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5 Guys that Have to be Good: Ricky Jean-Francois

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5 Guys that Have to be Good: Ricky Jean-Francois

5 guys that have to be good is a series that I've been running for a number of years.  It focuses on five Packers players that need to have good seasons for Green Bay to return to Super Bowl glory.  You won't see Aaron Rodgers or even Jordy Nelson on this list.  It's not a list of obvious guys that make a ton of money that have to play well for the team to succeed.  These are "X" Factors, like Desmond Bishop and Bryan Bulaga in 2010 that could mean another run at the Super Bowl.

Stay tuned to and of course CHTV the next few Fridays and Mondays for the rest of this series.

Green Bay's offseason began as many of them do.  Fans were wringing their hands as Packers players were being signed to other teams for above market deals and players from around the league they had heard of from watching TV and playing Madden were being given big deals to sign on elsewhere.  It all came to a head when a report surfaced that tight end Jared Cook had concluded his negotiations with the organization and would clearly be signing elsewhere.  Fans were irate.  Ted Thompson was continuing to waste the prime of Aaron Rodgers' career.

Then everything changed.  Green Bay actually upgraded at tight end.  Cook was replaced with Martellus Bennett.  Lance Kendricks was soon signed away from the Rams to form a formidable tandem at the position.  Thompson followed that by signing defensive lineman Ricky Jean-Francois, guard Jahri Evans and reuniting with Davon House.

All of these additions were under market deals and will fill specific voids on the team.  Frankly, the additions of Evans, House, and Bennett are too obvious for this list.  House will likely be the #1 outside corner, Bennett one of the most talented players on offense and Evans filling in for All Pro TJ Lang.  Jean-Francois is the only player that really slides under the radar.  

Ricky Jean-Francois won't likely start in Green Bay's preferred nickel defense. The Packers will likely look for Kenny Clark to step in and start alongside Mike Daniels in a 2-4-5 front. Just becuase RJF won't necessarily be important doesn't mean that he won't be important during the season.  

There are two big reasons that Jean-Francois will be key to the Packers 2017 run.  One is obvious and I'm not quite sure that the other one is.

The first reason is that Jean-Francois has been an above average run defender in a 2-4/3-4 scheme his entire career.   The three teams that will likely jostle with Green Bay in the NFC: Dallas, Atlanta and Seattle all run the ball effectively.  Ultimately Jean-Francois is going to be a key part of that effort.  Green Bay finished 14th in run DVOA on defense a year ago.  In a league in which the run game is so minimized, slightly above average is good enough.  The Packers run defense just needs to avoid being a liability.  Jean-Francois can help with that.

The other reason Jean-Francois has to be good is pass rush.  That sounds weird, because it doesn't seem like the pass rush will be coming from him.  RJF has just twelve career sacks in an eight year NFL career and doesn't generate a lot of non-sack pressure, either. 

The reason RJF is key to the pass rush is the relief that he will provide the interior pass rushers.  The days of the NASCAR package are likely over for at least a season.  There is no way that Green Bay's best four rushers on third down no longer include MIke Daniels. It just isn't a part of this reality.  Daniels is going to have to stay fresh.  For him to stay fresh less dynamic players like Jean-Francois, Letroy Guion and even Dean Lowry are going to have to effectively chew up early down reps.

No good Packer fan should forget the midseason addition of Howard Green in 2010.  Green was an early down plugger who actually caused the Nick Collins pick 6 with his interior pressure.  Jean Francois is a more talented player than Green and will be key to how the defense copes with the losses of Julius Peppers and Datone Jones.  The Packers have to keep the pass rush fresh because it isn't as deep and they can't fold when they face Elliot, Lacy, Freeman and Coleman.  Ricky Jean-Francois has to be good.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (16) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Tundraboy's picture

"In a league in which the run game is so minimized, slightly above average is good enough.  The Packers run defense just needs to avoid being a liability."

Wont be minimized in the playoffs., especially with teams knowing we have trouble in that area, and our reputation in general on D over the last few years.

Ross Uglem's picture

Green Bay played 195 playoff snaps in 2016 and only defended the run 75 times. I understand the logic you're using but the reality is teams don't run the ball anymore. It is minimized in the playoffs, too.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

I guess the stats went over my head. Don't understand your point at all - "teams don't throw the ball anymore." Wut? Even if you meant teams don't run the ball anymore, I disagree.

BB is perfectly capable of rushing somebody named Jonas Grey (really a nobody - 2 year career and out of football) 37 times in one game against the Colts in 2014 if that is the opponent's weak spot, while limiting Brady to 30 pass attempts. And if you've got a stout run defense and a not so good pass defense, BB is perfectly capable of running the ball just 7 times and attempting 51 passes: see NE v. Baltimore 2014 playoff - divisional game.

If I had to use a single point to attack MM, it would be the above: I think he calls plays that are usually one of our strengths even if it isn't working, rather than exploiting the weakness of our opponent. Most years, our offense was good enough to attack any weakness our opponent might have had.

Tundraboy's picture

Ross, I understand that, but there will be critical moments where the D, has to be more than statistically average.,Run or Pass.

Tundraboy's picture

Exactly TGR. Opponents will not fail to take advantage. Have to strive to be more.

croatpackfan's picture

TGR, Ross said: "teams don't run the ball any more." This is the truth. Because you have to read that sentence as opposite to "teams don't run the ball any less."

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Croat: Ross edited the article. No problem though, and my point stands.

Actually, I wasn't thinking that RJF had to be good, but Ross made a nice persuasive argument in this article.

Tundraboy's picture


gr7070's picture

Despite what you hear from fans and local media Lance Kendricks has been a pretty bad TE for much of his career.

Ross Uglem's picture

Those advanced stats are great but ultimately dependent on QB play. You can find the same awful stats for Jared Cook pre-Rodgers. Kendricks has the athletic gifts to be one of the best #2 TEs in football.

RCPackerFan's picture

Exactly why I'm looking forward to seeing Kendricks. Like Cook he has never played with a good QB.

This is the list of QB's Kendricks has played with.
2011/2012 - Sam Bradford
2013 - Bradford/Kellen Clemens
2014 - Austin Davis/Shaun Hill
2015 - Nick Foles/Case Keenum
2016 - Case Keenum/Jared Goff

Not exactly a great list.

With Kendricks coming to Green Bay now as the number 2 TE, he may not put up huge numbers with the talent around him, but he will be a really good weapon in the offense.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

I love stats, but I don't think much of this one. FO has RR 30th by DVAR and 31st by DVOA, and Cook 33rd in both. I am sure in my own mind who the better TE was, and who the better receiving TE was, since FO is not using blocking or drawing double teams in this ranking.

Handsback's picture

I have less worries about RJF bringing the wood verses Evans at RG. Rickey played well and seems to have gas in his tank. Evans, I'm a little worried about him. I think the Packers have enough options for the guard spot, but not so much at DT.

gr7070's picture

I would have been on board with this article if Dean Lowry was chosen instead of RJF.

The D needs a reliable pass rusher and it would be good to get that from a lineman, which has largely been devoid of pass rushers the last many years.

Additionally, it's hard to realistically expect/project that pass rush to come from the OLBs - too many question marks there.

Lastly, I think he's also more likely to play at that Super Bowl contributing level than most options here.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Evans and House may be "too obvious" but their money doesn't say it. House has to be good, period. We may have options if Evans is out of gas.

WinUSA's picture

Francois has been invisible...I must be wrong, but I couldn't find him on the stat sheet what so ever? He dressed up for two games and nada????? Someone please help me figure out what this guy has done?

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