Kuhn's Role in the Packers Offense Might Be Over

A once more prominent player at a once prominent position, John Kuhn has likely seen his last days as a contributing member of the Green Bay Packers' offense.

John Kuhn has been a Packer fan favorite for the last five seasons. Declining fullback usage, a lack of importance in modern NFL offense for the position of fullback, and a halfback who can do most of the things a fullback does--and do them better--make this likely the last season for Kuhn, and maybe the fullback position as we know it, in Green Bay.

A member of the Packers since 2007, John Kuhn saw his playing time peak in 2010 where he received 84 carries (!!!) and caught 15 balls on 18 attempts. That means he had 99 touches that year and was the focal point of the play on 102 plays, pretty remarkable for a fullback in this day and age.

That season Kuhn was in on 41 percent of snaps, a career high, but has seen that number drop more and more with each passing season.

Kuhn's Snap Count Since 2010 by Percent
Year Percentage of Offensive Snaps
2010 41%
2011 38%
2012 34%
2013 28%
2014 18%

The 18 percent of plays that Kuhn was in on in 2014 is a far cry from the 30 to 40 percent he once played just two years ago. With the declining snaps, comes declining rushing attempts. While he did receive 24 attempts last season, he has totaled just 87 rushing attempts in the four seasons since he rushed for a career high 84 times in 2010.

He is also no longer needed on the goal line and short-yardage situations with an equally big back in Eddie Lacy taking that role from him in 2012 and keeping it for the foreseeable future. The effectiveness of his fullback drive plays are really more of a surprise that he got the ball than anything at this point. Kuhn has totaled just one touchdown in each of the last three seasons after totaling six in 2010 and 2011.

Aside from just the goal line work, Lacy has shown in his two years in the NFL he is a more than capable pass blocker. Having a back that can run like Lacy and also help you when you keep him in to pass block makes it tough to bring anyone else in. Not to mention Lacy added the ability to help out as a receiver from the backfield last year.

With Lacy taking the goal line and short-yardage work, being a good pass blocker, and being good out of the backfield, the only major role for Kuhn left on the offense is to block for Lacy. That however gets a little tough because Lacy has shown through his career thus far that he has run the ball more efficiently out of shotgun and singleback formations. Last year Lacy averaged 4.91 yards per carry out of shotgun and singleback formations and a measly 2.93 yards per carry with another running back in the backfield.

With Eddie Lacy taking a majority of Kuhn’s work over and a new signal caller on the sidelines in Tom Clements who will be considering Rodgers’ opinion more than ever, the writing is on the wall for Kuhn. There is going to be at least small change in the offense this year and I think pushing the fullback out of the picture in favor of more receiving options is going to be where the offense goes. To me, spreading out the defense in most situations can work just as well (or better) as bringing in a power-formation.

That doesn’t even include the drafting of Aaron Ripkowski, a fullback out of Oklahoma, in the sixth round of this year’s draft. A slightly bigger and a decade younger version of Kuhn.

This year there is a good chance that Kuhn’s playing time drops for the fifth consecutive year. The season has not begun but we may have seen the last of John Kuhn’s role in the Packers’ offense. If so, it was a hell of a run for an undrafted free agent from Shippensburg University.

Just for the hell of it, one more time...

KKUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUHHHHHHHHHHHHNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN!!!!!!!!!
 

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Comments (22)

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Dan Stodola's picture

August 13, 2015 at 12:19 am

Don't know if I agree w/ the premise here. At the end of last year, McCarthy and the Packers were looking for ways to keep/get Kuhn on the field more. They realized that the offense was more productive and ran smoother w/ him on the field. Enough so they were finding ways to keep him on the field.

Ripkowski might get some FB snaps, but I doubt he will have the trust of the coaches enough to release Kuhn. Ripkowski, this year is likely to be a heavy contributor on ST, but I don't see him getting many FB snaps. Kuhn is ultra reliable and assignment sure, which the coaches always appreciate a lot. I believe Kuhn will be around this year and see similar snap count to last year, while he teaches Rip the finer points of playing FB for the Packers. This should be his swan song season tho.

