Green Bay Packers: Victor Aiyewa

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Between now and the Green Bay Packers' first training camp practice on Saturday, we will break down each position group.

Next up, linebackers.

Peppers
Returning players: A.J. Hawk, Brad Jones, Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, Mike Neal, Nate Palmer, Andy Mulumba, Jamari Lattimore, Sam Barrington

Gone from last season: Victory Aiyewa, Robert Francois

New this season: Julius Peppers (free agent), Carl Bradford (fourth-round pick), Jake Doughty (undrafted rookie), Joe Thomas (undrafted rookie), Jayrone Elliott (undrafted rookie), Adrian Hubbard (undrafted rookie), Shaun Lewis (undrafted rookie)

Position coach: Winston Moss (ninth season)

Biggest issue: The Packers are banking on the 34-year-old Peppers to give them another pass-rushing threat. To do so, they plan to play him at outside linebacker in their 3-4 scheme. It's the first time they have had a bona fide pass-rushing threat opposite Matthews. What does that mean for Neal and Perry, who combined to play nearly 1,200 snaps at outside linebacker last season? Defensive coordinator Dom Capers might be wise to find a healthy rotation between Peppers, Perry and Neal in order to keep them fresh and effective.

Player to watch: The Packers gave Lattimore the lowest restricted free agent tender offer ($1.431 million), but that does not mean he's an afterthought. Capers would like to get the fourth-year pro more involved in certain packages even if he sticks with Hawk and Jones as his starting inside linebackers.

Matthews
Medical report: Matthews sat out all of the offseason practices while recovering from the second of two surgeries on his broken right thumb. Perry, who missed time last season because of foot and ankle injuries, also did not practice at all this offseason.

Help wanted: While there may not be any starting jobs up for grabs, the competition will be heated, especially at outside linebacker. In addition to Peppers, Matthews, Neal and Perry, the Packers have two other players -- Palmer and Mulumba -- who saw playing time last season. Combine that with the addition of Bradford and Hubbard, and it looks like a loaded group.

Quotable: "There’s only two guys on the field at a time, and it'll be the best two," Moss said of the outside linebackers. "Those other guys are going to have to fight for it. That's why we have an offseason. That's why we have a process. That's why we have a training camp. The guys that prove themselves and are reliable and make plays, they'll be the guys that are going to play."

Previous installments

July 14: Quarterbacks

July 15: Running backs

July 16: Receivers

July 17: Tight ends

July 18: Offensive line

July 21: Defensive line
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- On the same day free-agent tight end Jermichael Finley visited the Green Bay Packers to check in with team doctors, general manager Ted Thompson opened a roster spot by releasing linebacker Victor Aiyewa.

Before anyone gets too excited, there is no indication the two moves are related.

Finley's visit was categorized as a formality and did not include extensive tests on his surgically repaired neck. He has not been medically cleared to resume his playing career.

Aiyewa played in five games last season, all on special-teams duty, after being promoted from the practice squad on Nov. 27. He was not likely to be in the competition for playing time at inside linebacker this season.

The Packers did not make a corresponding roster move, meaning they have one open spot on their 90-man offseason roster.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- With the bulk of the free-agent work done, it's a good time to recheck the Green Bay Packers' depth chart leading up to the May 8-10 NFL draft.

On Thursday, we broke down the way things look on offense.

Next up is the defense:

Defensive end: Datone Jones, Josh Boyd, Jerel Worthy.

[+] EnlargeDatone Jones
AP Photo/Morry GashThe Packers are counting on defensive end Datone Jones to rebound in his second season.
Analysis: The Packers have high hopes for Jones despite a disappointing rookie season in which the former first-round pick was slowed by an ankle injury and recorded just 3.5 sacks (two of which came in one game). "I feel he's one of those second-year players who [can] take a huge jump," coach Mike McCarthy said of Jones earlier this offseason. "That will be my expectations for him." Boyd, a fifth-round pick, actually saw more playing time late last season than Jones. Worthy played in only two games a year after he blew out his knee.

Defensive tackle: B.J. Raji, Mike Daniels, Letroy Guion.

Analysis: Moving Raji back to nose tackle on a full-time basis should help his production, which declined sharply over the last three years following a move to defensive end. Daniels was perhaps the team's most improved player last season, which should lead to an even bigger role this season. Guion, who was cut the Minnesota Vikings, will have to battle for a roster spot.

Elephant: Julius Peppers, Nick Perry, Mike Neal.

Analysis: Elephant is a catch-all term for the multiple positions this trio will play. They will be part outside linebacker, part defensive end and part defensive tackle. The addition of Peppers, who was signed last month after being released by the Chicago Bears, should boost the pass rush. Expect Perry to play more on the right side this season, where he was far more impactful last season. These players will actually be tutored by linebackers coach Winston Moss.

