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2011 Season Offensive Player Grades

By Category

2011 Season Offensive Player Grades

The defense, specialist and coaching grades to follow. I did not grade players who did not play from scrimmage.

Look forward to your reactions.

Quarterback:

Aaron Rodgers: A

Quite simply the best player not only on the team, but in the NFL in 2011, at least until the playoff game against the Giants. Improved in almost every area where he'd had even the slightest deficiency the year prior. The playoff game saw an unsure, tentative version of the quarterback that Packers fans hope never to see again. The future is very bright in Green Bay as long as he is under center.

Matt Flynn: B -

Made sure he was ready when called upon and then went out and made himself a bunch of money with his 6 TD performance against the Lions. Might not have the strongest arm in the NFL, but can make all the throws and, as the Lions game showed, isn't limited in cold weather. Will draw a lot of interest in free agency.

 

Running Back:

James Starks: C 

Started extremely strong, save for one clunker game in Chicago. Was never the same after the ankle injury suffered against Tampa Bay in Week 11. Unable to stay on the field and not overly effective when he was on it latter in the year. Improved in areas of weakness in 2010, like pass protection, but was too inconsistent in his reads and didn't take a big step forward from his strong showing at the end of 2010.

Ryan Grant: C +

Looked completely washed up through the first two games of the season - then had a "turn-back-the-clock" performance against the Bears in Week 3. Was still up and down until the final month of the season, when he became something of a workhorse again as the rest of the backfield battled injury and inexperience. There's a chance he'll be back, but has most likely played his last down as a Packer.

Brandon Saine: C -

Did what was asked of him, which was just enough to get his feet wet. The rookie out of Ohio State looked like a natural catching the ball out of the backfield and showed good vision in space. If Grant is allowed to walk, will be in the mix to back-up Starks, if not split carries.

Alex Green: I

Started to get involved with a nice reception out of the backfield on a third down in Atlanta, and saw a few more snaps the following week against the Rams before being lost for the season in Minnesota. Green has an intriguing mix of speed and size and if he's back for training camp, he will no doubt be in the mix for carries.

Fullback:

John Kuhn: C

Kuhn became a valuable contributor on third downs via his pass blocking and was his usual self in short yardage situations - meaning, he was much more successful when not everyone in the stadium knew he was getting the ball. Injured his MCL in the playoff game against the Giants, but should be fine for a return in 2012.

 

Wide Receiver:

Greg Jennings: B+

The Packers' best wide receiver, Jennings is a master at running routes and not giving anything away to the defensive back charged with covering him. The only disappointment with Jennings comes with his occasional lapses in concentration, which result in dropped balls or fumbles. But overall, he is a premiere talent at an important position in McCarthy's offense.

Donald Driver: B -

The old man had, if not one of his most productive seasons, one of his most under-appreciated. Was a security blanket of sorts for Rodgers and made plays when the rest of the receiving corps seemed to fade. Stepped up big-time in the playoff loss to the Giants, the only offensive skill-player to do so. That said, has lost a step or maybe even two, and the Packers will most likely move on this offseason in favor of getting Randall Cobb and others on the field.

James Jones: C +

Brought back after striking out in free agency, Jones brought a familiarity with the offense and was an up and down performer, though he improved in a few areas over last year. His biggest improvement came on his play away from the ball, where he showed a willingness to block. Was also a much more physical runner after the catch. That said, was still prone to bad lapses and disappeared against the better secondaries.

Jordy Nelson: B+

A true breakout year for the Kansas State product, Nelson took advantage of single coverage due to defenses rolling safety help to Jennings and Finley. Was able to out-muscle corners and showed great body control on several deeper sideline throws. Has become an excellent route runner. Still prone to disappearing acts when faced with the better cornerbacks in the league, but overall had an outstanding season, making the Packers' decision to extend his contract look very, very smart.

Randall Cobb: C

Has all the tools. Needs an offseason to start becoming a better route runner and generally learning the offense. Great run after the catch ability. Needs to add a bit of muscle up top. Also, simply must become better when it comes to ball security, be it while running after the catch or just catching the football. Has a tendency to want to play too fast, trying to do the next thing before completing the previous one. Overall, however, an exciting prospect for the future.

