The NFL season never unfolds how we think it will. The same can be said about the Packers 2012 season.Who could have predicted the following?
- Tom Crabtree having more long touchdown catches than any wide receiver.
- 10 starters missing time with injuries.
- Special teams being a bright spot despite Mason Crosby going into a funk.
- James Jones being the team’s best wide receiver.
- Erik Walden having a solid season (Jersey Al actually nailed this one).
Is James Jones the runner-up for Packers first-half MVP (behind Aaron Rodgers)? I’d probably put him behind Clay Matthews, but a case could be made that Jones has been the second most valuable player through nine games. Jones has not only made the routine catches, he’s now developed a knack for catching spectacular touchdowns like his grab before halftime on Sunday.
I think Ted Thompson hired a mad cheesehead scientist who went into a lab before the 2011 draft, took bits and pieces from Darren Sproles, Wes Welker and Percy Harvin, and created Randall Cobb. Those players do a bit of everything, and do it well. That’s been Cobb all season.
I originally put Walden in the steady category because he doesn’t do anything flashy. But the rising category isn’t just for flashy players, so I bumped Walden up. Walden’s run defense is much improved and he even holds his own in coverage when asked to do so. He was just a split-second late getting to John Skelton on Sunday, but managed to get an interception and make a key tackle for a loss on an important late third down play.
It’ll be interesting to see how Jones holds up against better offenses, but against the Rams, Jags and Cardinals, he’s been more than adequate filling in for D.J. Smith and Desmond Bishop. I wonder if we’ll see Rob Francois more against better passing teams…
When you need a big play, look no further than backup tight end Tom Crabtree. With a long touchdown on a fake field goal and touchdown catches of 42 and 72 yards, Crabtree has been the guy getting downfield instead of Jordy Nelson, Greg Jennings or Jermichael Finley. The Packers offense hasn’t been as explosive as last season, but Crabtree has come out of nowhere to provide a big play every now and then.
The Packers were down eight starters Sunday (if you count Nelson) and lost Matthews and Bryan Bulaga during the game. The schedule lightened up a bit, but McCarthy has navigated the Packers to a 6-3 record despite a ridiculous number of injuries. That’s impressive, and the coach deserves credit for making the necessary adjustments and not allowing his team to overplay the injury excuse.
Ok, this isn’t funny any more. Crosby has gone from being in a slump to a serious problem. I used to enjoy giving Jersey Al a hard time about his negativity toward Crosby, but that’s not fun anymore because Crosby has gone from serviceable to bad on field goals.
When was the last time Finley caught a pass and you said to yourself, “Wow! Finley was wide open on that play!” I can’t remember the last time that happened. Finley never gets any separation. There’s always a guy draped all over him. I understand he gets a fair amount of attention and faces double teams, but it’s not on every play. Even when he’s manned up, there’s no space between him and the defender, meaning Rodgers doesn’t throw to him or Finley has to make a tough catch in traffic, which he’s not very good at.
Packers’ Body Parts
Before McCarthy dismisses his team for the bye week, he needs to encase everyone in bubble wrap. Enough with the injuries. I understand that bones break and bells get rung throughout a season, but geez, how many pulled hamstrings, strained hips, lisfrancs and other pulls and strains can happen? It’s never ending.