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2010 Season Defensive & Specialst Player Grades

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2010 Season Defensive & Specialst Player Grades

Defensive Line:

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.

Outside Linebacker:

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.

Inside Linebacker:

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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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (50) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

packerhq's picture

Well done !
Using a I for players that couldn't possibly be graded gives CHTV more creditability then some others! ( cough jsonline..cough cough).
You have to wonder if maybe TT drafts a kicker this year as Crosby may not be resigned. ?

Morli's picture

Wes Byrum, Alex Henery everybody! But especially the latter will just be around 'til the 4th or 5th.

thepretzelhead in Japan's picture

i really had high hopes for Crosby as a rookie..he's just not accurate- plenty strong. I've asked this many times- is he practicing with narrow posts like Gould in Chicago?

Morli's picture

Isn't Robert Francois much better against the run than the pass? I remember him being subbed in against the Bears, when Walden struggled too much stopping run?

Pretty much dead on IMHO, though.

CSS's picture

Whatever Hawk received, Bishop should be slightly less.

PackersRS's picture

You are crazy CSS.

Bishop is leaps and bounds the best ILB on the team.

The guy had 3 tackles for loss at the SB. He is just a better player than Hawl and Barnett. You claim that he's a guesser, but, as Aaron said, he guesses right, and it pays off 95% of the time.

He's also better at covering. There's a reason the Packers were so much better playing the TE this year than last year, and his name is Desmond Bishop.

He's our best ILB in coverage, he's our best ILB in run support, he's the best playmaker we have at ILB. Hawk is a better communicator, and Barnett is better at rushing the passer. But at the rest, Bishop is better.

FITZCORE1252's picture


andrew's picture

i think bishop shines because hawk is there.. bishop is the playmaker of the two and hawk is the one tellin him what to do bishop always seemed lost to me before.. maybe its false but it certainly seemed like bishop benefitted from having the hawk next to him

CSS's picture

All Pro voting begs to differ.

You're grossly overstating the amount of time Bishop was covering TE's.

PackersRS's picture

You lost me at All Pro voting begs to differ.

Same All Pro that didn't have Tramon Williams in any of their rosters? That All Pro? That had Antrell Rolle as a backup? That didn't have Aaron Rodgers? Nor Greg Jennings?

CSS's picture

I said receiving all pro votes, not all pro. Everybody you referenced received all pro voting. Unless you're referencing the pro bowl, which I'm not.

CSS's picture

Scroll down, Williams received votes, so did Jennings.

Brady had a 9:1 TD:INT ratio, no surprise he received all of the regular season votes.

PackersRS's picture

I don't care if they did receive votes, the fact that others (Revis, Lloyd, McCourty) received more votes completely discredits the system.

And if your case that Hawk is better than Bishop is because one received one vote for All Pro team while the other didn't receive any, it's weak.

CSS's picture

I would reverse the grade and have Hawk a half-grade better, that's all I'm saying. You say head and shoulders best LB, I completely disagree.

So it comes down to your ability to digest tape and I'm simply wrong. Works for me.

CSS's picture

"leaps and bounds..."

"....he (Bishop) allowed more plays of 20 yards or more (five) and TD passes (1½) than any LB. He missed the most tackles among LBs with 14, five more than anyone else."

Hawk hasn't given up a passing TD since 08'.

I love what Bishop has done, but leaps and bounds is unfair to say the least. Bishop looks like a solid starter moving forward but the things he didn't do well this year (washed out, blocked, tackles downfield, lack of 'splash plays' during the regular season..) Are all the things people have killed Hawk for his entire career, yet Bishop practically gets a free pass.

packeraaron's picture

"Hawk hasn’t given up a passing TD since 08" - lol. I don't have a dog in this fight but that's funny right there. Of COURSE he hasn't. He's barely played on passing downs!

CSS's picture

Bishop hadn't given up a passing TD prior to this year either, he didn't play in passing downs.

This year Hawk had more passes defensed and INT's.

I would like to see how many total snaps each player had. I realize Bishop didn't start several games, but Hawk had limited snaps the 1st three games until Chiller was out, don't think he played at all in week one.