 

Tight End:

Jermichael Finley: B -

A matchup nightmare for defenses and a superior athlete at the position, should have had a much more productive season than he did. An important piece of the offensive puzzle, has an impact on the offense in ways not quantified by statistics. That said, he dropped way too many balls this year and did not seem to be on the same page with the quarterback on far too many occasions. Still young and improving, the team is right to want to sign him long-term.

Andrew Quarless: I

Was one of the most improved players on the team prior to being lost for the season while covering a kick against the Giants. Will be challenged to be ready for the start of the 2012 season.

Tom Crabtree: C -

Did good work as a makeshift fullback both in the running game and in pass protection. Valued for his versatility. With a lot of talent at the position, will need to battle once again next summer to make the roster.

D.J. Williams: D

An athletic talent who was simply overwhelmed much of the time.  Needs an offseason both in the weightroom and in the classroom.

Ryan Taylor: C -

Valuable special teams contributor who saw more chances from scrimmage as the year went on. Game needs refinement on every level, but has the perfect football player temperament. Not afraid to mix it up with bigger defensive lineman and fearless on kick coverage.

 

Tackle:

Chad Clifton: D+

Played well the first four weeks of the season, then was lost for the next three months recovering from a hamstring and then lower back injuries. When pressed back into service in Week 17, looked inconsistent at best and slow and old at worst. Despite the team saying he was on a "pitch count" in the playoff game, the truth is that Clifton was benched. Very good chance he retires this offseason.

Bryan Bulaga: B +

Greatly improved over his rookie year, took the expected jump from year one to year two. Struggled against speed rushers on the road, but other than that was as near to a lock to block his man as any lineman the Packers have employed in recent years. If Clifton does indeed retire, could get a look at left tackle, but probably should stay on the right side where he has excelled.

Marshall Newhouse: B -

It could be said that Newhouse saved the Packers' season. While he did struggle against some premier pass rushers, overall did an excellent job keeping Rodgers clean in the pocket. Not the smoothest athlete and prone to lunging, needs to work on balance and hand placement. With a real offseason, could be the starting left tackle in 2012.

Derek Sherrod: I

Wildly inconsistent when he got on the field. Lost to a serious leg injury in Kansas City that could jeopardize his availability for the start of 2012. Never looked comfortable at either guard or tackle in training camp. The lack of an offseason which will be spent in rehab rather than training and practicing could really slow his growth.

 

Guard:

T.J. Lang: B

An upgrade over former left guard Daryn Colledge, Lang was a physical presence in the run game. Did a great job getting to the second level and taking on linebackers. Was inconsistent in pass protection, but improved as the year went on. Was asked to move around the line due to multiple injures elsewhere and played as well as could be expected. Should help solidify the offensive line for years to come.

Josh Sitton: C +

Noticeable dip in performance early on in the season. Was beat far too often in one-on-ones. Was said to be fighting several injuries, which no doubt accounts for some of the sub-par performance. Play greatly improved after he sat out a few weeks after being injured on Thanksgiving Day. Packers need to see much more of what they saw late in the year after rewarding him with a contract extension last year.

Evan Dietrich-Smith: D

Played his best game in Week 17 left guard when Lang was moved to right tackle. That said, his best was not very good. Allowed way too much penetration against the Giants and the Chiefs. A mauler who isn't afraid to mix it up, but does not show any refinement in his game. Will be on the bubble heading into camp next summer.

Center:

Scott Wells: A -

The Packers' best offensive lineman, did a masterful job sorting out the protection calls at the line of scrimmage. Rarely beat, even by bigger defensive lineman. Prone to an occasional mental lapse in the pre-snap phase. Set to be a free agent with both sides said to be far apart on the lineman's worth. Despite his advancing age, should be resigned.

