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2014 Team Report: Green Bay Packers

Quarterbacks

Starter: Aaron Rodgers
Backup(s): Matt Flynn, Scott Tolzien

Starting QB: Aaron Rodgers missed half of last season with a broken collarbone, but he came back in week 17 to lead the Packers to a big win and a playoff appearance. He was roughed up at home against the 49ers, but he is the heart and soul of the Packer offense and will be again in 2014. At full strength, Rodgers is one of the best. He had five consecutive top two fantasy seasons before last year, including nearly 9000 passing yards and 84 passing TDS in 2011 and 2012 combined. Although he’s lost James Jones, Rodgers still has an impressive stable of pass-catchers to choose from. The emergence of Eddie Lacy at running back also takes some of the pressure off of Rodgers to do everything ever week. Green Bay may not be a 4500 passing yard team this season, but it’s a safe bet that Rodgers will be on the field for every play if he’s healthy.

Backup QB: Matt Flynn began last season in Oakland, but the Packer welcomed him back with open arms when Aaron Rodgers went down. He led the Packers to a comeback win against Minnesota in week 12, but flopped against the Lions the following week. He has almost 800 passing yards six passing TDS in the next three games before giving up the job to Rodgers in the final game of the season. Scott Tolzien struggled in his first three games, losing his job to Flynn in week 12. Both Flynn and Tolzien are familiar with Tom Clements offensive scheme, and should be adequate backups if Rodgers goes down again.

Running Backs

Starter: Eddie Lacy, James Starks
Backup(s): DuJuan Harris, Johnathan Franklin, Michael Hill, Orwin Smith, Rajon Neal, James Sims
Fullback(s): John Kuhn, Ina Liaina

Starting RB: Eddie Lacy came into training camp with a lot of question marks last season. Many felt that Johnathan Franklin would beat him out for the starting job. But after a slow start against San Francisco and Washington, Lacy silenced the critics and rumbled for over 1100 rushing yards and 10 rushing TDS in his final 13 games. He chipped in another 250 yards receiving as well and kept the Packers in the playoff hunt until Aaron Rodgers returned to the starting lineup. He’ll begin 2014 as the Green Bay’s top back, and should finish the season there as well.

Backup RBs: James Starks slid back into the picture and finished as Green Bay’s #2 rusher last season. He had a solid game against Washington in week two, but was only used as Lacy’s backup once he emerged as the starting back. Starks will likely return to that role this season, but his role will be very limited unless Lacy goes down to injury. DuJuan Harris was set to improve on his strong finish to the 2012 season, but was lost for the season to a knee injury in training camp. He has had a full year to recover, but he finds himself in a crowded backfield behind Eddie Lacy and James Starks. Johnathan Franklin had 125 yards and a touchdown against Cincinnati in week 3 but had just seven touches after that. He’ll have another chance to prove himself this season, and should be able to make the team as the #3 or #4 running back. Micheal Hill had limited action with Tampa last season, but he’ll have to prove himself in training camp if he expects to make the opening day roster.

Fullback: John Kuhn is a staple of the Green Bay offense, and it was good to see him sign a one year extension back in April. His offensive stats have been on the decline since his career best season in 2010, but he’s the short yardage back that Packer fans have come to expect. He even chipped in a rushing TD against San Francisco in the playoffs.

Wide Receivers

Starters: Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Jarrett Boykin
Backups: Davante Adams, Myles White, Jared Abbrederis, Jeff Janis, Chris Harper, Kevin Dorsey, Alex Gillett

Starting WRs: Jordy Nelson proved he can handle the role as Green Bay’s #1 receiver last season, finishing last year with some of the best stats of his career. Despite losing Aaron Rodgers for half the season, Nelson still finished #11 as a fantasy WR. Randall Cobb could have posted career best stats as well, but he missed the majority of the season with a fractured tibia. He returned in week 17 with Rodgers as well and had two big play receptions to push the Packers into the playoffs. Cobb will be the #2 guy for the Packers this season, but they’ll use him in the slot as well as on the outside. Jarrett Boykin emerged as a solid #3 wide receiver for the Packers last season, and had nearly 50 receptions for almost 700 yards and 3 receiving TDs. With James Jones moving on to Oakland, Boykin will see plenty of time in the starting lineup for Green Bay this season.

Backup WRs: Davante Adams was a second round pick for the Packers this season, and he’ll be expected to contribute immediately. He was a top 10 rookie WR prospect this season, and he brings good size and strength to the team. He has some work to do, but he’ll have plenty of talent to learn from as well. The Packers added Jared Abbrideris from Wisconson in the 5th round and Jeff Janis out of Saginaw Valley State in the 7th round as well, although Janis has been sidelined with shingles and it is feared that Abbrederis suffered a torn ACL at training camp. Both have solid pre-draft grades, and should benefit from the wide receiver factory that Green Bay seems to have. Myles White had just nine receptions last season for Green Bay, and he too represents a crop of young potential receivers that Green Bay will evaluate this summer.