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Chad Toporski's picture

August 13, 2015 at 07:46 am

Ripkowski seems like Practice Squad material to me. As you noted, McCarthy and Rodgers really like Kuhn's football smarts and dependability. I've gathered from various articles that he's been a bigger commodity off the field (meetings, rookie help, etc.) than perhaps on the field.

Is it worth it for the Packers to keep him on the roster and take up a spot from someone who might see slightly more field time? At this point, probably. But I do think the premise of the article is accurate in that time is dwindling for Kuhn. McCarthy might be looking for ways to get him more involved, yet at some point, he's going to have to decide whether he's as big of a weapon as their 3 WR, TE Rodgers, and Lacy. Who do you remove to put Kuhn in? And how often?

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Idiot Fan's picture

August 13, 2015 at 09:17 am

Agreed. Given the level of competition in camp at other positions, I don't see how we can keep two FBs on the roster, especially considering the decrease in usage of the position outlined in the article. I say give Kuhn one more year, and give Rip a year on the PS to learn the offense. I think chances are slim that someone will claim him.

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aj's picture

August 13, 2015 at 03:42 pm

While Ripkowski won't have a major role in the offense, I think he can be a core special teams player this year with the potential to replace Kuhn. You shouldn't look at him as only a backup fullback, but rather someone who can be a "starter" this year on special teams.

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MikeReuter's picture

August 13, 2015 at 10:04 am

The four highest snap counts that Kuhn played last year were indeed the last four games. Those were also the 4 games that Rodgers was playing with an injured calf... I would tend to believe that they brought Kuhn in because he was the best blocking option for the backfield behind Eddie Lacy in hopes of buying Rodgers some time with his limited mobility.

I'm not saying Ripkowski replaces Kuhn this year as much as I am saying that they drafted him for a reason. They didn't wait to see if they could get him as an UDFA and the fullback position is becoming less and less used for the Packers, especially since they drafted Lacy.

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Dan Stodola's picture

August 13, 2015 at 02:30 pm

Lacy likes running behind FB. As his carries went up Kuhns snap count did too. Kuhn is still the most reliable and best pass protector for Rodgers, tho Lacys role may expand there some, not to mention the best lead blocker for Lacy.

If you want a real dual threat of run and pass, I think Kuhn has the versatility to handle those varied roles better than a TE.

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Tundraboy's picture

August 13, 2015 at 04:01 pm

I agree. They drafted him for a reason and it's not practice squad.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

August 13, 2015 at 12:49 am

I haven't seen or read enough about Ripkowski to form an opinion. My bias is that I am against keeping 2 FBs on the 53 man roster, depending on whom I see as the 54th player. I view both Kuhn and Ripkowski as bubble players, one of whom will make the team, with the other getting cut (Kuhn) or going to the PS (Ripkowski). Performance can change that, and considerations as to whether it is safe to put Ripkowski on the PS. Mike seems to assume that Kuhn will be around for this season, but I am not sure about that. Again, until I see and read more about Ripkowski, I can't quantify those chances. I'll be looking to see who plays on which STs and how well.

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croatpackfan's picture

August 13, 2015 at 02:19 am

What will keep John and Aaron both on 53 is learning FB position in Packers system. I'm sure that Packers and John already make a deal. This season to teach Aaron and then friendly divorce... So, do not underestimate John's knowledge of the game. Remember how he make available that 4 down pass to Randall to win over Bears? Without knowledge of the game that want be possible...

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Nick Perry's picture

August 13, 2015 at 06:42 am

I watched the week 17 game against Detroit last week and there was a play in that game by Kuhn that was beautiful. Detroit had just scored and made it 14 - 14. Detroit kicked the ball out of bounds and Rodgers limped back on the field for his first series since the TD pass to Cobb. On 3rd and 1 the Packers ran the ball behind Sitton. Starks follows Kuhn as Kuhn throws a block that drives the LB backwards and that block got the Packers the first down.

