Donald Driver: 2011 Green Bay Packers Evaluation and Report Card

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Donald Driver
Donald Driver

1) Introduction: After completing his 13th season with the Packers, Donald Driver knows his career is in its final years. There is speculation about him being released by Green Bay before next season, especially with the current depth and youth of the receiving corps. Still, he has been a staple for this offense for most of his professional career. As it stands, he is the franchise’s all-time leader in receptions (735) and receiving yards (10,060), putting him in the same company as James Lofton, Antonio Freeman, and Sterling Sharpe.

2) Profile:

Donald Jerome Driver

Position: WR
Height: 6-0
Weight: 194 lbs.
AGE: 36

Career Stats: http://www.packers.com/team/roster/Donald-Driver/235d2adb-c2f3-4a11-9b5b-ec7e506087e0

3) Expectations coming into the season: If you go by the official depth chart, Donald Driver was second only to Greg Jennings; however, many assumed this would be in title only. At his age, one could only expect a moderate level of production, especially with the threat of an injury similar to what he suffered last season.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: In 2011, Donald Driver became the first Packer with 10,000 career receiving yards, breaking James Lofton’s 1986 record of 9,656 yards. One of his biggest plays on the highlight reel was a sideline touchdown catch against the New York Giants on December 4th, giving the Packers an 8-point lead with only three and a half minutes to go in the game. The low point this year for Donald Driver was essentially the first half of the season. His snap counts declined steadily and from Week 2 to Week 8, he never topped 25 yards in a game and only accounted for 3 first downs and two touchdowns.

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: “Old Reliable” would be an accurate nickname for Donald Driver this season. Well beyond his prime, his production in 2011 was the lowest it’s been since 2001, when he was in his third season. He broke the 50-yard mark in only 3 of the year’s 17 games and was under 20 yards in 8 of them. However, his veteran reliability in the later half of the season was a welcome relief from some of the mistakes being made by other receivers. Though his workload was scaled back, it’s clear Donald Driver still has some football left in him.

6) Player’s contributions in the playoffs: It was interesting to watch the reaction of fans on Twitter when Donald Driver caught his first pass of the game. It was the first drive of the second half, and most people were already sick with how the game was playing out. Then, when Driver catches the ball for a 16-yard gain on third down, you could instantly read the unanimous tweets of “Thank God we still have DD.” Though he was invisible for the first two quarters, Driver showed up in a couple big situations the remainder of the game. He ended up with a total of 3 catches for 2 first downs and a touchdown, and gave fans at least some glimmer of hope for the offense.

 

Season Report Card:

(B-) Level of expectations met during the season
(C+) Contributions to team’s overall success.
(A-) Contributions to team during the playoffs

Overall Grade for the year: B-

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Chad Toporski, a Wisconsin native and current Pittsburgh resident, is a writer for AllGreenBayPackers.com. You can follow Chad on twitter at @ChadToporski

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  • JimR_in_DC

    Good evaluation, Chad. It would be a shame for DD to be released this off-season, but I can see the logic in that. I wonder if he has any interest in coaching after his playing days are over. I would love to see him in that capacity some time in the future.

    • Chad Toporski

      I think DD will always be a Packer, even if he plays elsewhere next year. I don’t think he nor fans will begrudge Thompson for making the release, as the picture is pretty clear for all to see.

  • Lucas

    Keeping DD is a strong possibility…though with some restructuring.

    Although he’s proud of his body of work, he’s not too proud to take a significant pay cut. He likes GB, the city, and the fans. He understands his role on the team and on the field.

    Management has leverage to make this happen. What would the market offer him should he be released? TT has a good idea of that number and what he’s worth to the team. Also working against DD is the development of Cobb, Gurley, and most likely one or two more younglings.

    In the end, it still doesn’t make sense to keep him with such talent waiting for a chance. The biggest question is, are the Packers okay with 4 proven wides (Cobb included) and unproven depth/backup?

    • Chad Toporski

      Unfortunately, I think it goes beyond a paycut.

      The depth at WR right now is forcing him more out of the picture than the money is. Cobb could use more snaps, especially in the slot, and guys like Tori Gurley aren’t going to stick on the Practice Squad for a another year. Add to that the crowded position at TE, and it becomes hard to keep an aging receiver like Driver around, despite all he has done for the organization.

      Really, it’s less a “business decision” and more a “football decision.”

  • Ron LC

    This will be the toughest decision that MM and TT will have to make this year. Unfortunately, the reality of NFL football in GB is that financial requirements out weigh loyalties.

    I want DD to stay, if at all possible. But, the D needs a significant influx of play making talent and that needs to be priority #1. DD has even addresssed this issue and realizes the dilema MM and DD have.

    B would be my grade for 2011. Hope to see him as a Packer again next year. If not,I will still be cheering for his continued success. DD exemplifies the term “Packer Person.”

    • Chad Toporski

      I think all of Packer nation will cheer him on, regardless of where he plays next season.

  • CSS

    The catches he had, even in the playoff loss, were often against a linebacker or safety in coverage. And he only had a half-step on either of those two defenders. When a slot receiver can barely get a half-step against linebackers or safeties he’s becoming (or already become) a liability. Love him, love him to death, but an NFL WR is barely a role-player when you can’t get clean separation from two of the slowest defenders found in a defenses back 7.

    • Chad Toporski

      It’s the bittersweet moment at the end of a fruitful career, when age finally catches up. There’s no good way to end it, but having the support of “Packer Nation” will hopefully make it a little easier for Driver.

  • Zack

    Great team player and an amazing person. I’m really impressed with his willingness to work with the organization on restructuring his contract. I agree with what Chad said about it being more of a football decision than a financial decision (although it makes sense from a financial stand point also. He’s set to make 5mil next year and even if he’s willing to restructure his contract how much of a pay cut is he really willing to take?) If players like Cobb have to sit out for an older reciever to play it takes away from they’re developement and, worse, they could take offers from other teams so they can get a chance to play. Whoever mentioned that he should be a coach I agree 100%. I couldn’t think of a better potential future coach than Driver. It’s great to see old players giving back to the organizations that gave them a chance to play… I love seeing Edgar Bennett on the sideline these days.