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Three Players who need to make the leap for the Packers in 2016

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Three Players who need to make the leap for the Packers in 2016

The notorious "draft and develop" strategy that Packers general manager Ted Thompson has implemented over the years has naturally worked in full force. Of the 90 players currently listed on the team's roster, only four have suited up for another organization. The Packers are, what most would call, "homegrown". 

But some of Thompson's projects are still in the developmental stages. As their careers ascend up the ladder of experience, these players begin to balance the weight of many expectations. Some detrimental to the Packers' success, and some simply a component who, if lost, wouldn't put much of a dent in the pursuit of a championship. 

I'll look at three specifically who do, however, need to make a leap in 2016.


Davante Adams, WR

There's an elephant in the room, and his name is Davante Adams. Naturally, he wouldn't be the first and foremost selection to make the leap that is expected of him. But given the current state of the wide receivers in Green Bay, Adams' development is about as important as anybody's. A second-round draft pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, Adams had many of these critics bearing down on him with said expectations, even as he competed with former Packers' wideout Jarrett Boykin at the heart of the depth chart.

He had about as good of a 2014 campaign as you'd expect from a rookie fourth-string (soon third-string) wide receiver, especially behind the duo of Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb who accounted for 2,806 of Aaron Rodgers' 4,381 passing yards. Needless to say, the field opened up for Adams down the stretch and especially in the postseason where he shined. His performances in January drew the watchful eyes of fans and analysts alike to be trained upon him in 2015. Unfortunately, with Nelson being lost for the season, Adams was forced into a starting role he wasn't necessarily prepared for and as a result, struggled visibly. Albeit the second-year Adams was battling an ankle injury through a majority of the season, dropped passes were inexcusable. 

With Nelson in the process of returning from his torn ACL and the competition battle at the bottom of the wide receiver depth chart, Adams' role is stagnant. He's solidified where he is, and that's okay. Entering his third year, the hope for Adams is that he can be a viable option behind Cobb and Nelson. With Ty Montgomery still fighting his way off of the PUP list and Jeff Janis reportedly not making much progress in his route work, it may be important for him to make the leap, preferably this upcoming season. 


Sam Barrington, ILB

We still don't know what we have with Sam Barrington. You typically won't with any inside linebacker drafted in the seventh-round. But what we do know, is that like Adams, his presence radiated down the stretch of the 2014 season. So much that he earned praise from head coach Mike McCarthy on his work ethic and the venture it took for him to eventually become a starter for the Packers. Outside of that, he's just another mediocre three-down linebacker who struggles playing the pass and is average against the run.

Barrington missed all but 15 snaps of 2015 with an unlucky foot injury that cost him crucial playing time and opportunities for development. A blow to defensive coordinator Dom Capers and the striving Barrington. The Packers didn't hesitate to beef up the inside linebacking corps, however, by drafting Blake Martinez in the fourth round of this year's NFL Draft. Martinez has been working to become the team's next three-down linebacker, which would be ideal as a player who had no problem covering the passing game during his time at Stanford.

If the Packers can have Barrington return to his late-2014 form, that would be ideal for a spot that has been one of the weakest on the team for half a decade. Not to mention, Barrington is entering a contract year where the Packers will have to ultimately make a decision on resigning him based on his performance in 2016. With Martinez on his heels to take over alongside Jake Ryan at the top of the depth chart and with everything to prove, Barrington should be more motivated now than ever before.


Nick Perry, OLB

Sticking with the theme of players whose contracts will expire next off-season, Nick Perry is next on the carousel. Not as detrimental to the team's success given the depth at outside linebacker, but for a 2012 first-round pick — out of USC nonetheless, his impact with the team should've resonated far more significantly by now. Going into the fifth year of his career, Perry has battled injuries all throughout his tenure in Green Bay, including a wrist and shoulder injury just this past season.

With the veterans in Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews anchoring the edges of the front seven, Perry will likely prove as a situational player in 2016. Whereas the season prior, Jayrone Elliott took over a lot of the vacancy left behind from Perry who battled the aforementioned injuries. In the midst of this, Elliott impressed mightily before suffering an injury of his own — a quad impairment that slowed Elliott down after a fast start to the season.

