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July

Ten Packers Training Camp Topics: #3 — Kuhn a camp casualty?

John Kuhn is a fan favorite. But is the fullback in danger of being a camp casualty this summer?

John Kuhn is a fan favorite. But is the fullback in danger of being a camp casualty this summer?

Within the confines of Lambeau Field, Packers fans adore fullback-turned-folk hero John Kuhn. He’s big and strong, runs hard, and by all accounts, is the ultimate team player.

But despite the wishes of a large portion of the fan base, Kuhn may not be a guarantee to make the team this season.

Recently, ALLGBP writer Adam Czech mentioned Kuhn in his “What If” Roster Scenarios piece. Adam asked the question, “What if a RB/FB emerges as a really good pass blocker?”

The question is absolutely valid. The Packers went out and spent a second-round pick on Alabama bruiser Eddie Lacy in April’s NFL Draft, which should help cure their short-yardage woes and add a physical dimension to the running game. In recent years, Kuhn handled the majority of the workload in short-yardage situations, but with Lacy in the fold, that may no longer be the case.

Still, Kuhn is likely the team’s most reliable pass protector in the backfield. And unless another running back or fullback proves to be, as Adam puts it, a “really good pass blocker,” then Kuhn may be looking for work.

Here’s what Adam says about Kuhn: “Due to make $1.6 million this season — (Kuhn) might be out of a job. Besides being the only reliable blocking back, what else does Kuhn bring to the team besides a recognizable fan chant whenever he touches the ball? He’s not a reliable option for picking up short-yardage first downs. He’s not a run blocker. He’s got decent hands, but it’s not like his receiving would be sorely missed. I know he’s tight with the quarterback, and cutting a reliable pass-blocking back in this offense would be risky, even if another back emerges as a blocker in preseason. But it wouldn’t surprise me to see Kuhn gone if Mike McCarthy is confident in having someone else out there on third downs to protect Aaron Rodgers.”

Adam is absolutely right. Kuhn brings a couple things to the table: he’s a good pass blocker and an above-average receiver. But on the other hand, he’s far from a guarantee to pick up a third or fourth-and-short and he’s by no means a dominant run blocker. Given the downward spiral of the fullback position in the NFL, Kuhn’s spot on the roster will likely come down to what everyone else does, as Adam suggests.

Lacy, Johnathan Franklin, DuJuan Harris, James Starks and Alex Green are all unique talents with each player bringing different physical traits to the position. But there are concerns about all five players protecting the quarterback. And considering Aaron Rodgers is now the highest-paid player in NFL history, protecting the franchise quarterback may be the most important task for everyone competing for playing time in the backfield.

Currently, the Packers only have one other fullback on the roster–an undrafted rookie from Washington, Johnathan Amosa. It’s impossible to tell what the Packers have in Amosa until the pads go on, but the young player could threaten for a roster spot if some of the running backs show improvement in the pass-blocking department.

Question: Will John Kuhn be on the team in 2013?

Without an obvious replacement on the roster, it would be a mild surprise if Kuhn is let go before the regular season. But is Kuhn’s impact to the team really worth $1.6 million? Time will tell exactly how the Packers feel about that question.

Best guess: Yes

This training-camp debate directly relates the battle at the running back position. For the sake of an argument, let’s say Lacy and Harris show throughout the preseason that they’re willing and able to protect the quarterback against oncoming blitzes. If the coaching staff feels comfortable with multiple running backs protecting the franchise quarterback, then Kuhn could be on the way out.

But if none, or perhaps only one, of the running backs proves reliable in pass protection, then cutting Kuhn would be risky business. This team has invested heavily in Rodgers, and I’d be surprised if the Packers let go of ol’ reliable John Kuhn this summer.

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Follow @MJEversoll

Marques is a Journalism student, serving as the Sports Editor of UW-Green Bay\'s campus newspaper The Fourth Estate and a Packers writer at Jersey Al\'s AllGBP.com. Follow Marques on Twitter @MJEversoll.

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17 Responses to “Ten Packers Training Camp Topics: #3 — Kuhn a camp casualty?”

  1. crefan says:

    My best guess is the Packers save the cap space.
    After drafting Lacy and the addition of Matthew Mulligan who could be used as a blocking fullback Kuhn could be the odd man out.

