From 1 to 89: Consistently Good

James Jones (No. 15), Sam Shields (No. 16) and Brad Jones (No. 17) joined Josh Sitton (No. 18) and Ryan Pickett (No. 19) in becoming reliable, consistent performers.

As we've done in past years, we're counting down the Green Bay Packers' roster, from No. 89 to No. 1.

These rankings are not simply based on skill. Players are ranked on their importance to the team. Skill, a player's position, the depth of his position group, the odds he contributes, salary and draft history all play a part in how a player is ranked. More than the ranking itself, hopefully you will learn a little something about each of the 89 players in the process.

No. 15: Mr. Jones

It took James Jones until his sixth season to become a reliable receiver. Now, neither the Packers nor Jones can afford a bit of regression.

For Jones, he's heading toward free agency. The last time was after the lockout heading into the 2011 season. At that time, he had dropped as many potential big plays as he had caught, and those flubs cost him dearly. With the Vikings being the only other team to show considerable interest, Jones settled for a three-year deal worth merely $9.6 million.

He certainly outperformed that contract last season, when he led the NFL with 14 touchdown catches. After ranking second among NFL receivers in drop rate from 2009 through 2011, according to ProFootballFocus.com, Jones dropped just three last season while catching 64 passes. His drop rate of 4.48 percent (based on 93 catchable passes) ranked fifth in the NFL among receivers with at least 60 receptions. Greg Jennings had a drop rate of 5.26 percent, Randall Cobb 12.09 percent and Jordy Nelson 14.04 percent.

Now, the 29-year-old needs a suitable encore, and not just from a personal perspective. Jones joins Nelson, Cobb and the consistently inconsistent Jermichael Finley as the only familiar faces in the passing game. For the Packers to get back to championship status, they need Jones to be just as reliable in 2012.

"We're all in it together," Jones said. "We've all got to go out there and make plays, make the most of our chances. It's going to be different without Greg (Jennings), but Greg was hurt last year and Donald (Driver) didn't play that much last year. It was me, Jordy and Randall. Really, roles don't change. We've just got to go out there and continue to make plays."

No. 16: Sam, I am

Sam Shields is a few mental breakdowns from being an elite cornerback. If not for an 80-yard touchdown against New Orleans and a 65-yarder that led to a touchdown at Minnesota — both times, Shields was guilty of peeking into the backfield — he would have allowed just 210 receiving yards last season. Among cornerbacks who played 50 percent of their teams' snaps, that would have led the league by a whopping 125 yards.

As it was, he tied for second with 355 yards allowed, according to ProFootballFocus.com. He also led the NFL with just 21 receptions allowed and was sixth with 47.7 percent completions.

"Sam is a big-time player," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. "It's fun to have him around. He's one of the faster guys in the league. It's fun to see him grow from making a big pick in the playoffs in 2010 to becoming a starter, dealing with some injuries, working through those and he's a guy that you enjoy having him around and watching him make plays."

No. 17: Mr. Jones II

To state the obvious, Brad Jones took advantage of his opportunity.

Having been moved from outside linebacker to inside linebacker, Jones entered last training camp on the roster bubble. Without Desmond Bishop sustaining a season-ending hamstring injury in the preseason opener, there's no guarantee Jones would have made the roster. When Bishop's replacement, D.J. Smith, sustained a season-ending knee injury in Week 6 at Houston, Jones moved into the starting lineup and rarely came off the field.

In 10 starts, Jones registered 100 tackles. In the last four games, he tallied 15, 13, 11 and 10 tackles. He forced the only fumble among the inside linebackers. He parlayed that production into a three-year contract worth $11.25 million.

On the other hand, Jones missed four tackles to rank 25th in tackling efficiency out of 35 3-4 inside/4-3 middle linebackers who played at least 50 percent of the snaps and was 21st with a passer rating allowed of 106.6, according to ProFootballFocus.com.

"Brad Jones impressed overall with everything he did, from taking over, run game, blitz — didn't have a chance to blitz as much as I would have liked — but his pass technique was excellent," inside linebackers coach Winston Moss said. "Any time he was matched up, whether they were running backs, tight ends or receivers, he did an excellent job."

No. 18: Sitton in a new spot

A fourth-round pick in 2008, Josh Sitton had established himself as one of the best guards in the NFL during his four seasons as the full-time starting right guard. Based on ProFootballFocus.com's player ratings, Sitton was the No. 8 guard overall (No. 6 right guard) in 2009, No. 2 (No. 1 right guard) in 2010, No. 5 (No. 3 right guard) in 2011 and No. 6 (No. 4 right guard) in 2012. He allowed nine sacks during those seasons.

So, coach Mike McCarthy is taking a bit of a gamble by moving Sitton to the left side. At least he'll be lining up with Bryan Bulaga; Sitton had started games with seven right tackles. Sitton and Bulaga started 34 games together on the right side.

Sitton, who is signed through 2016 in a deal worth $34.9 million, has been the team's best lineman. Offensive line coach James Campen didn't think the change would impact the high standard that Sitton has set.

"Josh is a good athlete and can adjust to things very quickly," Campen said.

No. 19: Pickett fence

Ryan Pickett is 33 and entering his final season under contract. Other than Donald Driver, who had gained national acclaim by winning a dance competition, the Packers have shown little interest in re-signing long-in-the-tooth players.

Might Pickett be the exception?

Since Dom Capers arrived as defensive coordinator in 2009, Pickett has been the rugged rock in the middle of the defense. He is far and away the defensive line's leader in terms of tackles on a per-snap basis. In fact, he led the unit in that category in 2009, 2010 and 2011 before being unseated by C.J. Wilson last season.

Pickett has a cap figure of $6.7 million. Based on his standard of play, there's no reason to believe he won't be back at least for 2013.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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