QUARTERBACK – Other than throwing three interceptions, including a rare pick-six vs. Cincy, Aaron Rodgers has been terrific. Playing with no running game, no tackles and receivers who can’t get much separation down the field, the two-time MVP has still thrown for 1,146 yards and 10 TDs in four games. He’s been so good for so long that it’s easy to take what he does for granted. That would be a shame. Packers fans should savor every single snap No. 12 takes from center. Brett Hundley played briefly against the Bears last Thursday, completing his only pass for 0 yards.
Here’s a perfect example of taking Rodgers for granted. This 10-yard completion against the Bengals is ridiculously difficult, and yet he makes it seem almost routine. First, he has to avoid pressure and then – throwing while falling away – threads the needle to Jordy Nelson for a huge first down late in the fourth quarter.
GRADE – A
RUNNING BACK – Against the Bears, Ty Montgomery finally started to look like the player who averaged 5.9 yards per carry a year ago. And then he got hurt – yet again. The fragile former wide receiver simply can’t be expected to play as much as he did in the first three games (205 snaps), and maybe he won’t have to after the impressive debut of Aaron Jones. Getting his chance only after both Montgomery and fellow rookie Jamaal Williams left the Chicago game with injuries, the fifth-round pick from UTEP ran for 49 yards on 13 carries, and just as importantly, held up in pass protection. Williams has been exactly as advertised – dependable but pedestrian with the ball in his hands. Devante Mays has yet to see action on offense.
This play is why it’s OK to be a little excited about Jones. You’d have to go back to Jonathan Franklin in 2013 to find a Packers’ running back with this type of speed and quickness. He may not be Ezekiel Elliott or Dalvin Cook when it comes to explosiveness, but he sure ain’t Brandon Jackson, Eddie Lacy or James Starks either.
GRADE – C
FULLBACK – It’s gone largely unnoticed, but Aaron Ripkowski is off to a very slow start. The third-year fullback, along with the banged-up offensive line, is a big reason why the running backs are averaging less than 4 yards per carry. The 250-pounder from Oklahoma needs to improve his physicality. He’s losing more than he’s winning against linebackers at the point of attack. If this continues for another few weeks, the Packers might want to seriously think about re-signing Joe Kerridge, who was released at the end of camp.
GRADE – C-
TIGHT END – The Packers didn’t spend $20 million to get an updated version of Ed West, but that’s the tight end Martellus Bennett has resembled through four games. The 30-year-old is averaging only 8.3 yards on 17 receptions and looks slow both before and after the catch. He’s also dropped five balls. Fortunately, his blocking has been a plus. Lance Kendricks needs to be on the field for more than 17.5 snaps per game. The former Badger is the only tight end on the roster who can at least threaten defenses down the field. Richard Rodgers has improved his blocking, but he’s become the forgotten man at the position.
The Packers weren’t expecting Bennett to be Ozzie Newsome or Rob Gronkowski in the passing game, but they also weren’t expecting him to be West or Rodgers. This is a play that needs to gain more than a measly 2 yards. It doesn’t because the 275-pound Bennett takes forever to gather himself after the catch. This allows 210-pound safeties like Adrian Amos to cut him down before he can even get started up the field.
GRADE – C
WIDE RECEIVER – Davante Adams has surpassed Jordy Nelson as the best player at this position. Prior to getting injured assaulted against the Bears, the former Fresno State star was proving that last season was no fluke. He’s the one receiver on the roster who doesn’t need Rodgers to run around for 10 seconds to get open down the field. His return to health is vital for the offense. Nelson, thanks to his incredible rapport with the QB, is still productive – especially in the red zone. But the 32-year-old no longer offers much after the catch. That’s why 16 of his 17 receptions have gone for only 148 yards. Randall Cobb leads the team in catches with 19, but for the third straight season, his average per is right around 10. And while he’s still quick, the explosiveness he showed early in his career has disappeared. Geronimo Allison has been better after the catch this season and played a big part in the OT win against Cincy in week 3. He’s a good fourth receiver. Trevor Davis should be thankful he’s effective on special teams because he’s shown little on offense in limited opportunities. The same can be said about Jeff Janis every season.
Here’s something you rarely see from the Packers’ offense – a trick play and a wide receiver running free down the field. Give Mike McCarthy credit for the call, and give Adams credit for turning it into a huge gain. No other receiver on the roster has his ability to run away from corners and run over safeties in the open field.
GRADE – B
OFFENSIVE LINE – Lane Taylor actually played better at left tackle in week 4 than he played at left guard in the prior three games. With renewed confidence, look for the former undrafted free agent to pick up the pace at his normal position starting next week in Dallas. Jahri Evans has been OK at right guard. As advertised, pass protection is the strength of his game. The Packers have to hope the 34-year-old can maintain this level of play for an entire season. If not, at least young Lucas Patrick offers an intriguing alternative. The second-year player from Duke was more than adequate in his NFL debut against the Bears. While his run blocking was hit or miss, he more than held his own in pass protection against some pretty good defensive linemen. It’s amazing the Packers are 3-1 despite David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga being on the field for only a combined 129 snaps all season. Kyle Murphy and Justin McCray deserve some credit for that. Neither was particularly good filling in for the injured starters, but neither was a complete train wreck either. As always, center Corey Linsley has been rock solid in the middle of the line. The soon-to-be unrestricted free agent does a great job of giving help when and where needed.
Despite playing with sixth and seventh-string tackles, the Packers’ offensive line dominated the Bears’ defensive line all night. The tone was set early thanks to Patrick (#62). Watch how the second-year pro puts veteran linebacker Willie Young (#97) on his back and helps Montgomery pick up 4 yards and a first down.
GRADE – C
KICKER – Mason Crosby has been perfect (4 for 4 on field goals and 12 for 12 on PATs). He’s also done this with a rookie holder, and more recently, a rookie long snapper. Eight of his 21 kickoffs have been returned. That percentage is just a bit lower than a year ago. The 33-year-old shows no signs of slowing down.
GRADE – A