Jenkins Wasn't Only Big FA Loss

While most of the "hindsight is 20-20 crowd" focuses on Cullen Jenkins free agent defection, he wasn't the only painful loss from last year's Super Bowl champions. That was particularly evident in the loss to the Giants.

In retrospect, Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson made a big blunder by letting a member of last year's Super Bowl champions depart in free agency.

Cullen Jenkins? Sure, that was a big loss.

So, too, was Brandon Jackson.

In his final two seasons as the Packers' primary running back on third down, Jackson didn't allow a sack. In his four years in Green Bay, he never lost a fumble and never was penalized. While he wasn't a dynamic threat with the ball, he finished 12th among running backs by catching 86.0 percent of the passes thrown his way and 14th in yards after the catch with 377 in 2010, according to Pro Football Focus. He dropped two passes.

Thompson let Jackson sign with Cleveland for a modest two years and $4.5 million, and the Packers never got close to replacing him.

For most of the season, the Packers went with James Starks with a smattering of Pro Bowl fullback John Kuhn. When Starks couldn't get healthy and stay healthy down the stretch, they even turned to undrafted rookie Brandon Saine.

The Packers got by for most of the season. Among running backs, Starks finished 17th with a catch percentage of 82.9 and 21st in YAC with 284. He dropped three passes, and despite a half-dozen of blatant blown assignments, he was generally acceptable in pass protection. Kuhn caught 83.3 percent but had just 70 yards after the catch and had three drops.

The playoff loss to the Giants was another story for the Packers' backfield on third down.

"We gave up two sacks in our room," running backs coach Jerry Fontenot said. "It wasn't anything that they hadn't shown. That was disappointing. It was basically one-on-one pass protection and their linebacker did a better job than we did blocking."

On third-and-8 on the Packers' first series, Kuhn couldn't hold off linebacker Jacquian Williams. Williams' pressure forced a hurried pass by Aaron Rodgers, with Rodgers missing a wide-open Greg Jennings for what should have been a touchdown.

With the Packers trailing 13-10 late in the first half and attempting to get into position for a field goal with a two-minute drill, linebacker Michael Boley bullied through Starks, easily worked inside and sacked Rodgers on third-and-6. The Packers punted, and four plays later, the Giants took a 20-10 lead on the Hail Mary to Hakeem Nicks.

Finally, the Packers trailed 20-13 but were driving toward the tying touchdown, with the ball at New York's 39 on a drive spanning the third and fourth quarters. However, after Rodgers and Jermichael Finley failed to connect on third-and-5, Saine couldn't prevent Boley from getting around the corner. Saine never recovered. Rodgers stepped up in the pocket but Boley dragged him down for his second sack — and first "championship belt" taunt — of the evening.

In 2010, on 100 snaps in which his sole responsibility was pass protection, Jackson allowed no sacks and two total pressures.

This season, according to Pro Football Focus, Starks allowed two sacks and three total pressures in 81 snaps. Also playing 81 snaps purely in pass protection, Kuhn allowed no sacks but four pressures. Saine allowed a sack in nine snaps of pass protection.

"It's obviously something that we all need to work on and maintain our focus on the importance of, especially going into the late part of the season," Fontenot said. "For me as a coach, I always think about how many live reps we get and how many opportunities we get to maintain those fundamentals in a live blocking atmosphere. I probably could have done a better job of that late in the season, so I take some of that responsibility. I think that we all learned from this experience, and sometimes we learn the hard way."

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at

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