Packers 2012 Season Recap: Biggest Step Back By A Packer

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Not every player improves from one year to the next. All too often some players take a step back or have a down year….but which Packer took the biggest step back in 2012?

One of the most underrated aspects to Mike McCarthy and his coaching staff is their ability to develop talent. It seems that year in and year out the Packers find some diamond in the rough and turn him into a contributor….or even a star. It’s why I chuckle when the FIRW MIKE MCMORON crew comes out for every loss resulting from a questionable play call.

As good as they are though; they do not have a 100% success rate. No one does in the NFL. Players regress each year for a host of reasons. This happens on every team and the Packers are no exception. It’s why we have a Dud of the Year and it’s why we have this award as well….the most regressed player of the year.

T.J. Lang

I love chicken or the egg type questions, and Lang has presented me one to chew on through most of the offseason. See, Lang did alright in 2011 and there wasn’t too much crying in Packerland when he received a contract extension this past offseason. This year is another story though. Now it’s common place to see fans suggest the need to upgrade from Lang in the near future. My question then is this….is Lang’s step back the result of him just not being as good as last year or the fact that he lost two solid linemen surrounding him (in 2011 he had Chad Clifton and Scott Wells there instead of Marshall Newhouse and Jeff Saturday / Evan Dietrich-Smith)? We could also talk about his position move from LG to RT, but that reminds me too much of people wondering if Daryn Colledge got messed up by moving from LG to LT back in 2008 so I would prefer not to go there.

No matter how spin the explanation though it was clear to see a regression in his play. More than once Lang was the weak link of the offensive line. This is no small feat considering the struggles of EDS, Saturday, and occasionally Newhouse. Heck that would even include the raw UDFA rookie Don Barclay in the mix as well (who outperformed Lang at RT). The good news is that Lang has bounced back before and hopefully he can do it again.

Charles Woodson

Time isn’t fair. The NFL isn’t fair. Life isn’t fair. Charles Woodson has been one of the greats for the Packers in his time here. He is going to be in the Hall of Fame someday and the large part of that is due to his time playing at Lambeau Field. But the NFL is a "what have you done for me lately" league, and Woodson’s play has been down lately. He has clearly lost a step and now struggles in coverage. He has drawn more interference calls because he cannot receivers like he used to. Worse yet is that his durability is not what it once was and missed a significant period of time due to injury.

Woodson is still good. I would entertain the argument that he’s very good. It’s a bit of a stretch to say that he’s great anymore though.

Jeff Saturday

A part of me feels like I’m kicking a guy when he’s down with this particular nomination but it’s hard to ignore the facts on the ground. Last year Saturday was still one of the better centers in football. This year he struggled to find his groove and then was benched in favor of EDS….and never got his job back. He’s had a great career, but he just was not the same player for the Packers that he was for the Colts.

Mason Crosby

Can you believe that last year Crosby strung together the longest consecutive streak of field goals in franchise history? That is certainly now a distant memory with the very public struggles Crosby had this year. It is certainly a large step back to go from one year making 85.7% of his field goals to 63.6% the next year.

Aaron Rodgers

This nomination is going to anger some people I know. Here’s my promise as I write this nomination up…I will not compare the stats or accomplishments of Rodgers’ 2012 campaign to his 2011 campaign. Yes they aren’t as good, but that is not the pressing this issue in my mind. Not one bit…..I swear it.

What is pressing the issue in my mind is the fact that he was the most sacked QB in the league this past year. Rodgers was sacked 51 times and hit countless more times. The reason this signals a regression on Rodgers’ part is that this is not a new phenomenon. In 2009 he was sacked 50 times as well. That year there were significant problems at the tackle spots with Allen Barbre pretending to be a RT and Chad Clifton suffering through injuries through the beginning of the season, but mixed into that was the fact that Rodgers held the ball too long and took too many sacks as a result. Like in 2009, the Packers had some talent and injury problems along the offensive line. Also like in 2009, Rodgers held the ball way too long more often than not which lead to an inflated number of sacks. All I know is this…my wife is relatively new to being a hardcore football fan, and when she can see Rodgers is holding the ball too long and consistently yell at the TV "THROW THE BALL!" something is not working right. She did it in 2009. She did it this past year. That’s a trend I hope does not continue in 2013.

For what it’s worth he also had the second lowest yards per pass in his career and third highest interception total. These two points are quibbles (especially considering he had only 8 INT’s) so take them with a grain of salt. The sack problem is another matter. Generally it’s good that Rodgers can take the sack and live to fight another day, but at some point he’s got to throw it away more and stick to the 2.5 second rule of thumb that McCarthy was attempting to drill into the QB’s during training camp. If Rodgers can do this then the sack numbers will go way down without a single upgrade needed to the offensive line.

Those are the nominees for biggest regression by a Packer player. Remember this is a bit different from Dud since you have to actually have to be good at some point to really regress (therefore no Erik Walden nomination). If you think we missed someone please take a moment and write in your candidate in the comments section.

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