There is no question the Packers are one of the NFL's most talented teams. The defending Super Bowl Champions boast an exceptional balance of star power and role players, veteran leadership and young enthusiasm, freakish athleticism and savvy play.
However, there are some members of the Packers that don't get the recognition they deserve for contributing to that balance. There are some players whose contributions to the Packers' winning ways are forgotten.
The perception of a player by both the fans and the mainstream media is influenced by many factors, some of which are the player's position, persona, level of play, and salary. Draft status, role on the team, career achievements and more can also be a factor.
But sometimes players fall through the cracks. Sometimes a player doesn't receive the credit he deserves. So, here's to you, Mr. Underrated Packer Player.
It's difficult to write that a player is underrated after the ESPN crew dubs him the best RG in football and the NFL Alumni vote him the League's Best Offensive Lineman. But, I'm going to do it anyway.
Clad Clifton may be the Pro Bowl Tackle, but Sitton is the anchor of the offensive line. He is a model of consistent dominance in the trenches, starting every game since 2009 and surrendering only two sacks during that period.
Generally, the rule of thumb for an offensive lineman is this: if the TV announcers only say your name once (during the introduction), you've done your job well. Needless to say, Sitton's name isn't called often.
Sam Shields would be a number one cornerback for at least 10 NFL teams. However, he's the number three guy in Green Bay, behind former Defensive Player of the Year Charles Woodson and rising star Tramon Williams.
Shields has very quietly developed into an excellent cover corner, a player who is (generally) able to shut down one of an opposing team's top targets. He is a gifted playmaker capable of making both game-changing hits and interceptions.
Despite his talent and production, Shields still does not receive the respect he deserves. It might have something to do with playing behind a future Hall of Famer and the newest NFL starlet.
These days, playing in the shadow of Aaron Rodgers must not be an easy task.
For better or worse, any time Matt Flynn enters a game, he will be expected to "be like Aaron". He'll be expected to complete the same throws that Rodgers does, to see the field the way Rodgers does, to extend the play the way Rodgers can. Asking just about any other starting QB in the NFL to do that would be a mammoth request. Asking a 26-year-old former seventh round pick to do it is insane.
But that's exactly what the Packers did. And Flynn, in his one career NFL start, somehow made it happen, against the New England Patriots, no less.
Back-up QBs in the NFL are often some of the most under-appreciated players. They don't play on special teams. They don't come in to the game situationally. At best, they hold the ball for the kicker. At worst, they stand on the sidelines with a clipboard and a headset, talking the starter through the game.
No one ever notices how much back-up QBs do to help their offense. Matt Flynn is one of the best in the back-up business, and, not surprisingly, no one knows.
Easy, Packer fans.
Driver's recipe for success is simple: he just plays hard every down and catches the ball. In traffic? No problem. Double covered? He'll catch it anyway. Poorly thrown pass? Driver adjusts and snags it. Game on the line? Throw it to Driver—he won't drop it.
Off the field, Driver is the same way: he just does what he's supposed to do.
He doesn't call press conferences while he's lifting weights in his front yard. He doesn't change his last name to his jersey number in Spanish. He doesn't propose to a cheerleader after he catches a game-winning touchdown. He doesn't pretend to pull down his pants and moon Vikings' fans. He doesn't leave the field before the game is over.
He just goes about his business the right way.
John Kuhn is the Packers' Swiss Army Knife. He just does whatever it is that needs doing. He doesn't put on a show or take the credit at a press conference. He doesn't ask for respect or demand attention.
But whether it's blocking a pass-rushing demon every play of the game, lowering his head and getting the tough yards to close out a game, clearing a running lane for another back, or catching a pass out of the backfield, Kuhn is happy to do it. And he does it well.
Life as a fullback in today's NFL is not glamorous. Kuhn might be the best one in the league and no one outside of Wisconsin knows who he is.
Ryan Grant is a lot like John Kuhn: no one outside of Wisconsin knows just how good he is at what he does. That's fairly unusual for a player who has rushed for 1,000+ yards in back-to-back seasons, but that's life for Grant.
When he went down in Week 1 of the 2010 season, nothing seemed to change. The Packers offense continued to roll, the team continued to win, and the Lombardi Trophy came home in February. All without the running back coming off a 1,200-yard season.
Pat Lee and Sam Shields should commiserate together. They both suffer from playing behind Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams. The especially unfortunate part for Lee is that he's stuck behind Shields, too.
Don't let Lee's spot on the Packer depth chart throw you—he has the talent to be a very solid cornerback in the NFL. He has a nice combination of size and speed, a knack for being around the ball, and natural coverage skills.
If given a chance, Lee should develop into a solid number two or number three cornerback at the NFL level. The talent is certainly there—but no one notices. Not even Packer fans.
Running back James Starks is yet another underrated member of the Packer backfield. Like many others on this list, Starks is not flashy or boastful. He just goes about his business quietly, running over opposing defenses in the process.
During their Super Bowl run, Starks played a key role for the Packers. He carried the ball 81 times for 315 yards against some of the NFL's toughest run defenses in fairly unpleasant conditions. He played well in pass protection, more than once buying valuable time for Aaron Rodgers to make a play downfield. He was the guy that got the tough yards down the stretch for the Packers.
Like everyone else on this list, Starks is under-appreciated. He's a victim of doing things the right way, of putting the best interests of the team first and of playing in the shadow (literally) of Aaron Rodgers.
Desmond Bishop is everything a defensive coordinator wants in a middle linebacker: he's focused, he's mean and he's athletic. He makes the tackles he should make, he punishes opposing players coming across the middle and he knows how to get to the opposing quarterback.
Ordinarily, a player like Bishop would be a star in his own right—a cornerstone player for a defense. A player opposing offenses respect and game-plan against. Bishop, however, has the misfortune of playing next to the freakishly talented, Thor look-alike Clay Matthews. On the other side, he has over-hyped and overrated A.J. Hawk.
Bishop is the very talented guy stuck in-between the two fan favorite linebackers with very long hair.
No one ever appreciates the Punter. Tim Masthay is no exception.
Masthay is a very solid punter, a player that regularly knocks the ball inside the opponent's 20 yard line, who helps the Packers win the field position battle week in and week out.
Of course, the Punter isn't even the Special Team's darling. That honor belongs to the kicker, the guy who gets his own holder and all of the glory. The Punter just runs out after the offense stalls, kicks the ball back to the opposing team and runs back onto the sideline.
If Masthay's kick is downed inside the five-yard-line, all of the credit goes to the coverage team. If the punt is returned for a touchdown, everyone wonders why he punter kicked the ball right to the returner.
No one really notices. No one appreciates it. No one gives him the credit he deserves for helping the Packers consistently win the field position battle. But that's the life of the punter.