The Packers passed on Perry's fifth-year option last off-season before inking him for a one-year deal worth $5 million just this past March. Likely because of his elite performance in the playoffs against the Redskins and Cardinals where he tallied 3.5 sacks and a forced fumble in those two games. Entering a contract year, this puts a "put up or shut up" opportunity on the table for Perry. With the additions of outside linebackers Lerentee McCray and Kyler Fackrell via free agency and the Draft, Perry will have lofty competition behind him, much like Barrington. This could either be too much for the former Trojan to handle, or he may respond just how the Packers want him to — with results. That starts with staying healthy.


Zachary Jacobson is a staff writer/reporter for Cheesehead TV. He's the voice of The Leap on iTunes and can be heard on The Scoop KLGR 1490 AM every Saturday morning. He's also a contributor on the Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter via @ZachAJacobson or contacted through email at [email protected].

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (36) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

stockholder's picture

We don't need Adams! Barrington could help, but was not missed. I'm for perry. This is the guy who can make the packers pass rush great.

Duke Divine's picture

Adams was hurt more games than not last year. People seem to forget that he and Cobb were hurt for extended periods of time, as was the O-line, and running backs and the darn QB even. Most fans just looking at the surface think it was solely because of Jordy Nelson's injury! And they think Cobb's over rated and Adams just plain stinks. Its easy to only look at the surface but ignorance is not bliss for me. The entire offense was the walking dead last year and played through some pretty tough injuries and Adams might have been the toughest SOB of them all with that high ankle lingering for 3 damn months, but all anybody thinks is he sucks and we want the Great White Dope Janis to be our savior and ride into the pasty light that is Lombardi greatness with a 4.3 40 and a rounded off banana out route....There's more than just the surface! The lack of game planning to the strengths of your healthy personnel was more detrimental to this team than was one injury. I see Gronk (ALL TIME GREAT) go down for big chucks of time as well and the patriots don't march out the same game plan and chuck it to his replacement 15 times per game. They freakin adjust! Meanwhile Mashed Potato Mike calls for chucks to a one legged Adams 15 targets per game like he is a healthy Jordy Nelson 2.0 and the "knowledgeable fans" come away with "Adams sucks, we want Janis."

Tundraboy's picture

I see you're rounding into form for the upcoming season. Dont peak too early though.

croatpackfan's picture

Cow, you are exactly example of person who underachieve because of injury. While Adams and Cobb had ankle and shoulder (later lungs) injury respectively almost whole season, your brain injury is very serious. Go, and heal that injury, after that become again valuable addition to Packers fans.

And, yes, btw, I think you were very certain that Ty Montgomery and Jared Cook will be on IR list this season. Well, I must admit, you score again~... It is amazing! ~

The TKstinator's picture

Why "notorious" draft and develop, Zach?

The TKstinator's picture

Unlike all those other teams that don't have a single weakness.

PaulRosik's picture

Notorious and says it worked in the same sentence. I guess the negative canceled out the positive.

Zachary Jacobson's picture

Some hate it. Some don't. It's a give-and-take strategy that a majority of fans aren't always on board with. Some strongly dislike his refusal to sign big-name FAs. Some love the homegrown roster. I'm playing the middle-man.

The TKstinator's picture

Not sure it's a majority, but I agree they're definitely out there.
Naturally when a team fails to win 5 or more consecutive SB's, somebody must be doing something wrong. ~

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Straw man argument made here by Zachary, and supported by TK. The "majority" of us do not want to see big name, big contract, FAs signed on a regular basis. We would like to see a few veteran FA mid-tier, even cheap FAs, signed a little more often. TT's draft and develop may be notorious, maybe not, but I think very few object to draft and develop, per se.

Here is what is both unusual and clear: only 4 of the 90 players on the roster have ever suited up for another team. And it holds true year after year. That is an extreme philosophy.

croatpackfan's picture

I thought you are backing that D&D philosophy ... Are you?

