2010 Packer Plus Team Grades
By Rob Reischel, Journal-Sentinel
~Packer Plus writer Rob Reischel gives his team grades for the 2010-’11 season:
PASS OFFENSE (A-minus)
Green Bay was fifth in passing yards per game (257.8) but third in yards per completion (8.0). The Packers tied for fourth in touchdown passes (31) and were third in overall passer rating (98.9). Green Bay also was sixth in passing plays of at least 20 yards (57) and sixth in plays of at least 40 yards (11). Quarterback Aaron Rodgers took a colossal step in his development by winning MVP honors in his first Super Bowl.
Wideout Greg Jennings moved into the upper tier of football’s pass catchers, and James Jones and Jordy Nelson both showed growth. The tight-end position was a problem after the loss of potential Pro Bowl player Jermichael Finley in Week 5.
RUSH OFFENSE (D-plus)
The Packers lost starting running back Ryan Grant in the season opener and were forced to adjust on the fly. It wasn’t easy. Green Bay finished 24th in rushing yards per game (100.4) and 25th in yards per carry (3.8). A year ago with Grant at the helm, the Packers ranked 14th in yards per game (117.8) and 11th in yards per carry (4.3). Brandon Jackson and John Kuhn did all they could, but both were pedestrian. Coach Mike McCarthy kept defenses honest by running 43.8% of the time, virtually the same percentage as 2009 (44.2%). The Packers gambled on James Starks and won. After playing in just three regular-season games, Starks was one of Green Bay’s postseason stars.
PASS DEFENSE (A)
Green Bay ranked first in opposing quarterback passer rating (67.2), the best showing since the 1997 Packers (59.0). The Packers finished second with 24 interceptions, fifth in passing yards per game (194.2) and seventh in yards per attempt (6.5).
The unit’s ability to cover for long stretches also helped the Packers tie for second in sacks (47). The brain trust of defensive coordinator Dom Capers, cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt Jr. and safeties coach Darren Perry all excelled. CB Tramon Williams became a star, CB Sam Shields blossomed and SS Charlie Peprah turned into a player. Veterans Charles Woodson and Nick Collins held the unit together.
RUSH DEFENSE (C-minus)
The Packers slipped from first in rush defense in 2009 (83.3) to 18th (114.9). Green Bay’s average yield per rush also jumped from 3.6 in 2009 to 4.7 in 2010, a fall from third to 30th in the rankings. The Packers did a better job in the playoffs, allowing 83.8 rushing yards per game and 4.1 yards per carry. With injuries across the board, Green Bay was all right playing a more bend but don’t break style and refused to sell out to stop the run. It’s hard to argue the results, as the Packers finished second in points allowed (15.0 per game).
SPECIAL TEAMS (D)
Green Bay’s return units remained inept. The Packers ranked just 26th in kick returns (20.1) and 22nd in punt returns (7.9).
The Packers’ coverage units tied for 12th on kickoff returns (21.8) and was 25th on punt returns (11.0). Punter Tim Masthay showed steady improvement and could eventually end the revolving door Green Bay has had at that position. Kicker Mason Crosby made 78.6% of his kicks, just above his career average of 78.0%. Long snapper Brett Goode was as steady as it gets.
PERSONNEL MOVES (A)
General manager Ted Thompson had a solid draft, highlighted by first-round pick Bryan Bulaga and sixth-rounder James Starks. Thompson then found street free agents Sam Shields, Frank Zombo and Tom Crabtree and all became solid contributors. Masthay was a great find and was discovered last January. The only veteran Thompson signed in unrestricted free agency was Charlie Peprah, and he started 11 games at strong safety.
Veteran linebacker Aaron Kampman was allowed to leave in free agency and he lasted just eight games with Jacksonville before blowing out his knee. When the season began, Packers began dropping like flies, but Thompson always had a player waiting to help. From Erik Walden to Howard Green to Matt Wilhelm, Thompson had an answer. Thompson’s decision to part ways with Al Harris proved correct. Some will argue that had Thompson traded for RB Marshawn Lynch, Green Bay would have been the NFC’s No. 1 seed and given itself an easier postseason path. But almost everything Thompson touched turned to gold.
McCarthy still has occasional problems with clock management and when to use his challenges. For example, McCarthy electing not to challenge an apparent Week 5 touchdown by Nelson, which may have cost the Packers a win in Washington. But McCarthy’s steadiness, confidence and message have won him the locker room.
McCarthy never panicked as players were going down, and therefore, neither did his team. McCarthy remains one of the game’s more creative offensive coaches. On one play, he can hit a defense with his “Big Five,” then counter with a full backfield. He’s been smart enough to turn the defense over to Dom Capers and get out of the way. And he’s had a hand in the gradual improvement of Green Bay’s special teams. He calls himself a “builder” who wants this to be his last job. But he might be intrigued if a general manager position was offered down the road.
Green Bay not only survived the loss of 16 players to the injured reserve list, it flourished. The Packers showed mettle and resiliency most teams wouldn’t have to simply reach the postseason as a No. 6 seed. Green Bay then joined the 2007 New York Giants as the only NFC teams to ever win three straight road games to qualify for the Super Bowl. Almost par for the course, veteran leaders Charles Woodson and Donald Driver couldn’t finish the Super Bowl, but others stepped up. The result was a fourth Super Bowl win in five tries and a league-high 13th NFL championship.
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