McGinn: 2016 Packers offensive player grades
Of the 29 Green Bay Packers players on offense receiving grades for the 2016 season, only two earned A's on Bob McGinn's annual report card (quarterback Aaron Rodgers and left tackle David Bakhtiari with A-minuses).
Of the rest, there were seven B's, seven C's, five D's and two F's (rookie offensive lineman Jason Spriggs and running back James Starks). Six players had incompletes.
WIDE RECEIVERS (7)
DAVANTE ADAMS: Blossomed into a legitimate starter after a woeful season in 2015. Came back lighter, more determined and better able to put distractions aside. Hard to jam because of his quick feet, fast hands and improved technique. Doesn’t scare teams with his speed but still led the team in gains for more than 35 yards (six). Improved his average after the catch from 3.02 yards to 4.81. Still breaks hearts with inopportune dropped passes, but his drop rate of 6.2% (nine of 145) was less than half of last year’s 12.5% (12 of 96). Demonstrated athleticism and intelligence by flourishing in 24 snaps as a RB. Grade: B.
GERONIMO ALLISON: Rookie free agent came off the practice squad to play 305 snaps in last 13 games. No situation, no assignment was too big for him. Towers above cornerbacks at 6 feet 3 ½ inches but made a name for himself by catching several shin-high throws. Good body control and hands (one drop in 35 targets), and surprising acceleration for someone with a 4.59-second 40 time. Fit into the scramble route mode demanded in Green Bay. Grade: C-minus.
RANDALL COBB: Has taken a lot of shots as a receiver-runner-returner in six seasons and might be starting to break down. Missed three games, buffeted by an assortment of injuries for the second straight season. Operates much better in the slot than outside. Lacks proper catching radius and size for the perimeter. Isn’t asked to run many routes but, with his quickness, still can be a mismatch for some nickel backs. Last year, he dropped more passes (14) than any Packers receiver in the last 25 years; he also had nine in 2014. Allayed fears his hands were suspect with only two drops in 105 targets (team-best drop rate of 1.9%). Also led the club in average yards after the catch (5.05). Played 46 snaps as a RB but took a pounding and didn’t appear there in last six games. Grade: C-plus.
TREVOR DAVIS: Had some big days early in training camp but wasn’t ready for the bright lights. Dropped passes in Game 3 and Game 9, and then wasn’t targeted again. Needs strength development. His speed is real, but until he can release more readily from press coverage his career won’t advance. A quiet individual, he was content to remain in the shadows throughout his rookie season. The Packers certainly could use a deep threat. His 55-yard punt return, the team’s longest of the season, was offset by two fumbles (one lost) on returns. Grade: D.
JEFF JANIS: Under contract for another year but his best chance for success probably lies with another team. Ranked as a major disappointment as a receiver, both in training camp and career-high 265-play stint during the season. Targeted just 19 times, catching 11 and dropping one. Stiff, straight-line speed guy with rudimentary route-running skills and ordinary hands. Special-teams coverage was affected by mid-August finger surgery but he returned to his old dominating ways in final month. Small-town kid eager to please but never could mesh with Aaron Rodgers. Grade: D-plus.
MAX McCAFFREY: Spent four weeks on the practice squad before being promoted day before the NFC Championship Game. Nice size (6-2, 200) and speed (4.45), 36 ½-inch vertical jump and 27 on the Wonderlic intelligence test. Cut by Raiders as rookie free agent at end of training camp. Father, Ed, caught 565 passes as NFL WR from 1991-’03. Grade: Incomplete.
JORDY NELSON: Will be 32 in May but loves playing and might be better another year removed from reconstructive knee surgery. Never played a snap in the exhibition season, and understandably started slow. Improvement began near midseason before broken ribs sabotaged his playoff performance. He’s obviously slowed down somewhat. Often, he was just looking to go down after receptions. His average yards after catch was 3.58, lowest since his rookie year. On 41 of his 104 catches, he had either zero or minus YAC. He also dropped nine passes, a 5.6% drop rate that was identical to his last season (’14). Used his size, savvy and telepathy with Rodgers to catch 15 touchdowns. Of the 15, the average distance was 9.9 yards; seven came on extended plays. He played 1,080 snaps, four fewer than Adams. Grade: B.
