Ryan Pickett: B
Took the switch to defensive end in stride. The position switch meant his snaps were drastically reduced and its to Pickett's credit that he never made an issue of it, at least not publicly. Great all around football player. Not one to push the pocket, but a technician against the run.
B.J. Raji: A -
Turned into one of the best at the position over the course of the final month of the season. His ability to get to the quarterback is a major luxury for defensive coordinator Dom Capers. Can tend to disappear at times. Actually better against the pass than the run. Has uncanny awareness to be able to find the ball after his initial burst.
Cullen Jenkins: B -
Actually grades out as a "B" for snaps played but his continued unavailability drops him a bit. When healthy, he is nearly unstoppable one-on-one trying to get to the quarterback. Set to be a free agent. Will most likely hit the market and make a good deal of money with another team.
Jarius Wynn: D
Played sparingly after getting picked up off the street a week after he had been let go by the Packers. Mostly a body to spell the rotation when numbers thinned out due to injury in the middle of the year. Can sometimes push the pocket but gets completely over-matched in the run game.
Justin Harrell: I
Hurt the first week of the season - on field goal protection. Should not be back.
Mike Neal: I
Dealt with injuries through training camp and then, when finally healthy, suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in the Redskins game. Played well against both the Lions and Redskins. Will most likely be counted on to fill the void left by a good-as-gone Jenkins. Has the talent and tools to be a special player.
C. J. Wilson: C
A try-hard late round pick that was a bit of a surprise. Made one of the most memorable plays of the year possible when he picked himself up off the Lambeau Field turf and hit Brett Favre, causing the quarterback's pass to sail into Desmond Bishop's waiting arms. Better rushing the passer than standing ground against the run.
Howard Green: C
A mountain of a man. Made a very good first impression when he played extensively against his former team, the New York Jets. Disappeared for stretches after that. Despite his massive size, can be moved off his spot without a double team. Able to get a surprisingly decent push up the middle on passing downs, as evidenced on his hit of Ben Rothelisberger in the Super Bowl which led to an interception. Was better against inferior talent.
Clay Matthews: A -
Became a better all-around player than he was in 2009. A leader on defense, even when not putting marks in the box score. Shin and hamstring injuries slowed him down throughout the season. Had trouble against power but used superior technique and his non-stop motor to counter most bull rushing tackles. Does not know the meaning of the word "quit" - one of the most relentless pass rushers I have ever seen.
Frank Zombo: C
An undrafted free agent - who started in the Super Bowl. Was improving before getting hurt later in the season. Stout against the run and improving his pass rush. Not a fluid athlete, but improved at tackling guys in space.
Brad Jones: I
Injured the very first day of training camp. Battled injuries all year before being put on injured reserve Week 8. NO part of his game stood out before he was lost for the season, though he did seem to improve at cutting the edge to the quarterback in his pass rush. Underrated against the run, where he sets a good edge.
Erik Walden: B -
Showed good athletic ability and a surprising burst around the edge in his pass rush. Used to "spy" quarterbacks on occasion. Never seemed overwhelmed and made the plays that were there to make. Not great against the run, but serviceable. Should be in the mix to start opposite Matthews next year.
Robert Francois: D
The epitome of "just a guy" - too easily pushed around against the run. Did show something rushing the passer, though he was too easily shut down once offensive tackles got their hands on him. Needs an offseason in the weight room to build his lower body.
Brady Poppinga: C -
All the old limitations Packer fans have seen for years were on display before Poppinga was placed on injured reserve. That said, Kevin Greene's coaching is making a difference. Much more of a technician in his pass rush than he ever was before. Unlikely to be back with a glut of young guys pushing for spots next year.
Nick Barnett: C +
Started strong - then disappeared before injuring his wrist against the Lions and being placed on injured reserve. His greatest asset is his ability to sort through traffic on A Gap blitzes, but he rarely gets home. Can get pushed around in the run game when guards get to the second level. Team has a tough choice to make here considering his injury history and the emergence of Desmond Bishop.
A.J. Hawk: B
Took over the responsibility of calling the defensive signals when Barnett went down. Had stretches where he played with the passion and aggression fans have long wished for. But he still isn't a dynamic player and is set to make $10 million in base salary next year. Another tough choice the Packers have to make here - no way they pay that salary, but Hawk has said he is open to redoing his deal.
