Midseason Role Players Playing Well

This Packers team has some obvious superstars on the roster, but let's take a look at some of the role players on the team performing well through the first 10 games.

There are a lot of pieces falling into place when it comes to this 2019 Green Bay Packers team. A large part of that, perhaps, is simply availability. This is one of the healthiest, if not the absolute healthiest, Packers teams in recent memory. Aaron Rodgers isn’t playing through anything (that we know of). The biggest loss of the season thus far was Davante Adams, and the Packers went 4-0 in his absence. Now he’s healthy and ready to lead the offense down the rest of the regular season stretch. 

All of that said, let’s talk about some key contributors to the success of this Packers team. I’m talking about guys that aren’t named Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams, Aaron Jones, Za’Darius Smith, or Preston Smith (because we all know they’re superstars already). 

 

Jamaal Williams 

You didn’t think I could make this list and not include Jamaal, right? He’s been one of my favorite players since he got drafted, and I’ve been calling for him to see more looks in the passing game. Here are Williams’ numbers by the season. 

In 2017, he had four rushing touchdowns and 556 yards, averaging 3.6 yards per carry. In the passing game, he had two touchdowns for an additional 262 yards. 

In 2018, Williams had three rushing touchdowns and 464 yards, with an additional 210 yards in the passing game and zero touchdowns. 

Already in 2019, through only 10 games, Williams has tied his career high in touchdowns with six. What’s more, only one of those touchdowns has come in the running game. Williams has 291 yards on the ground, averaging 4.5 yards per carry. In the passing game, despite only putting up 166 yards, he has a whopping five touchdowns and a catch percentage of 86.2% (73.5% in 2017 and 65.9% in 2018). 

Williams is the ideal backfield complement to Aaron Jones who’s the shiftier, more explosive back. Williams is a bruiser in the running game and has solid hands for receiving. It only makes sense he’d find success in a Matt LaFleur-led offense that emphasizes the running backs. Pro Football Focus gives Williams an elite receiving grade of 90.9, with a rushing grade of 65.6 and an overall grade of 76.6. 

 

Tramon Williams

Sticking with the same surname, let’s also acknowledge the way Tramon Williams is playing for the Packers, at 36-years-old. Against the Panthers, Williams snagged his first interception since the 2017 season when he was with the Arizona Cardinals. 

In 2018 for Green Bay, Williams started all 16 games and had only two passes defensed with no interceptions on the season. 

In 2019 already, through only 10 games with three starts, Williams has one interception, one forced fumble, and four passes defensed. He’s also tallied a quarterback hit and 23 total tackles. 

Williams is quietly putting together a reliable season as a rotational man on defense. PFF gives Williams a coverage grade of 80.3 with an overall grade of 75.2. 

 

Allen Lazard

Let’s flip back to the offensive side of the ball. In the absence of Adams, players like Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Geronimo Allison, and Jake Kumerow were all asked to step up. Perhaps the biggest role player has become Allen Lazard who didn’t even make the initial 53-man roster out of training camp (I know he was added once Sternberger was placed on IR, but still). 

Lazard had the biggest game of his career against the Detroit Lions when he hauled in four receptions for 65 yards and a touchdown. He was a player QB1 himself wanted to see on the field more, and that says a lot. 

According to PFF, Lazard has a passer rating when targeted of 116.7. During the Lions game, Lazard had a perfect passer rating when targeted, 158.3. 

A whopping 10 of Lazard’s 18 receptions on the season have also been for first downs, which indicates the trust Rodgers has in his second-year receiver. The 6-5 WR has quickly become a favorite option on the field, and he should see more targets as the season increases. 

 

Tyler Lancaster

Lancaster deserves a ton of credit for the way he’s filled in on the defensive line next to big-name Kenny Clark. Lancaster has 1.5 sacks already after not earning any in 2018, along with a forced fumble and fumble recovery. 