Look, I'm not a Hawk lover, nor do I dislike Bishop. But swap the jersey's and position they were picked in and Bishop would be beaten up in the comments section of every blog just like Hawk has been. As Nagler would say, it's absurd...

packeraaron's picture

I think people react to the noticeable difference in their intensity. Doesn't make one "better" than the other, but I will say its rare to see Bishop passively sitting back waiting for the ball carrier to come to him. He goes full steam at the guy and tries to hit him. That may result in a few more missed tackles but the effort is greatly appreciated, esp since he makes the tackle more often than not.

Hawk meanwhile is the king of latching onto guys and riding them past the first down marker. Its maddening.

CSS's picture

102 passing plays from 07' - 09', mostly as an OLB, I have no idea where that ranks among starting OLB's.

CSS's picture

Yet Bishop had 1 TFL leading up to week 16 of the regular season.

I love his intensity as well and this is a lot of quibling for a guy that had a half-letter grade difference for the season, I just felt it should have been a half-grade in favor of the other LB.

PackersRS's picture

And Bishop had 3 in the SB, to go with a fumble recovery.

As for passes defended and ints, guess A.J. Hawk with 13 pass deflections and 3 ints is a better cover man than Asomugha, with 6 and 1, respectively...

If you're gonna rely on numbers instead of game tape, at least come up with something valid.

CSS's picture

And pulling Asomugha into a discussion about linebackers is completely relevant, check.

PackersRS's picture

Not to mention his game saving tackle of DeSean Jackson, his great coverage of Gonzales...

Meanwhile, A.J. Hawk was engulfed at the SB while Mendenhall scored up the middle.

I like A.J., I think he's a great starter, and as I've said in another thread, his leadership and communicating skills are invaluable.

But it's clear to anyone that watches the game who's the better ILB.

PackersRS's picture

You mentioned pass deflections and interceptions, which have absolutely no correlation to good or bad coverage.

I illustrated that with Nnamdi Asomugha.

Jose's picture

you forgot brandon underwood.

packeraaron's picture

As did the Sheriff's office apparently..

BubbaOne's picture

Great retort...LOL!

on another note: (Re Cullen Jenkins) "actually grades out as a "B" for snaps played"

He had 7 sacks while missing 5 1/2 games...projecting out to 12 sacks/season for snaps played. That would equate to an "A" for a D-Lineman in a 3-4 scheme.

Jose's picture

haha agreed on both counts I think Cullen Jenkins should have at least an A- for snaps played. He is one of the best inside rushers in the game.

MarkinMadison's picture

I don't think so. My best guess is that Underwood is in a no-win situation. My gut tells me that in order to deal with the rape charged he fessed up and admitted that he hired two prostitutes. My crystal ball says to look for a solicitation charge and a four game suspension. Wonder if the Packers will let him hang around if I'm right?

MarkinMadison's picture

BTW I can't find anything to quibble with about these grades. I'm a little surprised that Crosby was so low in % compared to his peers. Makes me wonder if he'll have an asking price that TT can swallow. Then again, there were situations in the playoffs where I was sure that MM would call for a field goal and he just didn't. Makes me wonder if he'll be back at any price.

andrew's picture

LOL brandon underwood was left off ahahaha i didnt even notice! he shoudlnt even still be on teh team anways

NoWayJoae's picture

Cmon, give Timmy Masthay at least a B+! that guy was our MVP in at least two games.

Ruppert's picture

Nice work. I manually added up the last 10 games for Masthay, and he had something like a 39 yard Net for that stretch. If he could have done that for an entire year, it would have been good enough for the 3rd or 4th best Net in the league. That is just insane considering the guy had to punt in Green Bay in December and January. It's so nice to have a decent punter.

PackRat's picture

4th in total offense, 3rd in total defense. A superbowl.

Offensive GPA: 2.5
Defensive GPA 2.3
Among Starters a solid B-

packeraaron's picture

The NFL comes down to coaching and having your stars make plays. The Packers did exactly that this year.

BLACK HAWK's picture

Great job Aaron, I like Walden as a B instead of a B-. Guy was a stud in week 17 to get us in the playoffs.

Upset that Pat Lee has not lived up to his 2nd round draft least he didn't break down in the SB.

MarkinMadison's picture

I think you have to feel pretty good about the returning defense. The DBs as a group are solid with Burnett coming back off of injury, though I would like to see Peprah signed to a real deal. The ILBs are stacked - pick the four you want to keep, or three and a draft choice. The DL is good enough with Neal coming off IR, IF either Jenkins or Jolly is retained. Even OLB is not that bad with Zombo and Walden, although that is the greatest need IMO. So it could be a offense heavy draft, with - gasp - room for a PR specialist.