Comments (51)

lebowski's picture

Pretty accurate assessment, I'd say. Record-setting offense only has one 'A' and one 'A-', I don't know what else Jordy Nelson can do, he deserves a slight bump up to an 'A'.

packeraaron's picture

Jody gets bumped down due to coverage being drawn to Jennings and Finley. Did his best work against suspect corners. Had a phenomenal year. Just not an "A"

Tim's picture

Crazy hypothetical: If one could get a 3rd-rounder for James Jones, should one take the pick and hang onto Driver?

It just seems like JJ and Jordy were neck-and-neck coming into this year, but the separation is clear now.

Rich Beckman's picture

No grade inflation here. To echo lebowski, what else could Matt Flynn have done? Well, I guess his passer rating was just a 124.8. That's a bit off from perfection.

Otherwise, I have no real disagreements. Imaginary disagreements, maybe, but no real disagreements.

packeraaron's picture

I was probably a bit harsh, but he turned the ball over twice in that game. Really pulled his grade down.

Rich Beckman's picture

Now that I think about it, it is clear that you hate the whole team except for Rogers and Wells.

:)

fish/crane's picture

Way too many C's and D's for a team that was 15-2. Must have been our D that won games for us.....

packeraaron's picture

I love this argument. Take Rodgers off this team and its nowhere near a 15-2 squad. There's a reason they say quarterback is the most important position in sports.

Evan's picture

I'm curious why do you think Bulaga should stay at RT if Clifton retires?

Is it just a matter of not messing with what's not broken? I feel like he was drafted as an LT and I'd feel better about him protecting Rodger's blindside than Newhouse or Sherrod or Rookie OT X (not taking anything against either of them).

TM's picture

Pack really missed Brandon Jackson this year. His pass-pro as a RB is second to none. Hopefully Starks, Saine, or Green can become that guy next year. I don't have any #'s to prove it, but I noticed Quarless/Crabtree being moved in the backfield more often this year to help out.

I'm hoping one of the young TEs can make a big jump next year.

Why no Sherrod grade?

packeraaron's picture

Lost due to a cut & paste error. Back in now.

Tim's picture

I really think Alex Green will become that pass pro guy, and perhaps overtaking Starks as the overall by 2013. Starks looks like a player, but can't stay healthy. He hasn't played a full season in four years now. Assuming Green can come back from his knee issue, I got a good feeling about that guy....

Jeremy's picture

I couldn't agree more with the assessment of the O-line. Lang definitely panned out. I'm a fan of Marshall Newhouse, he did everything we possibly could have expected of him. He reminds me of Earl Dotson a little. Kind of a waggler in pass pro but he gets there and stays in the way. Clifton is an all-time Packer, who will be lovingly remembered in the Packer Hall of Fame but paying him 5+mil next season would be nonsense.

Idiot Fan's picture

Yep. I think for the first time in a long time, I feel good about the future of our Oline.

lebowski's picture

The big unknown, whether or not Scott Wells comes back. That would be a blow.

Jeremy's picture

I would put Wells #1 as free agent priority, Finley #2. I would not pay him big money yet. If he won't sign at about 5mil per I would franchise him and see if he can stop dropping the football. I know he's only 24 but his career numbers so far are underwhelming.

Jon's picture

I would agree with your assessment of the offense, except I think Jordy earned at least an A-.

Another great season for CheeseheadTV thanks guys!

Idiot Fan's picture

Hard to argue with most of this. I do think Rodgers was a bit better in the playoff game than people are giving him credit for. He definitely missed some important throws, but he kept several drives alive with his scrambles, and if Jennings catches that perfect TD pass, we may not be having this conversation. Also, I think a lot of his hesitation was due to the fact that the receivers just weren't getting open.

NoWayJose's picture

Don't you wish we could see the All-22?

I really felt that Rodgers was playing with undue hesitation in the playoff game, but honestly, it's so hard to say without seeing what's happening down the field.

At least the NFL has a totally BS, nonsensical reason for not releasing it (would result in too much criticism of coaches per the NYTimes! Seriously).

