Roster wild cards: The offense

We take a statistics-based look at where the Packers need to improve at each of the position groups, starting with a look at Aaron Rodgers' fourth-quarter shortcomings compared to the rest of the league's quarterbacks.

You know the stars, but here are some of the wild cards — one at each position group on offense.

Quarterback: Aaron Rodgers

Everyone knows the basics of Rodgers' resume as a first-year starting quarterback. He ranked fourth in the NFL with 28 touchdown passes and 4,038 passing yards and sixth in passer rating at 93.8. And while nobody in NFL history has an arm like Brett Favre, Rodgers tied the Saints' Drew Brees for the NFL lead with 16 completions of 40-plus yards. However, in the fourth quarter, when most games are won or lost, Rodgers finished just 14th in the league with a passer rating of 87.8. In the first three quarters, he threw 20 touchdowns and eight interceptions. In the fourth, he threw eight touchdowns and five interceptions. He wasn't bad but he needs to be better in the clutch for the Packers to be a playoff team.

Running back: Tyrell Sutton

As an undrafted rookie who's fifth on the depth chart at halfback, Sutton is a long shot to make the roster. But he potentially brings to the table what the other running backs lack: a playmaker as a receiver out of the backfield. During four stellar seasons at Northwestern, Sutton caught 149 passes for 1,244 yards. Both figures were tops among active running backs in college football. Of the other backs behind starter Ryan Grant, Brandon Jackson averaged only 6.2 yards per reception with a long of 18 yards last season, DeShawn Wynn has 12 receptions in two seasons and Kregg Lumpkin has good hands but a bad injury history.

Wide receiver: James Jones

Jones was a big factor as a rookie with 47 catches, including four receptions of at least 30 yards and a 79-yard touchdown at Denver. Last year, however, he was dogged by a knee injury that limited him to 20 catches. He didn't have a 30-yard reception until Week 15 at Jacksonville, when he had gains of 34, 40 and 46 yards to remind everyone just how big of a factor he can be. While rookie Jordy Nelson picked up some of the slack with 33 catches, he didn't have a single gain of 30 yards.

Tight end: Jermichael Finley

When the Packers have been at their explosive best, it's because they've received above-average production from their tight ends. In 2007, when the Packers finished 13-3, Donald Lee caught 48 passes for 575 yards and six touchdowns. In 2001 and 2002, when the Packers boasted back-to-back 12-win seasons, Bubba Franks averaged 45 receptions and eight touchdowns. In 1998, when the Packers went 11-5, Mark Chmura and Tyrone Davis combined for 65 receptions and 11 touchdowns. In 1997, Chmura hauled in 38 passes with six touchdowns. And who can forget 1996, when Keith Jackson and Chmura formed an unstoppable duo on the way to Super Bowl XXXI? When the Packers struggled in 2005, 2006 and 2008, their tight end production was limited. Finley, coming off of a productive offseason, has the potential to be a big factor.

Offensive line: Jason Spitz

Jason Spitz has been moved to center, where he'll compete with Scott Wells for the starting job. Spitz spent most of his first three NFL seasons as the starting right guard, but he's done well while replacing an injured Wells. Last season, the Packers went 2-1 in Spitz's three games as the starting center. Including games in which he spent the bulk of the contest at center (Carolina and the finale against Detroit), the Packers averaged 140.4 rushing yards per game, compared to the season-long average of 112.8. When Wells was injured in 2007, the Packers went 3-0 with Spitz as the center.


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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 and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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