Nerdmann's picture

Your words to TT's ears. Punt return specialist, OLB and RB. Although I do like Starks. Maybe grab a CB or a WR to eventually replace DD. Not sure how much he's got left in the tank.

thepretzelhead in Japan's picture

lineman..always linemen

andrew's picture

ilbs are stacked?... pick the 4 you want to keep?.. there are only 4?... bishop hawk barnett chillar.. am i missing someone?.. lmao?? barnett has been injury ridden for a few years now.. chillar has shown he is actually a scrub.. gets beat by TEs and WRs alike.. complete waste of money.. id like to see them both gone and two new ones in..
ILBs is where we have like 900 bodies walden and zombo both showing potential for play time.. certainly want to see a CB and a WR in the draft and a LT!!.. id rather jenkins go and James Jones stay.. for sure and jolly is not needed and probably is not wanted.. who knows what they will do with him

PackersRS's picture

3 quality starters (Hawk, Bishop, Barnett) and a good backup (Chillar) constitutes stacked in today's NFL IMHO.

MarkinMadison's picture

One note about Bush's SB interception. See Inside the NFL for a break-down of the play. Their analysis was that Bush was out of position, leaving TE Miller wide open downfield. Not sure about that myself because I'm not that fluent about coverage assignments. Would be interested in POC or anyone else's view of the play. But if correct, Bush proves the old saying that its better to be lucky than good - at least as long as you're lucky on a regular basis.

andrew's picture

bush was out of position.. that guy was double covered.. i dont know why big ben forces the ball there

PackersRS's picture

We don't know the coverage's responsability. Watching the game live, and watching the replay, I also thought that.

But then one Bob McGinn comes on and says that it was Charles Woodson that had blown the assignment.

If I had to guess which one was it, I'd go every time with Bush blowing the coverage, which he did a couple more times at the SB.

But the fact that McGinn saw differently and we don't know the coverage responsabilities, at least gives motive to pause.

hoogus's picture

I'd say the consisently short kickoffs (where's that big leg?) & the bottom of the barrel FG% add up to a D for Crosby. He's trending down. I'd say get someone else.

andrew's picture

can mastay kickoff?.. aha.. he has a boot.. crosby is iffy i dont know what is rong with him he has all the ability to be a great kicker... coaches see it for sure. but the results in game say we should go somewhere else..

BigbyATTACK's picture

Really found the grading quite appropriate, and enjoyed the breakdowns. Fortunately, this year I get to mean the information breakdowns, not the mental ones that end the season early.

andrew's picture

first.. really really sad to think jenkins has a slim chance of being back.. its really a shame man has been a beast for us but he is going to want a big paycheck and i dont think the packers are going to be willing to put that money out there..
linebackers really become a big ? going in to this offseason.. barnett is set to make quite a chunk of change as is hawk.. hawk is definitely deserving of a long term deal IMO and he has had an effect on bishops play a positive effect..
barnett was a great player for us but is injury prone.. hard to see him coming back.. chillar may be gone too.. but if he leaves we have two spots for inside linebacker to try to fill.. who fills the void? brad jones? lls?
outside i see walden and zombo fightin for the starting job and whoever doesnt get it becomes the rotation man that gets reps when someone needs a breather.. right now walden seems to have more talent comin off the edge but zombo makes better reads caught out of position less.. i think poppinga might stay due to his versatility he can play inside and outside makes for a good use of a roster spot despite age
on the dline i would really love to see wynn put on size.. really but if he comes in to this offseason the way he was this year he needs to go.. mike neal IMO has the most talent out of everyone on the roster to take jenkins spot.. i think a full offseason of work will do wonders for him i expect him to make a run for the starting job wilson and green are really just depth both can be used sparingly to give pickett nd raji breathers or on goaline
corners nothin changes obviously shields is going to be a #2 when woodson goes would love to see a corner get picked up in the draft to be the nickle when woodson goes cant see bush being more than a special teams/dime package player
peprah and burnett fight it out for the safety spot both are solid starters

Ken at UWM's picture

Erik Walden will take that B- baby! The ROLB battle should be a good one in camp.

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