He also has two quarterback hits this season compared to only one last season. Lancaster has started seven games for Green Bay this season, and is credited by PFF as having 11 solo tackles, 10 stops, two hurries, and four total pressures. 

His overall grade is a 66.6, but he’s performed much better as a run stuffer than a pass rusher. The Packers gave a decent-sized contract to Dean Lowry, and look to break the bank for former first-round pick Kenny Clark in the future, but Lancaster is continuing to make a name for himself as an undrafted player out of Northwestern. 

 

Jimmy Graham

Finally, you know we have to talk about Jimmy Graham, right? Perhaps one of the most polarizing figures to wear green and gold, Graham makes the list given the improvement he’s shown this season compared to last. 

While it might make more sense to put someone like Marcedes Lewis in this spot, given Graham’s role on the team and the role he’s expected to play, I think it’s important to acknowledge how much better Graham is looking in 2019. 

In 2018, Graham had 55 receptions for 636 yards and two touchdowns. Those receiving numbers were good for second on the team, behind only Davante Adams. While his yardage numbers in 2019 aren’t stellar by any stretch of the imagination (310 total yards), and they might not even surpass his 2018 totals, it’s fair to look at the other facets of Graham’s game that did improve. 

Through 10 games in 2019, Graham already has three touchdowns. He’s also looked to frequently by Rodgers in the red zone and on third downs. Perhaps the most important number thus far is his catch percentage. In 2018, Graham had a catch percentage of only 61.8%. In 2019, Graham is sitting at 67.5% which is his fourth highest total in his 10-year career. 

Per PFF, when targeted this season, Graham has a passer rating of 118.5. Last season, that rating was only 87.2. Additionally, in 2018, Graham had a pass blocking rating of 51.7, the second-lowest of his entire career. Now in 2019, Graham has a pass blocking rating of 70.0. 

While he’s not putting up receiving yards like many would expect of a TE1, he’s still playing a serviceable role on this Packers offense, and his performance in other facets of the game make up for his lower receiving totals. 

 

Well, there you have it. Here are five of my role players that deserve credit for the ways they’ve contributed to this 2019 Packers team. Who are some of yours? Let me know in the comments. 

 

Maggie Loney is a writer for Cheesehead TV and a podcaster for the Pack-A-Day Podcast. Find her on Twitter at @MaggieJLoney.

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Comments (47)

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

November 15, 2019 at 06:53 am

Jimmy Graham has at least been trying to block these past few weeks, and had even had a fee good blocks. Which is great to see after he was embarrassing us all with whatever he was doing the first few games of the season.

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Bearmeat's picture

November 15, 2019 at 06:55 am

1. Jimmy Graham is paid to be a super star, not a role player.

2. Jimmy Graham can no longer run. He couldn't run when he was signed 2 years ago. It was a bad signing at the time of the deal and remains a bad signing now.

3. Marcedes Lewis is older, cheaper, and better at every facet of the game.

4. I'd rather see Sternberger and Tonyan out there running routes on 3rd down than ded-old Gimmy Jraham.

5. ARod force feeding Gimmy is the worst part of our offense. Frankly, other than special teams returns, it's the worst part of our team. Our team would be better if Gimmy were benched.

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

November 15, 2019 at 09:21 am

" I'd rather see Sternberger and Tonyan"

They need to stay healthy first.

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Mojo's picture

November 15, 2019 at 03:55 pm

Good Gute, bad Gute.

The Jimmy signing goes under the bad Gute.

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Leatherhead's picture

November 17, 2019 at 06:13 pm

So, in other words, you believe that Gutekunst made an expensive mistake in free agency when he signed Graham?

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Bojan Glisic's picture

November 15, 2019 at 06:58 am

Is Elgton Jenkins a role player or a star?

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flackcatcher's picture

November 15, 2019 at 07:40 am

Role player, but a good one as a rookie. Could be a future star but much depends on who he lines up with next year.

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WestCoastPackerBacker's picture

November 15, 2019 at 08:43 am

Neither. He's your basic solid starter.