The TKstinator's picture

I disagree that I supported it. I questioned whether the majority of fans feel that way. Not sure anyone can speak conclusively about how the "majority" feels.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Sorry, TK, that I put words in your mouth. The "they're out there" and the sarcasm probably threw me a little, but then, it is you, so I should have taken the latter into account!

The TKstinator's picture

No prob, amigo.

Bearmeat's picture

Great article and good takes above.

IMO Clark and Martinez need to be on this list too though. If both those guys wipe out, the defense is probably in trouble.

Zachary Jacobson's picture

Thank you.
If the article was for "rookies who need to make an impact" or something like that, they'd definitely be on the list. This was for players who, despite their years with the team, haven't left their mark that makes them sure-fire candidates for a future roster spot. Players who have under-performed recently who need to 'make the leap' this season. We don't know what we're getting from the rookies yet.

Tarynfor12's picture

Yes, yes, yes.....Cannot wait for the " Elite " Nick Perry.....even though he makes me feel like Billy Jack in the ice cream parlor scene...." I just go berserk ".....but I'll wait. : )

DrealynWilliams's picture

There she goes! Lol!

This season can't start soon enough!

Tarynfor12's picture

If writers here keep bestowing titles like ' Elite ' when mentioning him, then I fail to see why I should remain quiet. Unless and until he contributes solid play for a solid season, I remain vigilant in calling him what he is as a 1st rd selection....square peg round hole bust. : )

Zachary Jacobson's picture

"Likely because of his elite performance in the playoffs against the Redskins and Cardinals where he tallied 3.5 sacks and a forced fumble in those two games."

Taryn, his /performance' was elite. Not his seasonal performance itself. I clearly specified that it was his performance in the postseason that I was referring to.

Bohj's picture

Adams. You try running just one route with a bum ankle and see how well you can concentrate on a ball. Not easy. I give the guy a year to redeem himself. Last year was supposed to be his breakout year.......very rarely is that going to happen when you're thrust into the number two job. And then add ankle thing. Janis is not running poor routes anymore. All the articles about camp indicate otherwise.
Barrington. Love this guy........for depth. Hope he proves more.
Perry. I remember seeing so much potential in this guy when he destroyed Andrew luck and forced a fumble...that was reversed for roughing the passer. And then he got injured the week after. This guy's production when he's on the field surpasses almost all of the linebacking core. I see Peppers being the situational player and reduced roll in much the same way Jeff Saturday was. He'll be like a Freeney.... Coming in to reak havoc when needed.

dobber's picture

" Janis is not running poor routes anymore. "

What I've read is that for every good route he runs, he makes a bonehead mistake or drops the ball.

"I see Peppers being the situational player and reduced roll in much the same way Jeff Saturday was."

I wouldn't be surprised if Peppers plays 600+ snaps after playing over 760 last year. Only three players in the Packers front 7 logged more snaps than Peppers last year (Neal, Daniels (by 4) and CMIII). And Neal is gone. I agree that he needs to play fewer...but Jeff Saturday (who asked to be removed) is a poor comparison.

Tundraboy's picture

Jeff Saturday? God let's hope not.

croatpackfan's picture

first Packers official depth chart!

dobber's picture

Interesting...we'll see how it changes once they start playing games.

Zachary Jacobson's picture

We don't know if Adams absolutely HAS to make a leap just yet because of the state of the receivers. Specifically Jordy Nelson and Ty Montgomery and whether or not the both of them can stay healthy. His leap wouldn't be as detrimental to the team's performance if he were to make said leap, and if he doesn't, then his future with the team is bleak. It isn't cryptic coding.

Ryan can continue to progress, and Martinez, we don't know what we're getting from him yet. He's a rookie who has yet to play a single snap at the professional level. It isn't a matter of who progresses the quickest, it's who I think needs to prove that they deserve a roster spot with the team. And in 2016 with a contract year staring him in the face, I think Barrington is one of those guys.