Pointer-Jeff's picture

The offense looks good and will be better next year unless something happens to A-Rod. Clifton and DD will be long and fondly remembered, but gone next year. Tori Gurley is waiting to crack the receiver rotation and they have young tackles to steip up. Draft another O-linman for depth, add a stud RB even in the first/second round if one is there, which could really make them a dangerous team.

bomdad's picture

Finley is a C-. When it comes to number of catches and blocking, he's average. Yes, I am basing my grade on his potential. Also that he didnt show up last Sunday, and was like the 8th best TE that played last weekend.

CSS's picture

Good take, very accurate grading. The only one I would quibble with is Driver. When he was open it felt like it were a byproduct of drawing the most favorable match-up among all receiver options (linebacker, safety or dime corner) and even then he was only a half-step ahead of favorable coverage.

One of my all-time favorites, but even 2 years ago he would get a full 2-3 steps on that coverage. It's just not there.

CSS's picture

Aaron, how much did you grade Finley on a curve due to the coverage he drew away from Nelson/Jones/Driver that enhanced their productivity game-over-game? Factor at all in increasing his grade and perhaps inflating any of theirs?

Thanks.

packeraaron's picture

Well, I don't consider that grading on a curve. He often got extra attention and produced in spite of it. Now, if he had actually held onto the damn ball, he'd have had a phenomenal season. As for others being effected, its def reflected in Nelson and Jone's grades.

aaron's picture

Bulaga was a top 3 right tackle. People need to recognize how good he was

jack in jersey city's picture

i think he was the most improved player on the team this season

CSS's picture

It's his level of play considering his age I can't get over. You're talking about a 22 year-old with playoff experience and a Super Bowl ring that's performing at a pro-bowl level. Wow.

Mojo's picture

The grading looks pretty good. Even after setting the all time QB rating mark, ARod could not get an A+? I think Idiot Fan had it right on his take about ARod against the Giants. Yes, he missed two throws, but watch any game and you'll see QB all over the league miss throws throughout the game, often to wide open receivers. Announcers usually just go on with the next play and don't dwell on it, but you could play "what if" for every game and every QB.

I'm glad you credited Bulaga, who was tied for your third highest grade. He was one the unsung heroes this year. Too bad about Quarless, in that he could have ended up being the best combo TE on the roster. His blocking was getting much better and he had a good attitude about it.

I think posters could quibble about your grades, but the ranking, relative to fellow players, seems very good.

I got a feeling when you analyze the other groups you will end-up putting the "D" in defense.

lebowski's picture

There's also an 'F' in DeFense.

Samsheapdx's picture

Boy i am certainly glad you werent grading anything i have ever done. Clearly no curve here. I hope the boys see this and get some motivation. Only one who got off was Newhouse. He played well but a B-?

CSS's picture

Nagler is an easier grader than McCarthy and his staff. I believe they grade pass/fail, and you need to perform at a fundamentally sound level with snap-by-snap consistency to get a 'pass' with the Packers coaching staff. They did so every game.

Willing to bet Nagler's grades are a substantial upgrade and indeed on a 'curve' when comparing to the coaching staff.

Oppy's picture

Yes, the Packers actually break down every single snap for every player each week and grade each player's snap as either a positive or negative play.

He has commented, as have numerous players, that they are much tougher graders and critics than anything the public manages to muster up and print.

markinmontana's picture

I agree that a B- is a bit high for Newhouse, at least over the whole over the year. However, he did improve and I agree with Aaron that he's the probable starter next year with the game experience combined with a full offseason's work. At a minimum, I think he will fall into the "average/dependable" category for the year or two it takes Sherrod to hopefully heal and grow. He might even grow into the LT of the future himself.

MarkinMadison's picture

One article I read late in the season credited Newhouse with allowing the most sacks on the team at 11. It feels like your grade is 75% objective (what the player did) and about 25% subjective (v. what you think they should have produced). I guess I'm o.k. with a B- for Newhouse, but I'll be happier with him on the right side next year than on the blind side.