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Mojo's picture

November 15, 2019 at 04:27 pm

I think when it's all said and done, Jenkins will be considered the best player chosen in the Packers 2019 draft.

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Handsback's picture

November 15, 2019 at 07:41 am

I would like to add Frack-man to the list. He's been excellent in setting the edge on the run game and has added pressure on the QB. A very good role player for the defense.

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Guam's picture

November 15, 2019 at 07:59 am

I am in complete agreement with Bearmeat on Graham. While Maggie is correct that Graham is playing better this year, he is being paid to play very well, not just better than a poor initial season with the Pack. I have a hard time rewarding average when he is being paid to be very good. I am also not particularly enamored with Lancaster. The Packers keep getting gashed up the middle in the running game and that is on the defensive tackle group including Lancaster. While Lancaster is being appropriately compensated for his efforts (UDFA pay scale), I am not sure his play is sufficient to single out for praise.

Elgton Jenkins is my nominee for better then expected play. Yes he is a second round draft choice, but he was a backup to start the year and has excelled when called on to replace Taylor. He has played so well that I doubt Taylor will be back with the team next year.

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Tundraboy's picture

November 15, 2019 at 12:05 pm

I also agree with Bearmeat. More Lewis,Tonyan and Jace. Still things are coming along very well. Need a big load to clog up the holes come winter. Biggest need at moment. ILB help would be nice.

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Since'61's picture

November 15, 2019 at 10:30 am

To me this is a matter of how we define a role player. My thinking is that Graham is our starting TE. As such he is playing better than last season. I also agree with Bearmeat that he is overpaid for his contributions and that he is nowhere close to any of the elite TEs in the league at this time.

I would define Lazard and Tramon Williams and Jamaal Williams as role players but not Graham or Jenkins. Graham and Jenkins are starters and both are on the field for a high number of snaps. Jenkins is probably on the field for 100% of the offensive snaps. Graham is probably on for 75% or more.

Lancaster is a rotational player so I don't have a problem with him defined as a role player however given how our DL has been consistently gashed by our opponents ground attacks I don't necessarily agree with the author that he has played particularly well. With Clark being doubled teamed on nearly every play Lancaster and Lowry need to win more of their one-on-ones if our run defense is going to improve over the final 6 games of the season and into the playoffs.

We have seen solid contributions from some of our other role players including Goodson, Redmond, Kumerow, Alex Light, Campbell (now that he's back), Lewis and Tonyan. Overall our depth is improved over previous seasons and is significantly better than the collection of UDFAs and cast offs that TT had signed during his last 3-4 seasons as the GM. The difference is seen in the team's current 8-2 record, overall performance and the health of the team. Go Pack Go! Thanks, Since '61

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Guam's picture

November 15, 2019 at 12:28 pm

Jenkins started the year as a backup and became a starter through injury to Taylor. I think that still leaves him in the category of role player who has excelled.

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jannes bjornson's picture

November 15, 2019 at 09:36 pm

He would have displaced Taylor by game four in any event. The run game accelerated with Jenkins in the lineup. He will be a future All Pro.

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jannes bjornson's picture

November 15, 2019 at 09:37 pm

delete

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flackcatcher's picture

November 15, 2019 at 05:27 pm

I you say '61, it all depends on how you define starter and role player. I asking who are the Packer core players. As TGR and then Al has posted, the number of snaps tells the tale of who is the preferred players on the field ( baring injury of course). Players can be both role and core players and starters in the Packers scheme. Tramon Williams is an fine example of how the Packers use a player in their system. Both lines need to be judged differently, because of the need for all to preform well for the play to have any chance of success. Overall I agree, but the three years from 15-18 with TT really bothers me. I've been blunt in what I thought happened based on TT and now Gute's drafts. The difference prior to 2015 was pretty stark, and Gute's two drafts have been pretty successful. The X-factor in all is Mark Murphy. We will have to wait for his retirement for the whole story.