Tight Ends

Starters: Andrew Quarless
Backups: Brandon Bostick, Richard Rodgers, Ryan Taylor, Jake Stoneburner, Raymond Webber, Colt Lyerla

Andrew Quarless came on strong at the end of last season, and was brought back to Green Bay to compete for a job this year. Quarless has shown flashes of performance over his first three seasons, but he’s far from a lock to secure the #1 TE spot. Richard Rodgers was a late 3rd round pick for the Packers, and he comes to the team with a lot of question marks. He only started 11 games in college, and he lacks those strong breaks and bursts that make receiving TEs so effective. Brandon Bostick had a couple catches late last season and Ryan Taylor is entering his 4th season with the team. Yet neither of them have done anything to secure a spot with the team, and will have to prove themselves this summer if they want to contribute in 2014. The most fascinating name here by far is Colt Lyerla, a 1st/2nd round talent who was relegated to tryout status because of a multitude of character problems. The rookie was signed to free agent contract, which surprised many around the league. If he makes the team, he'll be the best raw talent they have at tight end.

Place Kicker

Mason Crosby: Once again, Brett Goode is back at long snapper as is punter/holder Tim Masthay. After a career worst year in 2012 and spending last summer battling to keep his job, kicker Mason Crosby had his best year in 2013. He set career marks in field goals made (33), 50+yard field goals made (5), and field goal percentage (89.2%). The Packers have ranked in the top ten in attempted kicking points in seven of the past eight years, including 3rd last year, making them one of the most consistently successful teams in the league.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: DuJuan Harris, Ty Montgomery [R], Micah Hyde, Randall Cobb

The Green Bay coaching staff have sometimes waffled over how much they are willing to risk exposing starters like Randall Cobb and Micah Hyde to the extra hits of the return game. Last season Mike McCarthy stuck with some of his starters on punt returns, but turned to DuJuan Harris for kickoff returns. Harris handled most of the kickoffs, though his 20.7 yard average on his 22 returns leaves room the team could seek an upgrade in 2015. Along with Cobb and Hyde, the team might consider college All-American return specialist Ty Montgomery. General Manager Ted Thompson said that his use a returner was not the overriding reason for drafting Montgomery, but that it did play a role.

Punt Returners: Micah Hyde, Randall Cobb, Jared Abbrederis

After Micah Hyde's solid season in 2013 as a punt returner, the safety outperformed Randall Cobb in 2014 while the pair split the returns evenly. Hyde improved his average to 15.8 yards per return, nearly double that of Cobb, and returned two for touchdowns. Another potential returner or backup is receiver Jared Abbrederis, who was getting looks in preseason last year before being lost to a torn ACL.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT David Bakhtiari, LG Josh Sitton, C J.C. Tretter, RG T.J. Lang, RT Bryan Bulaga
Key Backups: T Don Barclay, C Corey Linsley [R], T Derek Sherrod

The cornerstone of the Packers’ offensive line is All-Pro left guard Josh Sitton. Sitton led the charge for a revamped Packers running attack that saw serious improvement as the 2013 season progressed. Sitton is the Packers’ best lineman and one of the best in the entire league. Next to Sitton, second year man David Bakhtiari was a pleasant surprise last season, holding on to the left tackle job after Bryan Bulaga went down with injury. Bakhtiari lacks ideal measurables but plays with surprising agility; he is likely to keep this job for the immediate future. Bulaga will likely move to the right side, to battle with Don Barclay for the starting right tackle position. Bulaga should win that battle, and there are some who say his rugged skillset is better suited for the right tackle position. At right guard, T.J. Lang settled down after switching from the left side prior to last season. Lang also contributed at center, when injuries became an issue there. Lang’s versatility is a huge plus and there’s a small chance he could see that center spot again. If there is any uncertainty with this line, it is at the center position where last year’s starter Evan Dietrich-Smith has departed for free agency. J.C. Tretter, a former fifth round pick out of Cornell seems likely to win this position, but he will be pushed by this year’s fifth round pick, Corey Linsley out of Ohio State. May the best fifth round pick win. Barklay appears to be entrenched as the swing tackle and is a serviceable starter at multiple spots, should the need arise. The oft-injured Derek Sherrod looks to make this team in the same role, and he should be on his last chance after missing most of the last two seasons with injury. Overall this line is a mid tier unit, not bad, not great, that can rise in the rankings should the center and right tackle situations resolve and the line settles into a more predictable pattern.

Team Defense

The key to the Packers defense improvement starts at the back of the defense. The unit will automatically see improvement if they can stay healthy as key injuries cost them a lot in 2013. Morgan Burnett and Ha-ha Clinton Dix should provide a lot of support to what should be a solid trio of cornerbacks. At linebacker the health of Clay Matthews could either make this unit above average or borderline poor. A.J Hawk should be consistent force in the middle but he could use a little more help. Julius Peppers was added to play a hybrid position, but it's questionable how much he has in the tank. Some development from Datone Jones could lessen the importance of Peppers. If the secondary is as good as expected and Matthews/Peppers can provide a consistent pass rush this should be a much improved defense in 2014.

