Green Bay Packers grades: Offense
Rodgers came close statistically to replicating his MVP season from 2011. Those numbers should be good enough to earn the NFL's highest honor for the second time in his seven years as a starting quarterback. His 112.2 passer rating and 8.4 yards per completion were second only to Dallas' Tony Romo (113.2) among quarterbacks with a minimum of 400 passing attempts. He was among the league leaders in passing yards (4,381, seventh), touchdowns (38, third) and fewest interceptions (five, first). His 65.6 completion percentage was ninth in the NFL, though he was a victim of 35 dropped passes. His ability to get out of the pocket and an improved offensive line resulted in Rodgers taking a career-low 1.75 sacks per game. After a slow start, he had three of the best games of his career during a 10-week stretch in the middle of the season when he completed 212 of 314 passes (67.5 percent) for 2,955 yards, 30 touchdowns and two interceptions. Rodgers tied a franchise record with six touchdown passes against Chicago. He had the worst game of his career against Buffalo on Dec. 14 when he completed only 17 of 42 passes for 185 yards with two interceptions. He bounced back the next week against Tampa Bay, but suffered a calf strain that would hamper him through the final four games of the season. Rodgers showed he was still better with one good calf than most of the league. He was off in the Packers' 28-22 loss to Seattle in the NFC championship game (19-of-34 passing for 178 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions), but limited against the league's top defense. The Packers went as far as Rodgers took them. Green Bay was 0-5 when his passer rating was under 95. His ability to force defenders offside (nine penalties) and take advantage of 12 men on the field (six) make him the league's most dangerous quarterback in the no-huddle.
The Packers overlooked Flynn's mediocre preseason (18-of-38 for 232, three touchdowns, one interception) and kept him as their No. 2 quarterback on game days. Only three of his 67 offensive snaps came at a meaningful time — the first series of the second half against Detroit on Dec. 28 — and the results weren't great. He was sacked for a 7-yard loss to end a three-and-out. Flynn had a 34.9 passer rating in seven appearances, completing 7 of 16 passes for 66 yards and an interception he threw directly into the arms of Minnesota safety Harrison Smith on a rollout Oct. 2. He'll be an unrestricted free agent, but Rodgers and the coaching staff value his presence on the sideline.
The former University of Wisconsin standout outperformed Flynn in the preseason but was the third-string quarterback in the regular season. He completed 38 of 56 passes for 477 yards and three touchdowns in the preseason, which forced the Packers' hand in taking three quarterbacks into the regular season for the first time since 2008. This was the third time in his four NFL seasons that Tolzien stayed on a 53-man roster for an entire season without appearing in a game. He was a clean scratch for the first 15 games before suiting up in the final three games (including playoffs) in the wake of Rodgers' calf injury. The coaching staff is high on his work ethic and intellect, but he is an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
Lacy got off to a slow start — 3.0 yards per carry in September — but proved his NFL offensive rookie of the year season was no fluke. He finished as one of the league's most effective running backs. He was seventh in the NFL in rushing yards (1,139), ninth in yards per attempt (4.6, minimum 200 attempts) and tied for third in rushing touchdowns (nine). The Packers limited his touches early in the season, which helped him stay healthy and fresh for the stretch run. He rushed for 373 yards and a 4.5-yard average in the four games Rodgers was hobbled. He took on a greater role in the passing game (42 catches for 427 yards, four touchdowns) and became more reliable in pass protection. That allowed the Packers to press forward with their plan to use him as an every-down back in the no-huddle instead of giving way to John Kuhn on third downs like he did as a rookie. His 73 forced missed tackles (49 rushes, 24 receptions) was fourth-most in the NFL. He fumbled three times (losing two) after having his streak of 325 carries without a fumble snapped in Week 3 against Detroit. That tied for fourth-most in the NFL. Lacy remains one of the league's up-and-coming backs so long as he stays healthy.
The Packers' desire for Lacy and James Starks to become every-down backs meant less initial playing time for Kuhn. He averaged seven snaps per game through the first half of the season before the Packers started calling more three-receiver, two-back packages over the last month. He improved as a lead blocker and provided extra pass protection for an injured Rodgers. Despite playing only about 17 percent of the offense's snaps, Kuhn was voted to his second Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro. He had 24 carries for 85 yards and a touchdown, but was stuffed on three goal-line situations in the final four weeks. Kuhn, who'll turn 33 next season, said he plans to play another year.
