Annual 89-to-1 Roster Countdown: 4-6

In Part 15, Sam Shields got paid, Jordy Nelson will get paid and Eddie Lacy was a second-round steal.

For the sixth year, Packer Report takes a bottom-to-top look at the Green Bay Packers’ roster. This list doesn't necessarily rank the players from best to worst, but we take into account the players’ importance on the roster and other factors such as contracts and potential.

RankPlayerPos.HtWtAgeYrSchool
4 Sam ShieldsCB5-11 184 265Miami (Fla.)
5 Jordy NelsonWR6-3 217 297Kansas State
6 Eddie LacyRB5-11230 242Alabama

Shields: With Tramon Williams and Davon House entering their final seasons under contract, the expectation coming with a lucrative contract is nothing less than Shields becoming the star of the secondary for years to come.

His four-year, $39 million deal equates to $9.75 million per season. That makes him the third-highest-paid player on the roster, behind Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews.

Shields has played to that level for large portions of the past two seasons. Last year, according to ProFootballFocus.com, Shields tied for eighth among cornerbacks by yielding completions on 50.0 percent of targeted passes. His 25 passes defensed led the team, according to the coaches’ count.

Frequently, he came up big against top competition. In Week 2 against Washington, he was awarded a game ball. In Week 3 against Cincinnati, he helped limit A.J. Green to four catches. In Week 5 against Baltimore, he held Torrey Smith to one catch for 12 yards. In Week 6, he didn’t allow a catch against Cleveland’s Josh Gordon. In Week 10 against Philadelphia, he yielded two receptions for 24 yards to DeSean Jackson. Against Detroit in Week 13, he gave up three catches to Calvin Johnson but intercepted a pass. In Week 15 at Dallas, he made a remarkable interception to help win the game. In Week 17 at Chicago, he gave up just one catch — though that was a 37-yarder to Brandon Marshall.

Now, it’s up to Shields to tighten up his game. That means less peeking in the backfield, more consistent tackling and staying healthy.

“Sam has room to grow,” said the man who mentored Shields to this level, cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt. “There are a couple routes that we have to play better, concepts that we have to do better to be the type of player that he’s supposed to be. He’s supposed to be an elite corner and he has that ability. We have work to do. There’s nobody satisfied. He’s happy he got that contract but we’re about winning championships here and playing at a high level, and we didn’t get that done last year.

Nelson: Nelson was on pace for one of the great receiving seasons in NFL history until Aaron Rodgers sustained his broken collarbone.

During the eight games that Rodgers started and finished, Nelson caught 49 passes for 810 yards and seven touchdowns. Put those numbers together over the course of 16 games, and you get 98 receptions for 1,620 yards and 14 touchdowns, with an average of 16.5 yards per reception. The yardage count, in particular, was staggering, as Nelson would have ranked 14th in NFL history and fallen 27 yards short of No. 10 all-time.

Even with four quarterbacks, Nelson ranked second among wide receivers with at least 50 receptions with a catch percentage of 70.8, according to ProFootballFocus.com. Of the 46 receivers to catch 50 passes, Nelson ranked 14th with a drop rate of 6.59 percent (six drops out of 91 catchable passes). He does the big things — his 19 receptions of 25-plus yards led the NFL and are the fifth-most in the NFL since STATS began tracking that figure in 1994. He also did the little things — he forced 12 missed tackles, which tied for 15th in the league, according to ProFootballFocus.com.

Without James Jones and Jermichael Finley, the Packers have what is essentially a three-man pass-catching corps. Nelson will be counted on more than ever to help power the passing attack. From that perspective, he picked a great time to be entering his final season under contract.

“Oh, jeez. Get through OTAs and minicamp. That’s the first one,” Nelson said of his goals for 2014. “Just make sure we get to training camp healthy is No. 1. We’ll worry about everything else when that happens. It will be the same. I keep my goals pretty simple. It’s just doing my job and, when you get the opportunity, make the most of it.”

Lacy: While Ryan Grant had back-to-back 1,200-yard seasons, Lacy provided Green Bay’s best rushing attack since Ahman Green was running wild a decade earlier.

Despite getting benched after fumbling against San Francisco and missing most of the Washington game and all of the Cincinnati game with a concussion, Lacy rumbled for 1,178 yards. That led all rookies and ranked eighth in the league. Following the Week 4 bye, Lacy rushed for 1,127 yards. Only the Eagles’ LeSean McCoy (1,139) rushed for more yards during that stretch.

Almost unbelievably, the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year was better without Rodgers — a period when defenses put a bull’s-eye on the burly rookie wearing No. 27. With Rodgers, Lacy carried 136 times for 532 yards (3.91 average) and four touchdowns. With Rodgers on the sideline, Lacy carried 148 times for 646 yards (4.36 per carry) and seven touchdowns. Those numbers were helped by a 56-yarder in the first Chicago game and a 60-yard, game-turning dash at Dallas. Take those out, and Lacy averaged 3.63 without Rodgers — still not a bad number, considering the circumstances. He showed toughness plowing through tacklers, handling a 20-carry load in 11 of 16 games and playing on a bum ankle for the stretch run.

“Just to try to continue to do the same thing,” Lacy said of his approach to 2014. “I’m not going to try to do no more than I did last year and no less. A lot of guys are expecting a lot out of me and I’m just going to try to do that.”


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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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