Brandon Chillar: D
Really took a step back this year before being placed on injured reserve. Most troubling was his regression in pass coverage, where he was repeatedly beat by opposing tight ends. Never delivered anything when the staff tested him as an outside backer on passing downs. 50/50 he's back next year.
Desmond Bishop: B +
A bit of a guesser - but the guy guesses right... a lot. One of the hardest hitters on the team. Unafraid. Sticks his nose in there against the run and really improved his coverage game. Showed good burst on the cross-dogs that Capers likes so much. Really solidified the defense and is a bargain at the rate the Packers got him for when they signed him to a contract extension earlier this season.
Matt Wilhelm: D
Played a handful of snaps when injuries depleted the linebacking corps. Just a guy.
Charles Woodson: B +
Was not the same player that won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2009 - but he took over as the heart and soul of the team. Was excellent in the slot and at the "rover" position that Capers likes to use him in. Struggled outside locked up one-on-one with faster relievers. One of the best ever at the cornerback position at coming up in run support. Fearless tackler. Big plays were down from 2009 but more than made up for that with his leadership. Can really see his study habits rubbing off on guys like Tramon Williams and Sam Shields.
Tramon Williams: A
Simply one of the best cover cornerbacks in the NFL. Has fantastic closing ability when receivers do catch the ball in front of him. Finally started to grab interceptions rather than batting them down. Adequate in run support, though occasionally gets lazy and throws himself at a ballcarrier's feet. Superb at playing the ball in the air and timing his leap. Teams kept testing him and he kept making them pay. One of the best players on the team.
Jarrett Bush: C -
Grade is for work from scrimmage. Easily exposed in coverage by better quarterbacks. Two nice plays in the Super Bowl don't erase a season of struggles in coverage. Used sparingly as the dime back for a reason. His value is clearly on special teams, where he excelled as the season progressed.
Sam Shields: B
The surprise of camp on the defensive side of the ball. Kept making a play a day in practice - and earned the nickel back spot. Makes rookie mistakes but seems to have the short memory of a 10 year vet, invaluable at the position. Not the worlds greatest tackler and does miss in run support. Has worked hard to become an excellent cover corner. Should continue to improve.
Pat Lee: D
Another injury riddled season for the third year corner. Held his own when thrust into action in the Super Bowl. Was up and down during training camp and could never make a case that he should be given a real shot at playing time. Flashed on returns, but nothing special there either.
Nick Collins: B
Definition of a ball-hawking safety. Played single-high look much of the year. Was noticeably more physical in run support. Dropped too many would-be interceptions. Has an annoying tendency to have to miss time because of nagging injuries. Can take bad angles and has an alarming habit of over-running sideline throws, taking himself out of plays completely. Great at getting through traffic from his single-high safety look and locking onto his man when called upon. Used a bit more this year blitzing off the edge where he performed well.
Atari Bigby: I
A tremendously disappointing season. Put on the physically unable to perform list at the start of the season. When he did finally see action, was promptly injured again. Set to become a free agent. Most likely will not return.
Morgan Burnett: I
Entered the season as the starter. Not as physical as you would like to see opposite Collins. Good ball skills but a bit of a guesser. Needs to work on his lower body strength in the offseason.
Charlie Peprah: C +
Played surprisingly well taking over for Burnett. Added a much-needed physical presence at the safety position. Was targeted by offensive coordinators who tried to isolate him deep (was really only victimized once, in Washington) Could disappear for stretches and was a bit of a liability in coverage. Set the tone with big, hard hits earlier in the season. Receivers knew the would get popped if the ran across him.
Mason Crosby: C -
Can't seem to hit the ball into the endzone on kickoffs anymore, which he used to do with regularity. Ranked 26th in field goal percentage which is just not good enough. Hit potential game-winning kick hit off the upright in Washington.
Tim Masthay: B
The Packers have found their punter. After a rough first month, Masthay was exemplary down the stretch and played a big part in beating the Chicago Bears in Week 17 to get the team into the playoffs. Also played a major role in the victory over the New York Jets. Not since Craig Hentrich have the Packers had such a weapon at the punter position.
Brett Goode: Pass
Long snappers are graded pass/fail because, well, they either do the one job they are supposed to do or they don’t. Goode did it and did it well.
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