No doubt everyone here is aware of Green Bay's fall from grace. A three-game skid is certainly not what the doctor ordered; but, then again, there's not much luck ordering anything from the doctor's office, is there?
Our team is struggling, and we all know it. However, rather than explore the shortcomings of the offensive line, the pass rush, Ryan Grant, the medical staff, the special teams, or the run defense, I'm going to take this opportunity to talk about some good things going on with the Packers. They exist, trust me. Consider this a mid-semester report where the only grades are A's. Even though the average is a C- at best.
First off, let's talk about Aaron Rodgers.
By the numbers, he's certainly above average: 1,274 yards over 5 games (254.8 yards/game), 9 touchdowns vs. 4 interceptions (a 2.25:1 ratio), a 63.2% completion rating, and a 95.5 QB rating. He's also rushed 21 times for 82 yards and 2 touchdowns at 3.9 yards/carry. He has taken 11 sacks and fumbled 4 times (1 lost), with one being a strip from behind and two botched snaps.
Overall, his numbers are good, but they're even better when you negate the two interceptions during the Tampa Bay game that were obviously not his fault (Brandon Jackson's oopsie, Gaines Adams' undaunted backside hit). Taking those picks away leaves him with a 4.5:1 TD-INT ratio and a 100.6 passer rating. Not bad.
Those numbers are clearly good enough for top-10 conversation, but the real story is how he's handled the transition from first-round pick to heir apparent to 3-year benchwarmer to starter to maybe-not starter and back to starter again. The guy has undergone more ups and downs than a roller coaster, and he's come out on top no worse for wear.
Not only that, he is shaking off the 'fragile' tag that's followed him around since he first got to the league. That sprained shoulder is a tough injury to play with, but he came back in the game against Tampa to throw a picture-perfect pass to Jennings. Watch the replay; you know it hurt. And it hurt all week up to last Sunday. He couldn't throw anything as late as Thursday, but fought through the pain, turned down meds, and managed to play extremely well in last week's loss against Atlanta.
Yes, it's still early in his career as a starter, but I'm willing to swear by Aaron Rodgers as the real deal. The guy gets it done with great fundamentals, solid decision making, and a better arm than he gets credit for. Keep up the good work, Aaron.
Now lets talk about another dynamic player whose been overshadowed by the team's struggles: You know Greg Jennings. I could say it, but Drew Magary from deadspin.com says it so much better in his weekly NFL preview:
Falcons at Packers: Holy shit, Greg Jennings is a beast. If I were him, I’d call myself "Professor Jennings". Then I’d smoke some weed and walk around the locker room wearing a cable knit sweater and no pants.
I'm ok with making Greg's nickname "Professor Jennings", how about you? Class has certainly been in session so far this season, where Jennings leads the league in receiving yards (569, over 100 yards over Larry Fitzgerald's second-place 467) off of only 29 receptions, posting a very beastly 19.6 yards/catch average. Despite having only 3 touchdowns, he is the big-play guy on the Packers' offense (ever since Ryan Grant's kidnapping) with 11 receptions of 20+ yards and 4 of 40+.
Professor Jennings' absolute dominance is responsible for 45% of Green Bay's passing yards. 80% of APC readers voted him Aaron Rodgers' favorite target. I don't think anyone is gonna dispute that anytime soon.
We all knew Will Blackmon could do it. The guy is dripping with athletic ability to the point where it's kind of gross. He just had to get healthy, which he finally has. When the Green Bay defense actually does get a stop, he's been able to deliver with a 12.8 yard average on punt returns, including that phenomenal 76-yard touchdown back in week 1. Given that it was his second touchdown in as many years, I think it's safe to say that Will Blackmon is a great talent in the punt return game, and he should stay that way.
Sweet Aunt Jemima! What else does Charles Woodson have to do to put this team in position to win? He brought the team back from the brink of defeat at Detroit. He gave the team a chance to win at Tampa. On the year, he already has 3 interceptions (only one away from his 2007 total), 2 touchdowns (a third of his career total), 9 passes defensed (matching last season's mark). And he's doing it all on a fractured toe. Talk about a gamer.
Even more remarkable is his low tackle total (12), indicative of his lockdown ability. He doesn't have to tackle a reciever who never gets the ball, does he? Nowhere was his ability more evident than in the week 3 loss to Dallas. He shut down Terrell Owens, allowing him 2 catches for 17 yards. But he didn't do it alone...
Perhaps the most impressive of the bunch. We all knew that Rodgers was going to be decent (and he's defied expectations), that Jennings was going to be superb, and that Woodson was going to be fantastic. We didn't know that Nick Collins was going to break out.
He's always been solid, but he's been more than solid so far this year. Collins has 26 tackles on the year, 5 passes defensed, and 3 interceptions (returning 1 for a score). Somewhat pedestrian numbers...unless you put it in context of game film. Collins is often the last line of defense against opposing rushers gashing the front seven, and he has greatly improved his tackling form that caused him to whiff so often in his first three seasons. Collins is becoming that Pro Bowl talent people said he would be, and he's also playing hurt. I just hope he gets healthy and keeps improving.
It's been a rough season so far, especially after such a promising start. But the team has time to turn things around. And if it capitalizes on the stellar efforts of the five players listed above, that will come sooner rather than later.