I'm warming up to the idea of the Packers keeping Finley long term - partly because I think his contract demands will be down a bit, and partly because cutting DD for Gurley or Borel will leave the Packers with some cap space. Right now I just look at Finley and see a taller James Jones - loads of potential, lots of drops. I know, I know, it is the size that makes him a matchup nightmare. But speaking of JJ, I wonder if he is a salary cap casualty this year. Borel and Gurley may demand two spots between them, and the money could be used on a mid-level defensive player.

BrianD's picture

Newhouse exceeded all of our expectations of him at the beginning of the season, yet was an awful starting LT when compared with the rest of the NFL.

also:

"Chad Clifton: D+

Played well the first four weeks of the season"

What? No. He played terribly all year from start to finish. We were all hoping the corpse of Clifton could provide us with one more quality year. Didn't happen. He's done.

Nelson had a career year that he may never achieve again. His trade value is at an all time high right now. If we sign Finley, I wouldn't mind if we send one of Jennings or Nelson packing for some defensive help. TT could go after a player that doesn't pile up a bunch of sacks ($$$stats) but consistently pushes the o-line back. We don't need somebody to finish plays - we have that already in Matthews - we need somebody who can make the QB uncomfortable.

Ken's picture

Trading Jordy is asinine

Schmal's picture

Trading Jordy -or- Greg would be asinine. But especially Jordy.

Idiot Fan's picture

You make a good point about Sherrod. He had no off season this past year, and he likely won't have another one this year due to injury. Fans are going to need to have a little patience and not call him a flop when (most likely) he doesn't produce much for us next year.

MarkinMadison's picture

Bingo.

petr's picture

Why does Flynn (who started one game) get an overall grade but Quarless who played in 10 games doesn't? Q played in more twice the number of snaps D.J. Williams did! Boo-urns (:

For me, Quarless gets a grade of A- His run blocking was great all year and his block on Jared Allen and subsequent catch was my favourite play of the whole Packers season
http://www.footballsfuture.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=466689

Get well soon Andrew Quarless!

Idiot Fan's picture

Are you saying booo or boo-urns?

Rocky70's picture

Quarless gets an A- for totaling 3 receptions for 36 yards in 10 games. Please don't say you teach HS or something because you'd be every students' fav.

cow42's picture

Jermichael Finley is the Harold Minor of the NFL.

CSS's picture

Cow42 is the Skip Bayless of cheeseheadtv.....

cow42's picture

nice.
i don't make stuff up for a reaction though.
i just say what i actually think.

Lumpy Gravy's picture

Uh... I think CSS did the same.

Tim's picture

Good stuff, guys. Thanks for all your work this year. I will say, however, I disagree with one item:
Bulaga should be moved to LT tomorrow. He's a stud, and I don't care that Newhouse's arms are 2 inches longer. Bulaga is the better player, and the better player goes on the left.

Your thoughts?

Jeremy's picture

MM has said several times he doesn't see LT as a higher priority than RT. For that reason I think here is a very good chance BB stays were he is.

MarkinMadison's picture

I get that NFL defenses are rushing off of both sides, and will put their best rusher wherever they feel the best match-up is (o.k. except that the Dom does not use CM3 that way). But the blind side is called the blind side for a reason. If Newhouse does not show some progression in the off-season I think you have to at least look at flipping them.

Barutan Seijin's picture

Call me a hard grader, but in my book Rodgers gets a B+. Very good performance during the term, but did poorly on the final exam.

Schmal's picture

On the final exam, he made 2-3 bad throws that were uncharacteristic for him, but could be expected from any other QB in the league (including the other "elites") - it just so happens they came on some potentially big plays. He was under some pretty heavy pressure from the Giants' rushers, though - I'd say the o-line is partly to blame for those. He didn't have all day to hang out in the pocket like Eli did.

He also ran for what, 5 first downs and 66 yards on 7 rushes? Threw 6 to 8 perfect-but-dropped passes that, if caught like they should have been, would likely have us discussing the outcome of the NFC game right now rather than grading the season?

Come on, 47 TDs to 7 INTs in 16 games, 14 of those wins - that's not B+ material. Only 3 of those games (OAK, KC, and Divisional) were anything less than stellar. I'd say A is fair, given that it could have been an A+.

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