Thumbs up, thumbs down

Who are the heroes and zeroes as the Packers enjoy a midseason week of rest? Packer Report's Bill Huber breaks it down.

With the Packers at their quasi halfway point of the season, it's time to take a deep breath and consider just how the team got to 4-3. We'll do so, in thumps-up, thumbs-down fashion.


Thumbs up ... to Aaron Rodgers. Shoulder injury? What shoulder injury? He ranks fifth in the NFL with a passer rating of 98.8. For sake of comparison, Brett Favre surpassed that figure just once: 99.5 during his first MVP season in 1995. Rodgers might not have Favre's flair, but he almost never makes a bad decision. If Rodgers were throwing interceptions like Favre did early in his career, the Packers would be 2-5.

Thumbs down ... to Brandon Jackson. Remember all of the offseason talk about Jackson as he prepared for his second season? Even with Ryan Grant bothered by a sore hamstring to start the season and then not especially explosive since being close to full strength, Jackson has just 20 carries this season. Grant has 64 carries the last two games; Jackson has none. That might be OK if Jackson were a threat in the passing game, but he's had a few drops and shows practically no ability to make a play after the catch.

Thumbs up ... to Chad Clifton. Sure, he commits too many false-start penalties and isn't the most physical run blocker. But when the Packers need Clifton to stop a premier pass rusher, he delivers.

Thumbs up ... to Greg Jennings. Terrell Owens gets the hype but Jennings provides the production. Jennings leads the NFL with 685 receiving yards, ranks fourth in yards per catch with 18.5 (among receivers with at least 20 catches) and stands eighth with 37 receptions. Impressively, he paces the NFL by a wide margin with 12 20-yard gains and is tied for the lead with five 40-yard grabs.

Thumbs down ... to James Jones. Jones just can't shake a knee injury sustained during the preseason, but even when he was healthy, he dropped too many passes. What's disappointing is he might have the best hands on the team, but concentration lapses seem to be an issue.


Thumbs up ... to Colin Cole. The defensive tackle, who's playing about half of the defensive snaps because of injuries to Justin Harrell and Cullen Jenkins, has been an unsung hero. Cole, undrafted and unwanted during pit stops with the Lions and Vikings, is the only guy who can provide any push up the middle on passing downs, evidenced by his sack (overturned by a penalty) against Seattle.

Thumbs down ... to Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila. Gbaja-Biamila's off-the-snap burst has been ruined by offseason knee surgery and/or age. KGB, the Packers' career leader in sacks, has just one this season, and has put practically no pressure on the quarterback.

Thumbs up ... to Aaron Kampman. He's the Packers' only pass rusher, yet he still is tied for sixth in the league with six sacks.

Thumbs down ... to the linebackers. Nick Barnett and A.J. Hawk are first-round picks and Brady Poppinga received a lucrative contract extension. But they've made practically no impact plays. Barnett leads the team in tackles but most are a few yards downfield. Hawk, getting more opportunities to blitz, has two sacks — both against Detroit — but one of those was of the garbage variety when Jon Kitna scrambled into him. Combined, the starters have neither intercepted a pass nor forced or recovered a fumble.

Thumbs up ... Nick Collins. Way back in training camp, Collins' job was on the line. Collins wasn't involved in a turnover-making play last season while Aaron Rouse picked off two passes in three starts. Instead, Collins held onto his job with ease, and is playing at a Pro Bowl level. His four interceptions are almost as impressive as last week's streaking-across-the-field pass breakup to take away a touchdown to Marvin Harrison.

Thumbs up ... to Tramon Williams. Williams was supposed to be too small (5-foot-11) and too inexperienced to adequately replace Al Harris. Instead, Williams has three interceptions, is physical and rarely gets beat.

Thumbs up ... to Charles Woodson. Perhaps the rest of the Packers should play with a broken toe. Woodson, 32, hasn't practiced since Week 1 but has been perhaps the NFL's top cornerback this season. He has four interceptions and two touchdowns, and his hunger to watch film has rubbed off on guys like Williams.

Special teams

Thumbs up ... to Will Blackmon. The electric punt returner made the play of the game in the Week 1 win over Minnesota. He ranks fourth in the NFC with an 11.3-yard average on punt returns. Plus, he smothered the Colts' Harrison on defense last week.

Thumbs down ... to Derrick Frost. The punter's numbers are OK (43.9-yard average, 37.6-yard net) but his four inside-the-20 punts and five touchbacks look nothing like his career totals of 101 and 29, respectively.

More thumbs

Thumbs up ... to coaches Tom Clements, Lionel Washington and Kurt Schottenheimer. Give Clements some credit for Rodgers' play. Washington and Schottenheimer run the secondary, and they deserve kudos for the development of Williams and the quantum leap taken by Collins.

Thumbs down ... to the rookies. Jordy Nelson's 16 catches are nice, but the Packers have got next to nothing from the rest of their draft picks. Sure, it's hard for a rookie to break through on a team that won 13 games last season, but the only other rookie to be getting meaningful snaps is Jeremy Thompson, and that's only because of injuries to Jenkins and Mike Montgomery.

Bill Huber is editor of Packer Report and E-mail him at

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