TIGHT ENDS (2)
JARED COOK: With all their needs on defense the Packers should re-sign Cook, and he deserves a bump from last season’s one-year, $2.75 million deal. Based on what some personnel people had said, Cook figured to be a malcontent that would kill you with drops. The change in scenery must have helped because he fit well here and didn’t have a drop in training camp or the first nine games. He finished with five, a rate of 6.2% that compared favorably to Jermichael Finley’s drop rates of 8.8%, 6.3% and 12.6% in his final three seasons (2011-’13). Cook isn’t nearly as flexible or athletic as Finley but he is a more dependable catcher. He has a large catching radius, great size and seam-stretching speed. A willing but not overly effective blocker, he allowed 2 ½ pressures and 2 ½ “bad” runs. Missed six games (ankle) but still played 479 snaps, including 34.7% with his hand down. Grade: B-minus.
RICHARD RODGERS: Averaged 51.2 snaps in the six games without Cook and 27.7 in the 13 games with Cook. Finished with 667 yards in 51.6% playing time, including 42.7% with his hand down. Reported about 15 pounds lighter this year. Does show more wiggle than Cook on the move. However, Cook has 4.55 speed compared to Rodgers’ 4.87, which is largely why Cook had the better average per catch (12.6 to 9.8) and the better average after the catch (3.8 to 3.1). Despite having superb hands, Rodgers’ drop rate of 10.6% was the worst on the team. His blocking remains well below average, too. He was charged with 10 ½ “bad” runs, slightly less than his totals of 16 ½ last year and 13 in ’14. Grade: C-minus.
OFFENSIVE LINE (9)
DAVID BAKHTIARI: Talk about money well spent. One day before the opener, the Packers signed him to a four-year, $49.677 million ($16M guaranteed) extension. Unfazed, Bakhtiari only got better and better. Just as the Packers did with Chad Clifton for a decade, they almost never felt the need to help their left tackle. The key in Bakhtiari’s development has been the additional strength and girth that has enabled him to anchor against power rushers. At the same time, he’s athletic enough to ride rushers on a too-wide arc. He’s tough and remarkably consistent. He hates getting beat, garbage time or not. Playing 97.4% of the downs, he allowed the fewest “bad” runs of the starters (nine); two years ago, he yielded 19 ½. Steady growth also was evident in pressures allowed: his totals are 37 in ’13, 33 in ’14, 27 in ’15 and 19 this year. Having been penalized 28 times from 2013-’15, he even made a necessary reduction to five. Grade: A-minus.
DON BARCLAY: Ted Thompson and the coaches gambled that Barclay would bounce back from his horrific season of 2015 largely because he’d be another year removed from ACL surgery. He held up fine at RG in Tennessee and at LG in Atlanta; his start at RG in Washington was subverted by a shoulder injury suffered in warm-ups. In all, Barclay’s 196 snaps included 52 at LG, one at center, 137 at RG and six at RT. His total of four penalties was excessive. His six pressures were high, too, but he wasn’t responsible for a “bad” run. Grade: D-plus.
BRYAN BULAGA: His decision to play lighter at about 310 pounds helped him play 97.3% of the snaps. He had to leave four games early because of injury but always came back ready the next week. The Packers had no need to help him much, either. He’s experienced, strong, works well outside with his hands and still moves his feet OK. Although there were just three sacks, he led the team in pressures allowed with 33. That was Bulaga’s highest total since his rookie season of 2010. From a statistical standpoint, his run blocking was more impressive. He had 10 “bad” runs”, down from 17 last season. A series of major injuries probably gave the Packers pause about the five-year, $33.75 million deal they signed him to in March 2015. Now, at his lighter weight, management has increased hope he can last the final three years of the deal. Grade: B.
T.J. LANG: Hip and foot injuries limited Lang to 74.6% playing time in his eighth season. He had surgery on the hip Friday. Based on his excellent performance, the Packers need to bring him back for two or three years at a representative dollar amount. Lang can hold up against just about any defensive lineman. He’s quick, can anchor, competes and has a terrific punch. Not much bad happens near him in protection. He allowed just 13 pressures, the lowest total of his career (obviously, missing a quarter of the season should be factored in). His 11 “bad” runs were a career low as well. He is the unquestioned leader of a superb offensive line. Grade: B-plus.
COREY LINSLEY: Linsley had a terrific season, especially considering that from mid-May until mid-October he couldn’t do much of anything because of a torn hamstring. A similar injury ended the playing career of his coach, James Campen, in 1993. Conveniently for Linsley and the Packers, Linsley’s return from the PUP list coincided exactly with JC Tretter’s MCL tear that ended his season. Linsley isn’t big, fast or flashy. He just kind of muddles along, like the dependable centers, and doesn’t get noticed. In truth, he’s really good. His numbers (9 ½, pressures, 8 ½ “bad” runs, one penalty) were top-notch in 62.2% playing time. Grade: B.