Defensive Line

Starters: DE Datone Jones, DE Josh Boyd, DE Mike Daniels, NT B.J. Raji
Backups: DE Bruce Gaston, DE Khyri Thorton, NT Letroy Guion DT Mike Daniels, DE Jerel Worthy, DE Mike Neal, DT Letroy Guion DT Khyri Thorton (R)

Starting DL: While 2013 first-round pick Datone Jones certainly may have disappointed as a rookie, he was much improved in 2014. He was very efficient in pass rush situations, though he did struggle to stop the run. Josh Boyd rotated in on run situations and did an admirable job. The Packers will probably be content to continue this arrangement going into 2015. Mike Daniels’ role expanded in 2014 and the interior pressure he provided was among some of the best in the league. Expect his numbers to improve again this year and for Thompson to make every effort to lock him up to a long-term deal before the next free agency. Though many feared B.J. Raji would exit in this year’s free agency, the team managed to re-sign Raji on a one-year deal. He’ll hope to bounce back strongly after a bicep tear kept him out of the lineup in 2014.

Backup DL: Gaston was signed from the Arizona practice squad when Luthor Robinson went on IR in late December of 2014.The older Thorton (he’ll turn 26 this year) was a surprise selection in the third round of the 2014 draft, but spent the season on IR after a hamstring injury in the preseason. He will have to make a splash in camp this year to have a shot at staying on the roster. After filling in for the injured Raji last season, Guinon was re-signed by the team this offseason. Guinon is a versatile player who can play both DE and NT roles for the team.

Linebackers

Starters: ILB Carl Bradford, MLB Sam Barrington, MLB Clay Matthews, OLB Julius Peppers OLB Nick Perry
Backups: ILB, Joe Thomas, MLB Josh Francis, OLB Mike Neal

Starting LBs: A.J. Hawk, Brad Jones, and Jamari Lattimore were all shown the door in the offseason, creating a big need at ILB for the Packers. Carl Bradford was the team’s 2014 fourth-round rookie selection and certainly did not show much promise. One can almost certainly expect this position to be a priority for Green Bay in the draft. Sam Barrington is entering his third year with the team and was impressive when asked to fill in for an injured Lattimore. Clay Matthews may continue to do some work at ILB in 2015, bolstering his tackle numbers. The most loyal of Packers fans were skeptical when the team inked Julius Peppers to a three-year deal averaging 8.7 million dollars annually. Peppers answered with an amazing season. Even as he ages, Peppers continues to generate game-changing plays and justify the big money he was paid. Nick Perry put up career best numbers in 2014, but even so, many feel he has been a disappointment due to draft position in the first round several years ago.

Backup LBs: 2014 UDFA Joe Thomas hails from South Carolina State. The hard-hitting ILB had great production there and the Packers are hoping he can bring similar production to their unit given time. Josh Francis was signed to the team in March of 2015 after spending some time in both the CFL and IFL. Like Thomas, the former Mountaineer was very productive in his final year in college, leading his team in tackles for loss. Mike Neal was finally able to stay healthy for 16 games in 2014, posting a career best year and providing a valuable rotational pass-rushing asset for the team.

Defensive Backs

Starters: CB Casey Hayward, CB Sam Shields, SS Morgan Burnett, FS Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix
Backups: CB/FS Micah Hyde, CB Demetri Goodson, CB Devonta Glover-Wright, SS Sean Richardson CB Casey Hayward, CB Davon House, FS Jarrett Bush, FS Sean Richardson

Starting DBs: Casey Hayward moved into the starting role after Tramon Williams left in free agency. While Hayward is always around the ball, he really struggles with missing tackles, an area he will have to improve in if he wishes to keep his job. Sam Shields played well during 2014 and nearly followed Hayward out the door before the Packers signed him to a lucrative long-term deal. Expect his tackle numbers to remain fairly consistent with what they were in 2014. After an injury-riddled 2013, Burnett really came on in 2014. He posted a career high 130 solo tackles. Part of the reason for Burnett’s elevated numbers was the presence of Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix. Clinton-Dix played remarkably well for a rookie and looks to be the answer at the free safety position for the Packers for many years to come.

Backup DBs: Micah Hyde played the slot corner role well last season, but the coaching staff believes that he’s capable of being the starter opposite Sheilds based on his play. He’ll compete with Hayward in camp to see who can win the starting job. Demetri Goodson was the Packers’ sixth-round pick in 2014. Devonta Glover-Wright originally signed as a UDFA with the Falcons, but was cut from the roster before the 2014 season. The Packers hurriedly stashed him on their practice squad. Both Goodson and Glover-Wright have the speed and athleticism to play the position, and working with the very talented secondary coach Joe Whitt might just be the recipe they need to bring it all together. Sean Richardson remains purely a depth only option for the Packers.

Last modified: 2015-05-04 21:32:41