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EdsLaces's picture

November 15, 2019 at 08:09 am

I think Jimmy has really stepped up the last few weeks. It can be frustrating at times sure, but he has had a some damn good plays of late. Lazard is an absolute unsung hero. This team is not he same ol packers we are used to. Seems evey week someone new steps up. Very proud to be a packer fan...

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RCPackerFan's picture

November 15, 2019 at 08:19 am

Elgton Jenkins deserves a lot of props in this talk. He has been dominating at LG. He has been so good that they should honestly consider him for OROY. He won't get it but he has been that good!

I have to mention Jimmy Graham because he seems to draw a lot of negative attention for bad blocking or whatever. But he has really improved at it. These last few games he has really improved. He has been a lot more agile with the ball as well. A big 2nd half from him could really help the offense!

For the rest of the season I think there are a few guys that we really need to emerge.

-We need to have MVS getting healthy and contributing. He is a true deep threat and can make a huge impact on the offense.

-Campbell. With the way Pettine is playing defense we need that Dime LB to be able to play and play well. The defense has suffered since Greene got hurt. We need Campbell to play that role and play it well.

-Sternberger/Tonyan. Graham has been much improved this year. Lewis has really contributed as well. But there is a need for a more athletic type of TE. Both Sternberger and Tonyan provide that. Sternberger has played a lot of snaps since coming off of IR.

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Bearmeat's picture

November 15, 2019 at 10:27 am

RC -

Yeah, Jimmy has made more efforts compared to last year. But that's a really low bar to clear. His blocking has gone from non-existent to... meh? And I'm not buying his agility one little bit. He can't outrun defensive linemen at times, for crying out loud! He's nothing more than a jump ball specialist at this point. There will be no "big" 2nd half from Jimmy. It needs to come from others.

MVS is hurt. If he gets healthy, we might see a spartk there.

Agree about the rest of them.

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Tarynfor12's picture

November 15, 2019 at 11:26 am

Agree Bearmeat...If I had to make a comparison as to the low level of play by Graham and yet some giving praise when he 'makes' a play or two and then vanish yet again for weeks...
I'd say Graham is the offensive version of what Nick Perry was to our defense for so many seasons. Overpaid,overrated,over praised for small contributions but with a smaller group of defenders of him than Perry had here at CHTV.

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Jonathan Spader's picture

November 15, 2019 at 09:28 am

Hard for me to believe how overlooked the safety play has been in improving the Packers in 2019. The 1 interception Tramon Williams has was created by Adrian Amos. Savage when he's been on the field has been a difference maker.

For all the hate he gets I think Blake Martinez is a fantastic roleplayer. He is a tackling machine and does the dirty work of cleaning up GBs missed tackles. He organizes the defense and makes sure everyone is set. Sure he lacks coverage skills but that's what makes him a roleplayer.

Vitale had expectations coming into this season as a pass catcher. His main purpose though as a full back is to create holes for rbs. I think he's done a great job of that and part of the success we've seen from Williams and Jones has been his doing.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

November 15, 2019 at 04:29 pm

I can't think of any role players who make $9M, $10M or more per year. Maybe a designated pass rusher somewhere?

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Lphill's picture

November 15, 2019 at 09:24 am

Martinez is a liability right now watch replays in slow motion of him , running backs running right past him he hardly raises a hand . Just looks lost , he may be good at setting up the D but it ends there .

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Jonathan Spader's picture

November 15, 2019 at 09:34 am

Say what you want Martinez has 102 tackles on the season the next closest Packer is Adrian Amos with 53. Who would of thought Kevin King would be 3rd with 47? The liability is the rest of the Packers whiffing on their tackles. Numbers don't lie.

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scullyitsme's picture

November 15, 2019 at 11:33 am

Wow, this is just not true. LP is correct. Go back and watch Martinez, especially last game. The dude was lost. Don’t care how many tackles he has, he’s still a liability. I’ve been not giving Kenny Clark a free pass either, but he balled out last week. Credit where credit is due. Unfortunately not Martinez.