KYLE MURPHY: Outlasted G Lucas Patrick for the final roster berth but was inactive for 15 games. Played eight snaps: four at RG, four at TE. He needs major weight and strength development but his feet aren’t bad. A sixth-round draft choice, he looks more like a tackle than a guard. Grade: Incomplete.
JASON SPRIGGS: He left an awful final impression in 30 snaps against Atlanta. Obviously, he’s a fine athlete. Anyone can see that within two minutes. But if a lineman can’t anchor it doesn’t matter how athletic he is. Opponents will just go right through him. That’s kind of where the Packers find themselves with Spriggs. He’s soft, plays light and gets knocked off balance routinely. Even as an extra TE, a confidence-building role for a young player, he whiffed too much. His 21.4% playing time included 31 snaps at TE, 34 at LT, 183 at RG, and 29 at RT. Still, he gave up 14 pressures and 7 ½ “bad” runs. Spriggs’ future must be at tackle. He was mauled, and would continue to be mauled, if he has to play guard. Grade: F.
LANE TAYLOR: There’s no doubt that he was the fifth-best starter. Nevertheless, he played on one of the NFL’s finest pass-blocking lines and never came close to embarrassing himself as a first-year starter. Taylor is a hands-outside pass protector with the girth to avoid being walked back too far against power. He uses his bulk in the run game to hold his own against defensive linemen. Due to athletic limitations, he isn’t nearly as good blocking at the second level. Scouts say he has a bad body, and there are shortcomings evident in quickness and flexibility. Playing 96%, he led the club in “bad” runs with 13 and gave up 28 ½ pressures. Josh Sitton, the veteran that he replaced, never allowed more than 18 pressures in a season. Be that as it may, there was much to admire about Taylor’s nose-to-the-grindstone, get-it-done approach. His self-confidence never wavered. Grade: C.
JC TRETTER: Assuming there’s a legitimate offer, he can be expected to depart in March as an unrestricted free agent. Of the Packers’ 72 games over the last four seasons, he was healthy enough to play in just 35. A TE early in his college career, Tretter concerns some scouts who wonder if he’s innately strong enough to hold up physically. Center is Tretter’s best position because of his modest size and keen diagnostic/communication skill. This year, it was a sprained knee that sidelined him for good after seven starts at center. He allowed 10 pressures and 8 ½ “bad” runs. Grade: C-minus.
JOE CALLAHAN: Mike McCarthy clearly believes in him. It’s why he gave Callahan a spot on the roster for 10 of the 19 weeks as the No. 3 rather than a player with the chance to help immediately. Callahan has two big factors working against him: he’s short (6-1) and he’s slow (4.98). When Brett Hundley had ankle problems most of training camp Callahan started two of the four exhibition games and played 61.4% of the snaps. He’s a quick learner with a good arm, especially on the move. Grade: Incomplete.
BRETT HUNDLEY: The free-agent departure of Scott Tolzien resulted in Hundley moving from No. 3 to No. 2. He still hasn’t played a meaningful snap in the regular season, and the ankle injury limited him to merely 20 snaps in 2016 exhibitions. He has two years left on his contract. Grade: Incomplete.
AARON RODGERS: Over the span of 21 games (Game 7 of 2015 to Game 9 of 2016) Rodgers surpassed 100 in passer rating three times and the Packers were 9-12. He wasn’t seeing the field, he wasn’t throwing accurately and he was scrambling just to scramble. This was happening despite being afforded remarkable time to throw. Although the Packers lost Game 10 in Washington, it was the start of a return by Rodgers to his former extraordinary play. In the last 10 games, he surpassed 100 seven times and the Packers went 7-3. Why? It’s simple. He just started playing a whole lot better. Without a legitimate running game or defense, McCarthy put it on Rodgers and he responded beautifully. He started trusting his receivers and, for a change, made play after play from the pocket. He went 8 ½ games without an interception. After fumbling six times (losing three) in the first six games, he fumbled just twice (losing none) in the last 13 games. He rushed for more yards than every quarterback except two. He did hold the ball excessively; he was charged with 16 ½ of the 45 sacks. There were too many unnecessary shots. Nevertheless, Rodgers played through various leg injuries. His toughness and durability are remarkable. He didn’t play well at all in the NFC Championship Game, an all-too-familiar occurrence in Packers’ playoff elimination games. His 36-yard sideline pass to Jared Cook as he escaped to the left with the final seconds ticking away in Dallas will long live in Packers lore. Grade: A-minus.