The backup job to Lacy seems to be a perfect fit for Starks, who didn't miss a game for the first time in his five-year career. He wasn't as explosive as 2013, but productive in rushing for 333 yards and two touchdowns on 85 carries (3.9 ypc). He didn't offer much as a pass catcher, but that's nothing new. His four dropped passes tied for ninth-most in the league despite being targeted only 27 times. Although pass protection isn't his strong suit, Starks wasn't the sieve he was earlier in his career. He'll turn 29 in February and is under contract for another season. His presence makes the position an afterthought this offseason.
Harris ran the ball well with a backup offensive line in the preseason (31 carries for 126 yards), but didn't find many opportunities running behind Lacy, Starks and Kuhn. Most of his carries came in mop-up duty against Chicago in Week 10 when he rushed for 52 yards on eight carries. The Packers tried to use him on kickoff returns, but his production was minimal (22 returns, 20.7 average). In need of an extra spot for a third quarterback, the Packers deactivated him for the final three games. He is an exclusive-rights free agent.
After signing a four-year extension in July, Nelson responded with the first Pro Bowl season of his career. He caught a career-high 98 passes on a team-high 146 targets and established a franchise record for single-season receiving yards (1,519 yards), the fourth-most among NFL receivers. He tied for second in the league in touchdown receptions (13) and led all receivers with seven touchdowns off catches of more than 40 yards, which tied Billy Howton's franchise record set in 1952. Nelson caught nine passes for a career-high 209 yards and an 80-yard touchdown in Week 2 against the New York Jets. Nelson slowed down near the end of the season with only one touchdown catch in his last five games. He averaged 69.4 receiving yards per game in that stretch after averaging 97.3 in the 13 games prior. His 128.2 receiver rating on passes thrown in direction finished second in the NFL only to teammate Randall Cobb. He had eight dropped passes on 106 catchable targets (7.5 percent), including one that likely would have gone for a 93-yard touchdown in the Packers' 21-13 loss to the Bills on Dec. 14.
Cobb erased any questions of possible diminishment after breaking his tibia last year when he started every game. He earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl after catching a career-high 91 passes for 1,287 yards and 12 touchdowns. Cobb's slow start hit bottom when he dropped two passes in a three-catch, 29-yard performance against Detroit in Week 3. He broke out of it by catching at least one touchdown in his next six outings. His utilization out of the backfield created matchup problems for opposing defenses late in the season. The Packers put him back on punt returns and platooned him with Micah Hyde, though he averaged only 8.0 yards per return. There were a few times when Cobb's stature (5-10, 192) resulted in a pass sailing high out of his reach, but his ability to operate in traffic was critical for an offense lacking a tight-end threat in the seam. He dropped eight passes on 125 targets. His 134.3 receiving rating was tops in the NFL.
Adams was thrown into the fire when Jarrett Boykin was sidelined by a groin injury in the week leading up to a Sept. 28 showdown in Chicago. Even if he hadn't, it was only a matter of time before the second-round pick took the job. He stepped into the spotlight when he caught a quick snap near the goal line from Rodgers during the Packers' game-winning drive in a 27-24 win over Miami in Week 6. He had one or fewer catches in seven of his 13 starts, but stepped up during critical points of the season. Adams caught six passes for 121 yards in a 26-21 win over New England in Week 13 and hauled in another seven catches for 117 yards and a touchdown in a 26-21 decision over Dallas in the divisional round of the playoffs. Adams failed to bring in two passes against the Bills that would have converted third downs. He dropped four passes on 42 catchable targets. The Packers will be looking for more consistency in his sophomore season, but his 38 catches for 446 yards and three touchdowns made for a promising debut.
By most metrics, it's admirable what Boykin accomplished as a former undrafted free agent who played the past three seasons on a contract he signed off a tryout. However, the Packers needed more this season after James Jones left for Oakland. Coach Mike McCarthy praised him during the offseason and camp for taking the next step, but he wound up being one of the season's bigger disappointments. After getting shutout by Richard Sherman in the opener, it took him less than a month to lose the No. 3 receiver job to Adams. Boykin finished the season with as many drops (three) as catches and missed three games with a groin injury. Targeted only 12 times on 225 offensive snaps. He re-established himself on special teams to stay ahead of Jeff Janis on the depth chart, forcing Chicago punter Patrick O'Donnell to botch a punt on Nov. 9.
Janis became a training camp darling with his slew of eye-popping catches in practice and carried that into the preseason. His only two catches were explosive plays (34-yard touchdown against St. Louis and a 33-yard touchdown against Kansas City). He disappeared on the depth chart during the regular season, suiting up for three games when Boykin was out with a groin injury. While Boykin struggled, the Packers still kept him active over Janis, who was a clean scratch for the last 12 games (including playoffs). He finished with two catches for 16 yards. Equipped with great size (6-3, 219), the Packers will be looking for the Saginaw Valley State speedster to take another step next year.