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Jonathan Spader's picture

November 15, 2019 at 12:00 pm

You say "credit where credit is dur" but yet as alwayd give absolutely none. I have watched Martinez and I haven't seen him look lost tackling I've seen him looked lost covering tight ends. Echoing what LP said doesn't make either of you correct. Go back and watch tape isn't an argument it's just plain lazy. You see what you want and I see what I want. What I see is a tackling machine who organizes the defense but yet gets chastised by Packer fans because he can't cover.

As for throwing Clark into the conversation way to make the discussion about something it's not. But you do have poor timing on Clark because he finally showed up and had his best game of the season.

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scullyitsme's picture

November 15, 2019 at 12:43 pm

I’m pretty sure your not even reading my comments, totally agree on Kenny Clark, I said so. Please read, then comment intelligently without anger if possible. Thanks

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Jonathan Spader's picture

November 15, 2019 at 02:56 pm

There is no anger it's the internet there is absolutely no tone. The anger you read is you being defensive. Glad to hear we agree Clark balled out and hope to see him have more great games and beong disruptive in the future. We could really use a big game from him against the 49ers.

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scullyitsme's picture

November 15, 2019 at 03:42 pm

Lol, first “numbers don’t lie” news flash, they do all the time. Secondly, and best of all, I hate to break it to you but there is definitely anger on the internet. Lol.

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stockholder's picture

November 15, 2019 at 04:36 pm

Martinez is a Good football player. But his coverage has been poor this year. Many thought Micah Hyde couldn't do the job anymore either. Remember Him? And looked what happened when he left. While many might compare him to Hawk now. They shouldn't over -pay him. The ILB is one of strength in this years draft. And Gute needs to get a Buckeye again.

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hobowilly's picture

November 17, 2019 at 08:16 am

No way, another Hawk. Too much credit is given to Mich and OSU players.....off tackle and a cloud of dust. I recall when my man Urlacher was drafted, some place called New Mexico which never gets much press and has like a $500k FB budget. And, you don't need a passport to visit there-drinking water is available! Brian was surprisingly chosen #9 (see, da Bears knew) and AJ #5 in the draft, 1999 and 2006 respectively. Urlacher was light years better than Hawk. Yes, i remember Hawk, he was a very good LB in college, but in the NFL, nada....you can lead your team in tackles but if they're 80%+ downfield as a mike, something isn't right. Lastly, the best thing about Hawk, was his availability, i'll give him that.

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cheesehead1's picture

November 15, 2019 at 11:46 am

We’ve played 10 games now and Rashan Gary has done very little so far. Not all his fault as he gets very limited snaps, but for a #12 overall pick this is concerning. Even though the coach’s stay positive in their remarks about him, if he’s as good as they say, then up his snap count and let’s find out. IMO, a #12 pick should have made more of an impact by now. Not giving up on him by any means.......Go Pack and get ready for SF!

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Hematite's picture

November 15, 2019 at 02:44 pm

Being a Michigan Wolverines fan as well as a Packers fan, I was absolutely shocked that the Packers took Gary at the 12 spot.
This kid has bust written all over him.

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cheesehead1's picture

November 15, 2019 at 03:24 pm

I sure hope you’re wrong about that. It’s way too early to make this assumption. Just wish they’d give him more reps.

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Mojo's picture

November 15, 2019 at 03:42 pm

I keep hearing from Gary apologists that the Pack are just easing him in and because the Smiths are doing so well there's no place for him.

Well believe me, if he were playing at a consistently high level, they'd have no problem putting him in a lot more. And why wouldn't you to save wear and tear on the Smiths? It would be stupid not to.

I'm not giving up either, but the results so far at the very least are underwhelming.

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baldski's picture

November 16, 2019 at 02:59 am

I saw an analysis of Gary that said he was drafted not because he was so much a sack artist but a "disrupter". Well, let's see him disrupt some plays.

