Since everyone else is getting their grades in for the end of the season, I better do the same. Around here, we are doing two-a-days, one player from the offense and one from the defense. Let’s start with our offensive and defensive leaders.
We all sat around at some point right before the start of training camp with expectations for each and every player. Did they live up to the hype, or did they crash and burn? You always have some sense of what a player might have going in, the only question is did they show it going out?
I’m not going to break down every single player on the squad, if you didn’t see any significant playing time I really don’t care how you did. Try again next year.
If you did play, let me tell you I am not into the whole stat thing. If you just watch the games closely you can grade a player out without ever picking up a pencil. It’s pretty easy to gauge a player’s potential, now did these guys live up to it? I grade from a fan’s perspective, period.
My expectations for Rodgers this year were pretty high. After a stat filled 2008, I expected 2009 to be equally as productive with an emphasis on winning the close game. I still don’t think Rodgers should be held accountable for the 2008 defense, so I put very little weight on last season’s record.
I also expected Aaron to become a team leader, take care of the football, and make clutch plays in critical situations. For the most part, Aaron Rodgers delivered.
Exit interviews with players showed that the locker room felt that Aaron had truly become the leader of this team. His cool headedness both on and of the field, trickled down to the rest of the squad.
Rodgers also won some games when it mattered. For the most part, when we needed a score, Aaron Rodgers and the offense delivered. He made throws when he needed to, and used his legs when he couldn’t use his arm.
Now, we get to the football. Some may argue that his interception rate should automatically qualify Aaron for a perfect mark. However, taking care of the football involves much more than just not throwing interceptions.
Aaron Rodgers was still unable to get rid of the football when he needed to this year. He did a slightly better job, and granted he faced alot of pressure, but regardless, he held onto the rock far to long in many situations. Rodgers may be a victim of playcalling and drawn out route developement, but you can’t take sacks on early downs, period. You have to know when to throw it away.
There are a ton of similiarities between Aaron’s last game and the 2007 NFC Championship game. The missed gimme kick, the final result in overtime, and even the gut wretching feeling of throwing it all away was eerily familiar. We gave a certain quarterback a lot of grief for not using his head on that final drive again the Giants a couple of years ago. I really don’t see how this situation is any different.
It is really hard for me to grade Barnett this year with any kind of objectivity. This year Nick brought Packers fans closer to the game than they ever have been. From live video rides to the stadium, to the tour of his training camp dorms, and of course through his endless stream of emotion of Twitter. Nick Barnett took technology and delivered the reality of being a football player to the fans. I can’t thank him enough for that.
I’ve had a soft spot for Nick every since he followed me on Twitter back in 2008. We have had some back and forths, I got an interview out of him, and who can forget the story of Barnett’s adventure during his July 4th celebration. If I had to grade the guy on being fan friendly, his score would be off the charts.
On the field I am really torn. The guy certainly had the deck stacked against him. Barnett was coming off a major injury and coming into a major scheme change. Two things that can’t be easy. There is no doubt in my mind that Nick gave 110 percent in his rehab efforts. You could almost see the pain in his words each and every day. Even though he didn’t see the field for most of camp, he was able to take the reigns and communicate the defense each week.
I also think took it upon himself to be a defensive motivator on the sidelines this year. I really can’t remember when this team had a fiery Ray Lewis type guy on the sidelines. Maybe we never have. Nick was far from Ray, but this year, let their be no doubt that Nick Barnett took it upon himself to get people fired up for games, something I think our coached failed to do.
During the first part of the season you could see Nick struggling a bit to get back to full speed. He looked a little top-heavy at first but he played through the pain. But, as the season progressed he started to gain some of that physical prowness back. He had a ton of TFL’s as the season wore on, and despite being a part timer for the first half of the season, I believe he had more tackles than anyone on the squad.
That being said, I think Nick’s downfall this season was in the redzone and in blitzing packages.
Nick simply never made it to the QB this year, bottom line. I can’t analyze this as being a schematic issue or a player issue, but we blitzed more than we ever have this season, and Barnett couldn’t get home. In the redzone passing defense he was terrible. It seemed, just from watching the games, that nine times out of ten when their was a touchdown in the endzone, number 56 was trailing right behind them. I don’t know the numbers (we all know I hate stats) but I know Barnett gave up points in the redzone at least four or five times.
As far as expectations are concerned, I really had none for Nick this season. I never put much stock in guys coming off injuries, and I fully expected Desmond Bishop to play that position for most of the season. However, Barnett never quit, never gave up, and worked his ass off. He far exceeded any of my hopes for him this season. I think next year will be a great one for number 56.
Factor in being the friendliest player to fans, and subtract for unwarranted samurai’s and sharting.
Who do you want next?
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