The Packers liked how his size (6-1, 207) translated to special teams enough to cut veteran Ryan Taylor and promote Dorsey to the active roster Oct. 6. Dorsey leap-frogged Janis on the depth chart and played in three games before sustaining a foot injury in practice that landed him on injured reserve for a second consecutive season. He can play on any special teams unit, but hasn't been able to stay healthy since arriving in Green Bay as a seventh-round pick in 2013.
The Wautoma native and former walk-on at Wisconsin immediately gained a cult following after the Packers drafted him in the fifth round last May. However, he tore his ACL a week into training camp and spent the season on injured reserve. There are questions about his size (6-1, 195) and durability, but the Packers remain excited about his potential as a slot receiver.
Quarless started as the de facto starting tight end with Jermichael Finley's departure, but lost the job coming out of camp to rookie Richard Rodgers before regaining it Week 4. Quarless never caught more than four passes in any game, but had moments in catching 29 passes for 323 yards and three touchdowns. His finest hour came against Miami when he called for the ball with 6 seconds remaining on a 4-yard touchdown pass over linebacker Philip Wheeler in the right corner of the end zone. His drop near the goal line against New Orleans was a turning point in the game and resulted in a David Hawthrone interception. He had two drops on 31 catchable passes and was flagged three times for false starts and once for holding. It still doesn't seem like he has regained all of his strength after blowing out his knee in 2011, giving up a sack.
Rodgers impressed early with his hands and won the tight end job coming out of camp. He started three games without a reception before Detroit defensive end Jason Jones blew Rodgers off the ball to force a safety late in the Packers' 19-7 loss to the Lions in Week 3. Quarless jumped into the starting lineup the next week. Still, Rodgers improved as a blocker as the year went on. He finished fourth among NFL rookie tight ends with 20 catches for 225 yards and two touchdowns. Rodgers caught a crucial 13-yard bullet from Rodgers in the back of the end zone in the divisional playoffs against Dallas. He was penalized once in 483 snaps (offensive pass interference). He dropped one pass.
It looked like Bostick was in line for an increased role after working with the starting two-minute offense in training camp. However, Bostick missed a month with a leg injury he suffered in the second preseason game against St. Louis and then sat out more two games in November with a hip injury. The coaches didn't trust him enough to put him on the field for more than a handful of offensive snaps. He played a lot on special teams, but made the biggest blunder of the year when he jumped in front of Nelson and fumbled the onside kick against Seattle. The Packers have invested three years into converting the former Newberry College receiver to tight end. Bostick has nine career receptions for 123 yards and two touchdowns to show for it.
Colt Lyerla had the name. Justin Perillo had the mindset. While the troubled but talented Oregon talent tight end fumbled away countless opportunities, Perillo caught everything thrown his way to get on the Packers' radar. After starting on the practice squad, Perillo was promoted to the active roster Nov. 15 when Bostick injured his hip. He played two games before being a healthy scratch for the final six. He offers insurance as a backup long snapper.
Sitton has been one of the league's premier guards for the past few years, and finally is starting to be recognized for it. He didn't miss a start despite playing with torn ligaments in his left big toe, an injury that's been known to end a player's season. He was limited in practice the rest of the season. Sitton lost a bit of his power and mobility, but didn't allow a sack and only four hits while playing nearly 1,000 offensive snaps. He remained a linchpin as the pulling guard on screen plays and counters. He was penalized three times with only one pre-snap. When the toe injury forced him off the field-goal protection unit, his absence showed in Mason Crosby having two field goals and two extra points blocked in the second half of the season. Sitton returned as a left wing during the playoffs. For his efforts, Sitton was voted to his first Pro Bowl and second-team All-Pro.
This was the kind of year Bulaga needed after spending most of the past two seasons on injured reserve. He suffered a scare when he sprained his MCL against Seattle in the opener, but missed only one game. Bulaga also was forced out of the Packers' 21-13 loss to the Bills on Dec. 14 with a concussion. In both instances, his absence was felt at right tackle. He allowed four sacks and was penalized seven times. Bulaga had a team-high five false starts and picked up two more against Seattle. Still, he got better as the year went on, especially when Rodgers was hobbled. He has the best pedigree on the line and will be among the most coveted offensive tackles on the free-agent market.
The drafting and development of Linsley was paramount to the Packers' success, especially after being thrust into the starting lineup after starter JC Tretter was sidelined for the first eight games with a knee injury. Linsley wound up being the only individual to play all 1,050 offensive snaps, allowing one sack and being penalized five times (three holding, one false start, one ineligible receiver). He had his share of rookie moments, especially early. He and Rodgers missed an exchange on the first play against the New York Jets in Week 2, resulting in a fumble. Linsley also misheard a call and snapped to Rodgers too early in the divisional playoffs against Dallas, which led to a turnover. Still, his weight-room strength translates to the field. He's also instinctive enough to keep pace in the no-huddle. Rodgers has been calling for a long-term answer at center after having a different starter in each of the past four seasons. By all indications, Linsley is the guy.
