The Green Bay Packers are one of only two teams in the NFL to remain undefeated thus far, featuring a record of 5-0 through the first five weeks. As the defending Super Bowl champs and favorites to win it again this season, there are plenty of players contributing to the success of the football team.
Some of these contributions have been expected, like the above-superstar level of play from Aaron Rodgers, the talented pass-catchers Greg Jennings and Jermichael Finley, as well as the ferocious defensive play of Clay Matthews and Charles Woodson.
While these players get most of the publicity and attention, the machine wouldn't run as smoothly without the contributions of lesser-known, but still very important pieces.
A backup's backup, Jarius Wynn wasn't expected to be much of a contributor coming into this season. After preseason injuries to defensive end starter Mike Neal and first-in-line backup C.J. Wilson, Wynn was asked to step up and play.
Wynn has been the starter in the base defense since the opening game and has recorded three sacks on the season through the first five games. On opening night, Wynn got the first sack of his season against Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints. Two weeks later against the Bears, two more sacks by Wynn eased the pain of missing Neal.
The pass rush has been a problem early for the Packers, but if not for Wynn, it would have been even worse. Wynn has forced teams to respect him on the Packers' defensive line when he has been in the game.
Coming into the season, many had written off Ryan Grant in favor of the younger James Starks, myself included. So far this season, Grant has silenced his critics and doubters with exceptional play reminiscent of his younger years.
Grant is still splitting carries with Starks but has showed that he is deserving of the carries he is getting, rushing for 175 yards in the four games he has played in. For a while, it appeared Starks would earn the majority of carries, but Grant has held his own.
Against the Bears, Grant turned in his best game of the season, carrying the ball 17 times for 92 yards, good for an average of 5.4 yards per carry. Showing great vision and burst, Grant looked like he did in 2009 and the first game of 2010 before breaking his ankle in the first game.
For much of last season, the Packers didn't have a single formidable threat in the backfield before Starks came on late in the year. With Grant coming back from his injury so well and Starks continuing to grow, the Packers have a respectable ground threat.
Marshall Newhouse has played just about half the season, taking over for Bryan Bulaga in the Week 3 game against the Chicago Bears. The first time Newhouse lined up to take a snap at right tackle, Bears defensive lineman Julius Peppers had switched over and lined up right in front of Newhouse to welcome him to the game. A pre-snap penalty prevented the matchup.
Since that moment, Newhouse has been very strong holding down the right tackle position. After Newhouse suffered through a terrible preseason, it appeared the loss of Bulaga could have been a devastating blow to the Packers. This has not been the case as Newhouse has been sufficient.
There have been struggles for Newhouse as he has given up a couple of sacks, but he has outperformed the expectations of many.
With Chad Clifton injured against the Atlanta Falcons, the Packers could be leaning of Newhouse for even longer with Bulaga expected back within the next two weeks.
Randall Cobb burst out of the gates of his NFL career with the same speed he uses to blow past defenders while he is returning kicks. Cobb used his speed to score his first NFL touchdown in the first quarter of the opening game against the Saints on a 32-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers. He followed that score up with a 108-yard kickoff return touchdown in the third quarter.
While many expected Cobb's contributions to begin and end on kickoffs, he has gotten involved in the offensive side of the ball. Through the first five games, Cobb has caught nine passes for 174 yards and the touchdown.
Cobb is fifth on the team in receiving yards behind Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Jermichael Finley and James Jones. He currently has caught the same amount of passes as Donald Driver but has outgained him by 98 yards.
With the quick progression of Cobb, Rodgers has yet another weapon at his disposal. If the Packers can re-sign Finley long term, the corps of Jennings, Nelson, Finley, Jones and Cobb could be around for quite some time in Green Bay.
After showing brilliant flashes early last season but suffering a season-ending injury in Week 5, it was unclear what impact Morgan Burnett would have this season. Those flashes of greatness were often paired with moments of extremely raw mistake.
It was thought Burnett would be one of the players hurt most by the lack of offseason coaching due to the lockout. In the first five games, Burnett has stepped up and appears to eliminate many of those mistakes from his game.
After five games, Burnett is currently second on the team in tackles behind Desmond Bishop and, along with Charles Woodson, leads the Packers with three interceptions on the season. Burnett has also registered a sack, a forced fumble and fumble recovery.
Burnett's development has been crucial to a Packers defense that has struggled early on. These struggles were compounded with the loss of safety Nick Collins. Without Burnett stepping up, the Packers could be in a world of hurt in their secondary beyond the trio of outstanding corners.