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  2. Ken Allen kw says:

    The Vet Minimum salary for an 8 year player in 2013 is $840K. And that doesn’t include signing bonuses, roster bonuses or any LTBE incentives. So it seems to me that $1.6M for Kuhn isn’t a number that would get him bounced off the roster. Consider that Michael Robinson of the Seahawks who is on the high side and due to make $2.5M this year … Kuhn looks like a bargain! LOL

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  3. Savage57 says:

    There’s one thing that the Snow Owl has proven time and time again – IF there’s a younger, less costly option who’s shown enough upside waiting in the wings to do the job of an incumbent, higher-priced veteran on the down slope, he’ll make that move.

    His decision to keep DD one year too long reinforced that idea, not so much because of the $ cost, but because of the opportunity cost associated with the eventual replacement missing playing and learning time.

    But in this case of “Kuuuuhhhnnn”, that ‘if’ is a word in in blinking, screaming neon and all capital letters.

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  4. AdamOBOD says:

    Don’t rule out Ryan Taylor becoming more of an H-back either, filling in for Kuhn’s pass protection duties. I think it is a real possibility that he may not make the team.

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    • Jersey Al Jersey Al says:

      Hello Adam!

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    • nick perry says:

      What about D.J. Williams? Last season Williams was much better with his blocking assignments. I know Taylor is a core special teams player but… My concern is that the Packers let Williams go, he’s picked up by a team like New England and catches 60 passes his first year. As far as Kuhn goes I’d cut Kuhn. He did absolutely nothing special last year until the playoff game against the Vikings. I’d keep the extra TE or Amosa if Asoma proves he can play and let Kuhn go. Franklin is another that comes to mind, but is a rookie. Franklin was a excellent blocker at UCLA but that may be asking a bit much from him his first year. My whole reason for this was I like Williams. I still think he could help the Packers as a pass catching TE or used as a H-back and would just hate to see him go.

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  5. Razer says:

    Not sure why we want to pay a guy 1.6 million because he can block in the backfield. We now have a short yardage back and we appear to have committed to the run, keeping Kuhn doesn’t make much sense. Surely, we can teach the talent that we have in the backfield (other than Starks) to pickup the occasional blitz.

    If we are trying to compensate for a weak O-line then drafting blocking backs is not a good strategy. Well, at least it hasn’t been over the last 3 years. Having a guy in the backfield that defenses might fear is better than having a guy who defenses know is there to help out. Time to move on to a stronger backfield approach.

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    • jOE says:

      Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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      • Razer says:

        I hear you but our QB has been the most sacked QB in the last 2 out of 3 years. Our approach isn’t working – time to take a different tack. Kuhn isn’t keeping Rodgers up any more than any of the other guys and at 1.6 million we can do better.

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  6. Stroh says:

    Kuhn is still a security blanket for McCarthy and Rodgers. Few players know the playbook as well and have the ability to function in so many roles if needed along w/ the fact that he plays on a lot of ST mean he has a strong chance of making it another year. He’s not as good as he was at one time, but he’s still capable and as long as he is highly trusted by McCarthy and Rodgers he’ll probably make the roster.

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  7. Dave says:

    I agree that Kuhn’s chances of being on the roster depend on his salary and the existence of viable substitutes (i.e., above average blockers with a firm understanding of the playbook).

    As several commenters have pointed out, it’s impossible to accurately assess Kuhn’s chances of being cut without discussing TE’s like Mulligan, Quarless or others.

    Marques, you’ve got do finish the story before you publish it!

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  8. FourEyesBrewing says:

    I think it’s also worth looking at how the defense might react. If it’s 3rd and short and John Kuhn is out there, the defense will probably assume we’re going to throw it. If we have Eddie Lacy out there instead, it’s not so clear. It also gives Rodgers a good out, so if he reads blitz he could hand it off to Lacy instead and let him exploit it.

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  9. aaronqb says:

    Kuhn being on the roster is more than just the $1.6 million salary. What does he really bring right now?

    running. He is slow and undependable as a short yardage back. He has also fumbled a few times on 3rd and short

    blocking. very good and reliable blocker

    special teams. He will knock heads, but he is very slow – much slower than LBs or the TEs on the team.

    I think beyond the fan appeal, Kuhn offers little to the 2013 Packers. As Ron Wolf said … it’s better to release a guy a year early rather than a year late.

    Kuhn should go. There are younger guys that stand to improve that are more deserving of a roster spot.

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  10. James Jeffers says:

    I read in another article Kuhn is due to make 2.55 million. That puts him real high on all NFL FB’s. If it was me I’d keep an extra TE (like Bostic) instead of Kuhn. The TE position is more valuable on ST’s as evidenced by keeping 4 and 5 of them the last two years. If all TE’s stay healthy throughout the preseason, I say Kuhn gets let go, which I agree 100%.

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