RUNNING BACKS (8)
JOHN CROCKETT: He spent all season on injured reserve with a shoulder injury. He isn’t expected to return: Grade: Incomplete.
DON JACKSON: After the Packers finished dilly-dallying with ex-Chief Knile Davis (13 snaps, five carries in two games), Jackson was called up from the practice squad. He played 29 snaps in Games 6-8, carrying 10 times for 32 yards. He actually started in Atlanta. Alas, he went on injured reserve shortly thereafter after suffering knee cartilage damage. He might be worth an off-season look. Grade: Incomplete.
JOE KERRIDGE: Fullbacks are difficult to find these days. He’ll be back in camp after effectively playing 21 snaps from scrimmage and 61 on special teams. The Redskins released Kerridge, a rookie free agent from Michigan where he split time for four years. His score of 30 on the Wonderlic test (Aaron Ripkowski scored 31) helps him play a mentally taxing position. Grade: D.
EDDIE LACY: The Packers laid down the law last year at this time and Lacy made an effort and lost some weight. It appeared as if he had put it all back on by October. Lacy looked even more immense on the sidelines in Atlanta at the NFC title game. No team wants a skill-position player to be that overweight and presumably out of shape. There’s little doubt it contributed to the ankle injury that knocked him out for the season in Game 5. He was slamming the ball between the tackles, too. Even with all their in-house resources, the Packers failed to keep Lacy’s weight down. It’s on the team as much as it’s on the player. Now the team gets a do-over. Is there any point to bringing him back? Hasn’t this story been told? Grade: C.
CHRISTINE MICHAEL: Michael has had a checkered career on and off the field. He keeps getting signed because of his energy in locker rooms and his explosiveness as a ball carrier. It’s obvious that he loves to play, which is very, very important. However, he’s undisciplined in almost everything that he does. The front office has to make sure he gets to the game. The coaches and quarterbacks can’t be sure if he’ll line up properly (Wonderlic of 11). The linemen have no earthly idea if he’ll follow their blocks or impatiently cut back. He struggles in all areas of the passing game. The Packers got 91 snaps and 186 yards from scrimmage out of him. Maybe it’s time they quit while they’re ahead. Grade: D-minus.
TY MONTGOMERY: Montgomery wants to junk the No. 88 jersey and dive into the off-season as a full-fledged running back. As it stands now, he’s the team’s only hope. That’s likely to change with reinforcements expected in the draft and free agency. Some scouts insist that Montgomery is a slot receiver and third-down back. They see him replacing Cobb in the not too distant future. Others view him as an ideal complementary back to Lacy or some other pounder. Montgomery deserves tremendous credit for switching positions at midstream. He rushed for 537 yards (5.4) and caught 54 passes (only two drops in 65 targets) for 425 yards. He wasn’t charged with a single “bad” run, either, meaning his vision was excellent. His pass protection (5 ½ pressures) was shaky, but what would you expect? It takes a different breed to withstand the punishment at the position. Seeing Montgomery knocked out of the NFC title game supported those who say he’s not a legitimate running back. Grade: B-minus.
AARON RIPKOWSKI: Ripkowski proved to be better than the aging John Kuhn. Could he become the player that William Henderson was? Unlikely. Henderson was an excellent lead blocker. Ripkowski will strike a blow blocking when his head is up, but when it’s down he’s been seen to miss badly. It’s interesting that Ripkowski played 362 snaps this year compared to Kuhn’s 363 last year. He’s a no-nonsense tough guy who was asked to do too much. Of course, McCarthy had little or no choice but to play the big man extensively in one-back looks. Ripkowski’s costly fumble will serve as an unhappy memory for fans of the defeat at the Georgia Dome. Grade: C.
JAMES STARKS: After another competent August, Starks began the season pleased to be in his No. 2 role for a seventh season. Then he carried four times for 7 yards in the opener and it was downhill from there. Time after time Starks was the picture of frustration clambering up from the bottom of a pile when his blocking failed or he danced too much. He averaged a pitiful 2.3 yards per carry, dropped two passes and wasn’t sharp in pass protection. Already relegated to third or fourth back status in Games 12-13, Starks’ season ended with a concussion suffered when his Range Rover collided with a semi tractor-trailer on Green Bay’s industrial north side in the early morning hours of Dec. 12. He never played or practiced again. Set to turn 31 next month, Starks has another year on his contract at $3 million. Grade: F.