Mags's picture

Datone Jones is one that needs to show he was worthy of being a number one pick. So far not so much.

stockholder's picture

Were not worried about who's worthy and who isn't. Seems the best excuses are injuries, play a new position, Trust in TT, blame the coach. Not the fact that a guy can't catch the ball above his shoulders, Anyone can play DE, How many draft picks get wasted, We don't replace are All-pros, And any team would grab MM if they could. So even with A-rods bad year, our coach still makes the playoffs, and gets the most of what he has. Mike Neal was suppose to be the answer. Does it not seem remotely possible the only thing we had to replace was our LB's. Why has this been such a revolving door. Hopefully Datone Jones and Perry shut it this year. I hope to see the best pass Rush Ever!

DrealynWilliams's picture

I agree. I might put him on this list before Perry. @Mags

PaulRosik's picture

Perry suddenly looked like he could do some damage at the end of last season and he certainly needs to step up and be that player they want to limit Peppers snaps and allow him to be a pass rush monster at the critical moments.

Inside linebacker, inside linebacker, inside linebacker. For all the talk about it since Matthews moved inside I think people forgot that a projected starter missed the entire season in there. Barrington certainly needs to step up as well or Matthews will be in there again helping the other youngsters figure out the NFL.

For Adams it would be nice if he was the player from the 2014 playoffs and not the 2015 season. But in that position it is more like they need someone to step up out of about 5 possibilities. Adams, Abrederis, Janis, Montgomery, or Davis. One or more of them needs to be a viable third man out there. But in that case I don't think it is all up to Adams.

As other people here mentioned I think the third person on this list could have been Datone Jones or if you wanted one offensive guy - Ripkowski.

Since '61's picture

Adams needs to make a leap if he is capable.
Barrington if he is healthy.
Also, Eddie Lacy needs to get back into form and get the ground game going and help to open up the passing game.
TT needs to be more proactive in signing players when our starters go down. If we lose a WR again to injury he can't leaveAR with a mediocre receiving corps again. It's time for TT to take a leap at doing whatever is necessary to get to the SB. Also, I would like to see Eliot get enough snaps to make a leap. Thanks, Since '61

dobber's picture

The key to the offense is cohesive play and health for the OL. If the OL looks like it did in the second half of 2014, all the other parts will take care of themselves.

Lphill's picture

Bearmeat did you read the article ? It's about players that have been on the team , not rookies , what are Clark and Martinez making a leap from?

ES 1957's picture

Barrington Montgomery & Cook off the PUP. Hurray!!

al bundy's picture

Season didnt start yet unless I missed something. I for one will be shocked if we ever get anything out of Monty. May be another Franklin, too frail for the NFL.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

I gather we are excluding rookies from this conversation. To some extent, we are assuming that per usual, most rookies are unlikely to contribute a ton. If that is the case, and if we are talking about players the team needs to show improvement, then my candidates are all different from the author's.

1) Ladarius Gunter: If he can play at an NFL average level (or better), our secondary when healthy looks excellent. If one of the big three CBs (Shields, Randall, Rollins) misses a game, we can still match up well.

2) Ripkowski: There is no other FB on the roster with his upside. If he is bad or injured, we're looking at someone from the PS who has experience in our system, and that guy probably is a significant downgrade in talent. Now that Kuhn has signed elsewhere, he is not an option (though it's possible he gets cut at some point).

3) Eddie Lacy: He is the guy that can make the running game feared, catch 50 passes for an excellent average, and pass pro. Starks perhaps can't hold up for a season. Crockett is just okay.

I don't include Adams because, while it would be nice, it is not necessary for him to make the jump. Along with Cobb, 2 of Nelson, Cook, Montgomery, Abby, Janis and Davis could probably suffice.

It would be nice if Perry took a leap. I think he has the talent to be a red player. I could say the same about Datone, McCray, maybe Elliot. Point is, we are loaded with talent at OLB; any one of 3 guys could really make OLB outstanding. If CM3 has to slide inside again, that would be not ideal, but there might well be enough talent at OLB to mitigate his absence.

Barrington is a close call. It would be nice, but perhaps Ryan could make a leap instead. He and CM3 can hold down ILB with Thomas as a coverage LB. There is a cascade effect here though: if Barrington, Ryan, Martinez, maybe Thomas, can handle ILB, then CM3 can go back to OLB, but see above. I think CM3 a red, not a blue at OLB, but maybe he is still a blue. Guess I'd like to find out.

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