don't think there has ever been a breakout performance like James Starks gave us during last year's playoffs. Other than Aaron Rodgers, there might not have been a bigger player for Green Bay than Starks during their Super Bowl run.
James Starks only played in three games during the regular season and had a total of 101 rushing yards. He surpassed that total against Philadelphia in the first game of the playoffs, when he rushed for 123 yards on 23 carries. He ran with power and vision and displayed impressive speed. He probably played the best football of his career when Green Bay needed him the most.
Starks' playoff performance should get him plenty of carries early on in the season. Don't be shocked if Starks has the same problems that kept him off the field last year and moves down on the depth chart.