It was a play Kuhn makes time and time again. It wasn't commented on, doesn't get mentioned about by the Announcers, but is as important a block as the one Sitton and the rest of his OL make. Starks IMO would have been stopped short if not for Kuhns block.

That play is like many in the career of John Kuhn. John Kuhn being in the right place at the right time. It wasn't a glamorous play by a glamorous guy, it was a great block by a football player the Packers have depended on for years in big situations.

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PaulRosik's picture

August 14, 2015 at 05:35 pm

Like his getting just enough of the edge rusher (Peppers ironically enough) to let Rodgers get out of the pocket and find Cobb to win the division against the B$#rs in 2013. Kuhn has a position in this offense because Rodgers is the man who must be protected and he does that well.

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packerfan9507's picture

August 13, 2015 at 12:55 am

I think the Packers are in desperate need of a shifty 3rd down back that can catch the ball, so in the mean time, Kuhn can hopefully fill that void.

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Tarynfor12's picture

August 13, 2015 at 07:40 am

As like the last season with Driver,a roster spot that will offer very little in return will be wasted.
Previous heroics will have some chanting his assumed value and others will accept the reality that his time has come.
According to the chart provided in the article,his play numbers have dropped 3,4,6 and 10% the last 4 years and at that rate,Kuhn,even if he gets 5% play time ,that will not and should not be expected to be season altering in regard to the ultimate goal.
So lets simply start the 'hire him as a coach' chant and be done with it.
Good thing he didn't do 'Dancing With The Stars' this off season. :)

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WKUPackFan's picture

August 13, 2015 at 09:43 am

DD was last on the roster two years ago.

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Tarynfor12's picture

August 13, 2015 at 10:30 am

"As like the last season with Driver"......this does not infer DD was on the roster last year.
It infers whenever the last season with him was.....As like last season would infer how you took it. :)

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Clay Zombo's picture

August 13, 2015 at 08:36 am

I think he could be like a 54th man where they cut him at the end of preseason and re sign him whenever needed during the season. Not sure anybody would pick him up as he didnt receive much interest as a FA this year before re signing with the pack.

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Evan's picture

August 13, 2015 at 09:35 am

That's exactly my thinking - I'd be shocked if anyone would pick up Kuhn. I wonder how much that influences TT's cut-down decisions.

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WKUPackFan's picture

August 13, 2015 at 09:50 am

That's an interesting question regarding TT. I see a Kuhn cut as a little more risky. A few teams still use FBs, and an injury could lead to a calll to Kuhn. Also, someone as dumb as Spielman (seriously) might pick him just to keep him from returning to GB.

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MikeReuter's picture

August 13, 2015 at 10:08 am

I imagine that Kuhn will be on the roster, but his function within the offense will likely be very, very small.

In my head at least, they keep Kuhn on the roster for special teams and occasional pass blocking and depending on what the RB situation looks like behind Starks they either keep Ripkowski on the 53 or practice squad him and try to groom him as the FB starting next year.

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aaronqb's picture

August 13, 2015 at 10:52 am

If the Packers cut Kuhn, I think that would be a positive. It means they are confident enough in Ripkowski that they can afford to let him go.

There seems to be no shortage of players that would be nice to keep as that 53rd player - Myles White, Josh Walker, Rajon Neal, Mitchell Henry, etc. A year of development for one of these players would be good from a long-term perspective.

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EdsLaces's picture

August 13, 2015 at 11:18 am

What had happened wuz....the packers got a beast of a running back that can do good in pass pro. We used Kuhn so much because we couldn't find a RB that could block ....well now we have Eddie and he's good at pretty much everything.

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ray nichkee's picture

August 13, 2015 at 10:41 pm

Kuhn's chance to make the roster depends on how the tight ends perform and the special teams. He is the bring your lunch box to work and punch in 15 minutes early ready to go type. He is a true football player, if it is his time to go he will go with class and i wish him the best.

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