You have to give Lang and Sitton a lot of credit for being able to shift gears after spending the entire offseason program and most of camp next to Tretter. Rodgers has total confidence in both guards, who picked up calls when Linsley was getting his feet wet. Like Sitton, Lang played through injury during the second half of the season. He suffered a sprained ankle against New Orleans, but didn't miss a start. He allowed three sacks and was penalized three times (two holding, unnecessary roughness), though he wasn't flagged for a pre-snap penalty. Better in pass protection than the run game, but a tenacious leader in the clubhouse. Contributed to the line giving up only 30 sacks (fewest since 2007) and paved the way for Lacy's second consecutive 1,000-yard season.
Bakhtiari put on an extra 10-15 pounds to stand up better to bull rushes. He started every game for the second consecutive season and brought stability to the left tackle spot. He had a pair of rough outings against Miami and New Orleans, but battled through them. While there's still room for improvement as a run blocker, Bakhtiari has been reliable protecting Rodgers' blind side. He trimmed his sacks allowed from 10 to seven and was flagged for four fewer penalties than his rookie season. He still led the team with nine, including seven holding calls. Bakhtiari, a Pro Bowl alternate, has built a good rapport with Sitton and mostly has been an afterthought on the offensive line, a perfect description for a starting NFL left tackle.
Taylor played in all 16 games on special teams, but saw his only meaningful playing time on offense against New Orleans when Lang exited. He was fine as a pass blocker, but struggled against the run. During a critical fourth-and-1 play, Saints' Tyrunn Walker blew past Taylor to stop Lacy for a 1-yard loss. He also got pushed back by Chicago's Willie Young and Atlanta's Ra'Shede Hageman on two blocked kicks on the protection unit. Taylor served as an extra lineman on short-yardage situations late in the season.
Tretter spent the offseason program being groomed as the Packers' starting center until he suffered an impaction fracture of his knee in the third preseason game. He spent the first eight games of the season on temporary injured reserve. He played 11 snaps against Buffalo at right tackle in place of an injured Bulaga, giving up a late strip sack of Rodgers to Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes that ended chances of a comeback in the 21-13 defeat. He entered as an extra short-yardage blocker late in the season. Detroit safety Isa Abdul-Quddus also split Tretter and Quarless to block a field goal in the regular-season finale.
Gerhart didn't make the initial 53-man roster, but was promoted before the regular-season opener against Seattle when Tretter was placed on temporary injured reserve. He played in two games and was active in three others. He was a healthy scratch during the last eight games.
Although Bulaga reclaimed his post at right tackle, Barclay provided a lot of value to the Packers as a swing tackle. That was exemplified when Bulaga sprained his MCL in the opener in Seattle and Derek Sherrod had to fill in with disastrous results. The Packers were fortunate Bulaga missed only one game the rest of the way after Barclay started in his place for 1½ seasons. A restricted free agent, Barclay's stability might be worth the first-right-of-refusal tender of $1.5 million.
Adams stayed in Green Bay last offseason and made a lot of changes to his body, adding 10 pounds to his frame for training camp. The practice-squad holdover gave up a sack and three quarterback hits before tearing his ACL in the preseason finale against Kansas City.
A: Elite NFL player
B: Above average
D: Below average
F: Failed to perform at an NFL level
Note: Dropped passes, missed tackles, touchdowns allowed and sacks allowed were according to Pro Football Focus. Penalties according to NFLPenalties.com.
By the numbers
Key 2014 statistics, with NFL ranking out of 32 teams in parentheses.
Total offense: 386.1 yards per game (sixth).
Rushing offense: 119.8 yards per game (11th).
Passing offenses: 266.3 yards per game (eighth).
Total defense: 346.4 yards per game (15th).
Rushing defense: 119.9 yards per game (23rd).
Passing defense: 226.4 yards per game (10th).
Turnover differential: Plus-14 (first).
Takeaways: 27 (18 interceptions, nine fumble recoveries).
Giveaways: 13 (six interceptions, seven lost fumbles).
Net punting: 37.0 yards (31st).
Kickoff return average: 19.1 yards per return (31st).
Punt return average: 11.5 yards per return (fifth).
Sacks: 41 (tied for ninth).
Sacks allowed: 30 (tied for ninth fewest).
Penalties: 104 (tied for 13th fewest).