Packers player notes

Nutshell summary for players on offense, defense and specialists

OFFENSE
-- QB Brett Favre was leaning late in the season toward giving it another season with a young offense on the rise, but after breaking all of the league's premier passing records and a Super Bowl victory already in his possession, the 38-year-old has little else to accomplish.

Still, the ultra competitor likely won't go out on a bad note, after his poorly thrown pass in overtime was intercepted and turned into the game-winning field goal by the Giants in the NFC Championship Game.

Favre turned back the clock this season in a profound way. More often than not, he played within the confines of head coach Mike McCarthy's low-risk West Coast system and prospered with three-step drops and short throws. Favre had a career-high 66.5 completion percentage in the regular season, cut his interceptions to 15 and, thanks to a workout program with a personal trainer in the offseason, was elusive to avoid many a sack. The notorious arm strength hasn't escaped Favre.

-- QB Aaron Rodgers didn't let his third season of waiting in the wings go to waste. He is much more comfortable in the offense, is a polished passer and showed he is ready for the starting gig, whenever that time comes, by coolly rallying the Packers to a near-victory at Dallas late in the season after Brett Favre was injured.

-- RB Ryan Grant stepped in at midseason and racked up 956 yards with eight touchdowns. His encore was even better, going for a franchise-record 201 yards and three TDs in the divisional playoff win over Seattle.

-- RB Brandon Jackson, a second-round draft pick, wasn't ready to be the lead guy at the start of the season, but he gradually found his way late in the season and has room to grow.

-- RB Vernand Morency, the anointed starter before he suffered a knee injury on the first day of training camp, is nothing more than a serviceable third-down back.

-- TE Donald Lee didn't let go of the starting job handed to him last offseason and established himself as one of the better downfield threats at tight end in the league. He was second on the team with six touchdown catches and ranked third with 48 receptions for 575 yards.

-- TE Bubba Franks languished through a season in which he lost the top job after seven years, sustained a knee injury in Week 6 that cost him eight games and finished with a career-low 18 catches with three touchdowns. Franks has only 68 receptions and four TDs in the last three seasons, all of which are in the midst of a seven-year, $28 million contract extension he received in 2005. He might not be long for Green Bay anymore. -- TE Ryan Krause is considered a better receiver than blocker but had only two catches after being promoted from the practice squad at midseason.

-- WR Greg Jennings, though not regarded as No. 1 on the depth chart, was the leader of the big band that topped the league charts with nearly 2,300 yards after the catch in the regular season. Jennings had a knack for making big plays out of Brett Favre's short throws across the middle, averaging 17.4 yards per catch and leading the club with 12 touchdown receptions despite missing the first two games with a hamstring injury.

Jennings benefited from Donald Driver's remaining the focal point of defensive schemes, periodically drawing double teams.

-- WR Donald Driver shook loose for another 80-catch, 1,000-yard season. Yet, until he sprinted for a team-record 90-yard catch-and-run touchdown in the NFC title game, Driver had only two TDs in the regular season and none after Week 3.

-- WR James Jones pushed Greg Jennings for a starting job with a dazzling preseason and was a home-run threat as the No. 3 receiver with his quickness in separation, but he wasn't much help down the stretch.

-- RG Jason Spitz was the best of the guard options the team had.

-- G Allen Barbre, who trained all season at left guard after playing tackle in college, has a chance to jump up next season.

-- LT Chad Clifton, named to his first Pro Bowl, and RT Mark Tauscher were less than 100 percent physically for most of the season, but they started every game and were the catalysts in the line's allowing only 19 sacks in the regular season (15 for Brett Favre).

DEFENSE
-- DT Johnny Jolly, a beast starting alongside Ryan Pickett, could miss most of the offseason as he recovers from surgery.

-- DT Ryan Pickett, who nursed a groin injury before the playoffs, is one of the more underappreciated defenders in the NFL.

-- DT Corey Williams is the team's marquee free-agent-to-be and should command a lot of interest that could price him out of returning.

-- DT Justin Harrell, the team's first-round draft pick in 2007, was a disappointment as he missed most of the season for injury reasons.

-- DE Cullen Jenkins was a disappointment after being rewarded with a four-year, $16 million contract in the offseason. He had only one sack, though he fought through a slew of injuries to be somewhat disruptive with nine pass breakups.

-- MLB Nick Barnett turned in his best season in the five he's logged in the league, all as the starter in the middle. He led the team with 165 tackles (109 solo) and played with a vicious demeanor that rubbed many an opponent the wrong way, which probably cost him a deserving first trip to the Pro Bowl.

-- SLB Brady Poppinga is a liability for his lapses in pass coverage.

-- WLB A.J. Hawk, the team's top draft pick in 2006, has yet to have a breakthrough season, but he is precise and relentless in getting to the football.

-- MLB Desmond Bishop took his hard hits to special teams in his rookie season, but he will give the coaches pause to consider moving him outside and contend for a starting job.

-- OLB Tracy White will be a free agent but is worth bringing back because of his value on special teams.

-- LB Abdul Hodge, a promising third-round draft pick in 2006, has been plagued by patellar tendinitis in both knees since his rookie season.

-- CB Al Harris was an unsuspecting goat in the season-ending loss to the Giants. His aggressive bump-and-run tactics were countered by Plaxico Burress, who pushed Harris aside and had a field day with 11 receptions and more than 150 receiving yards. Not what Harris had in mind for his first Pro Bowl.

Although he won more battles than he lost in taking the opponent's top receiver, Harris didn't play like the premier cover corner he's talked up to be in some circles. He had nine pass breakups and just two interceptions.

-- CB Charles Woodson had a good season (four INTs, 10 breakups), but advanced age and an assortment of nicks and bruises are slowing him down.

-- CB Will Blackmon has big upside, but he's been besieged by one complication after another with his right foot.

-- CB Frank Walker, the lone acquisition by GM Ted Thompson in free agency last year, offered little as a dime back and probably won't be re-signed.

-- FS Nick Collins is an established starter, but his hold on the job at free safety might be no better than tenuous.

-- Rookie S Aaron Rouse shined with two interceptions as a three-game replacement for an injured Nick Collins in the second half of the season.

-- SS Atari Bigby's starting role was in jeopardy, until he came on like gangbusters late in the season and knocked ball carriers senseless with punishing hits. The first-year starter led the team with five interceptions and 11 pass breakups and was behind Nick Barnett and A.J. Hawk with 121 tackles (95 solo).

SPECIALISTS
-- Rookie K Mason Crosby was hardened by a laborious training-camp battle with incumbent Dave Rayner and led the league with 141 points, a franchise record for a kicker. His strong leg is an asset late in the season at Lambeau Field, though accuracy on field-goal kicks was an issue when the weather initially turned for the worst.

-- P Jon Ryan's second NFL season didn't end so hot. He shortened his delivery to two steps in the offseason in an effort to improve get-off and hang times, which resulted in a modest improvement of two yards in his net average to 37.6.


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