Aaron Rodgers. To say that Rodgers has performed well under the immense pressure shoveled onto him would be an understatement. With the ghost of Brett Favre still haunting Lambeau field, Rodgers has slowly won over both teammates and fans alike with his ability to handle a situation that threatened to destroy the Packers Franchise, and with his unexpected but much welcomed Pro Bowl caliber play.
By the numbers, Rodgers ranks high in passing categories, currently fifth in passer rating (98.8) and seventh in touchdown passes (13), but perhaps the most impressive statistic is Rodgers interception total (5) which is quite an unusual number to see from a Packers quarterback. This stat may be misread to say that Rodgers has not taken many shots downfield, not true. Instead of the gunslinger Farve, who was willing to take shots into double coverage at any time, Rodgers has played smart football by throwing calculated low-risk, high-reward passes downfield.
Even with key injuries to both Al Harris and Atari Bigby, the Packers secondary has shown big play potential leading the league with 13 interceptions. Charles Woodson, who has enjoyed a revival of his career since joining Green Bay, leads the league with interceptions along with Nick Collins with four. With Harris and Bigby returning, expect more from the secondary.
Ryan Grant. Last year Grant showcased a good mixture of speed, strength and vision that fit the Packers zone blocking scheme perfectly. So far this year Grant has been anything besides perfect, Grant sits at fifteenth in league rushing with 550 yards while averaging a measly 68.8 yards a game and fumbling (3) more then scoring (1).
The excuses for Grant are evident, missing training camp during his holdout and a hamstring injury that slowed him early in the season. If Green Bay is to make any playoff push they will need the 2007 version of Grant. This is Wisconsin after all, and blustery weather is on its way.
The Tight-ends. Who knew the Packers even had tight-ends? Green Bay lists Donald Lee and Troy Humphrey as their starters, but they have become an invisible position in a offense that could be even better if they involved their ends.
Opponents have run wild on the Packers defense; it all starts up front with the defensive line, where things have been ugly. The Green and Gold rank twenty-seventh in rushing yards allowed, and are a team that has speedy undersized linebackers that require their defensive lineman to keep blockers off of them so they can roam free and make plays. This of course has not happened, with Ryan Picket and company playing uninspiried, sloppy, and undisciplined football by not controlling their gaps and allowing running backs to gash open the defense.
Not to continue bashing the defense (yes it is), but the pass rush has been pathetic. Aaron Kampman remains the only man to pull his weight with six sacks, while he continues his hopeful play the remaining front three have accounted to little, except to help the Packers rank in at twenty-first in sacks. With the departure of pass rushing specialist Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, for being unable to provide that pass rush, things do not look good; maybe one of the young guns on the team (Jeremy Thompson, Michael Montgomery) could step up?
The rather not be Mentioned
As previously stated, it all starts up front for defense. And it is true for offense as well. Grant’s poor season could also be a direct result of poor blocking by an offensive line that has been accused of being undersized and weaker then the average offensive line. The line has not been the same since the departure of Marco Rivera and Mike Wahle, and with aging tackles in Mark Tauscher and Chad Clifton, (who can’t even complete a full season without some sort of injury) things look grim. Last year they pulled together near the end of the season, and for the Packers to be successful they have to be a more physical group.