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Stroh's picture

November 15, 2019 at 03:50 pm

Remember they signed the Smith bros before drafting Gary. We would all like to see more snaps for Gary, but clearly the Packers weren't expecting him to play a large role this season. He's a development prospect who got drafted highly because of his immense upside. We'll have to see how he progresses and hoe hes contributes at this time next yr. He does have a severe case of dyslexia which makes learning a challenge to say the least.

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pooch's picture

November 15, 2019 at 05:18 pm

If he is so athletic and fast put him in at inside lber as we sorely need one.Not helping sitting on bench

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Lphill's picture

November 15, 2019 at 12:25 pm

I agree about Gary he has the ability , maybe he will have more of an impact down the stretch , I am more puzzled why we don’t see Ty Summers in at inside linebacker.

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cuervo's picture

November 15, 2019 at 02:06 pm

"I am more puzzled why we don’t see Ty Summers in at inside linebacker."

Because he's not close to being ready to play linebacker in the NFL. If you watched any of the preseason games it be apparent. He's continually out of position and is not a sure tackler. Speed and athleticism doesn't mean you can actually play in the NFL.

Maybe he'll get there someday, but he's along way off.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

November 15, 2019 at 04:33 pm

My Role Player Honor List:

#1: Chandon Sullivan with 155 snaps and a 76 PFF grade.
#2: Lazard (190 snaps). 74.1 PFF grade. 220yds, 12.2 ave. drops.
#3: Lancaster in 248 snaps. 66 PFF (above ave. for DI).
#4: Fackrell (241). He's disruptive. 62 grade. 6 QB hits tho.
#5: Marcedes (299 -45% of snaps). Blocks. Meh as a receiver.
#6: Will Redmond in 276 snaps. Not a hybrid ILB. Okay backup FS.
#7/8: Patrick and Light as injury replacements. Played pretty well.

I can't count Graham or Tramon as role guys. One is the starter and the other is meant to play 70% of snaps and is essentially a (oops, edit to starter, not a role player). Can't count Tonyan since he's only played 84 snaps, though I liked what I saw in those snaps. Greene only lasted 71 snaps, and durability was an issue I had with him at that weight. Plus, not enough time to find out if opposing OCs would have found something to exploit. Trubisky couldn't exploit anything does not prove much.

I don't think Redmond, Light and Patrick are role players. They can only get on the field if there is an injury. Absent injury, they have no role. Lewis barely qualifies as a role player for me since he is the #2 TE, but he does have a role and isn't a starter.

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stockholder's picture

November 15, 2019 at 04:09 pm

That's a nice list, but all have had bad games. Lazard should be made into a TE. Do you realize that Trey Burton only weighs 235 pounds? (Just a little food for thought.) I also think if MVS was not hurt. He would have made your list.

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mamasboy's picture

November 15, 2019 at 09:34 pm

By the time the playoffs get here, Jenkins is going to be worlds better than he is now. If our left tackle's back heals over the bye week, our left side will be down right scary. With the exception of Turner, our O-line will be VERY good.

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LambeauPlain's picture

November 16, 2019 at 08:01 am

Jenkins is a stud. He is a lock for the all rookie team at this point and might flirt with pro bowl recognition. He never gives up a sack and AJs best explosive runs are almost always behind a Jenkins block.

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LambeauPlain's picture

November 16, 2019 at 07:58 am

My role player extraordinaire by regular season’s end is predicted to be Campbell. He missed a few coverage assignments Sunday in his return, but he knows the role in Pettine’s D playing hybrid. He flys around, is a sure tackler, and is always near the ball.

He will get better and better. He will make Martinez better too.

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LambeauPlain's picture

November 16, 2019 at 08:07 am

Quentin Nelson was a key catalyst for the Colts last year as a rookie Guard that helped to instantly transform their O line.

While Jenks is not Nelson (yet), he is the same catalytic force powering the run game. He and Linsley are road graders in the middle.

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