Inside linebacker: A.J. Hawk, Brad Jones, Jamari Lattimore, Sam Barrington, Victor Aiyewa.

Analysis: Hawk had perhaps his best season last year, but Jones was a disappointment after signing a three-year, $11.75 million contract and could be on shaky ground for a starting job. Lattimore, a restricted free agent who has yet to sign his tender, got some playing time last year while Jones was hurt and could push for the starting job. So could Barrington, a promising rookie who missed the second half of the season because of a hamstring injury.

Outside linebacker: Clay Matthews, Andy Mulumba, Nate Palmer, Chase Thomas.

Analysis: Neal and Perry played almost exclusively at outside linebacker last season, so there's a good chance they'll be a big part of this group again. But behind Matthews are a couple of second-year players, Mulumba and Palmer, who played more than anyone expected last year as a rookies. Mulumba, an undrafted free agent, played better than Palmer, a sixth-round pick. Thomas was signed early in the offseason off the street after spending most of last season on the Atlanta Falcons' practice squad.

Safeties: Morgan Burnett, Sean Richardson, Chris Banjo.

Analysis: Easily the thinnest position on the roster, there's still likely to be several additions here, probably via the draft. However, McCarthy said cornerback Micah Hyde will get some work at safety. Whether he's a candidate to start next to Burnett (a strong safety), however, remains to be seen. Burnett needs to bounce back from a disappointing season, but there's little reason to think his job is in jeopardy. Richardson returned late last season from a serious neck injury and showed promise. Banjo played more early in the season than he did late last year.

Cornerbacks: Sam Shields, Tramon Williams, Casey Hayward, Micah Hyde, Jarrett Bush, Davon House, James Nixon, Jumel Rolle, Antonio Dennard.

Analysis: This is among the Packers' deepest positions thanks to the return of Shields, who signed a four-year, $39 million contract, and Hayward, who is expected to be healthy after a hamstring injury limited him to just three games last season. Williams closed the season playing perhaps as well as he did during the Super Bowl season of 2010, which is why they kept him despite a $7.5 million salary. Bush had his best season in coverage last year, while House was a disappointment. Nixon's speed makes him an intriguing prospect. Rolle was promoted from the practice squad late last season, while Dennard joined the practice squad late last season.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- On Monday, we began our rankings of the Green Bay Packers' roster as it stood at season’s end.

We began at the bottom, ranking players 51 through 64.

The rankings are based on how the players performed this season -- not on their overall importance to the team.

Now, we look at Nos. 41 through 50:

Jones
Jones
41. Datone Jones, DE: Drafted in the first round (No. 26 overall), Jones was supposed to give coordinator Dom Capers a three-down player who could stop the run and rush the passer. Instead, he almost never played in obvious run situations and was limited almost exclusively to rushing the passer in the dime package. Even those snaps dwindled late in the season. He had just 3.5 sacks, two of which came in the same game. By season’s end, fifth-round pick Josh Boyd was playing more. Actually showed a little flash in some snaps lined up as an outside linebacker late in the year.

42. Brandon Bostick, TE: Converted small-college wide receiver made the roster after spending all of last season on the practice squad. Improved as a blocker, but still has a long way to go and showed flashes of his athleticism in the passing game after Jermichael Finley's season-ending neck injury. Averaged a team-high 17.1 yards per reception, but had only seven catches before a broken foot ended his season in Week 15. Could develop into a downfield threat. Dropped three passes in 10 catchable targets, according to ProFootballFocus.com.

43. C.J. Wilson, DE: Fourth-year pro was surpassed as a run-stopping starting defensive end by the return of Johnny Jolly and was inactive eight times, only three of which were injury-related. Unrestricted free agent won’t command much attention, and could return for a minimum salary.

44. Scott Tolzien, QB: Signed to the practice squad on Sept. 2 and promoted to the roster on Nov. 6, two days after Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone, he was pressed into action the next week following Seneca Wallace's groin injury. Played well enough against the Eagles in relief to earn two more starts before giving way to Matt Flynn when Tolzien struggled against the Vikings. Showed good arm strength, but threw five interceptions in a six-quarter stretch against the Eagles and Giants. Needs a full offseason under the tutelage of coach Mike McCarthy and offensive coordinator Tom Clements, and could be a possible long-term backup.

45. Myles White, WR: Skinny but elusive rookie was promoted from the practice squad on Oct. 15 after injuries to Randall Cobb and James Jones. In just his second game, he caught five passes for 35 yards on Oct. 27 against the Vikings. Playing time diminished greatly after Jones returned, and was placed on injured reserve after suffering a torn meniscus in his knee on Dec. 8 against the Falcons. Should be in the mix for a roster spot again next season.

46. M.D. Jennings, S: Probably would have been replaced -- a la Jerron McMillian, who was cut on Dec. 3 -- if Capers had any better options. Saw his playing time reduced late in the season when Sean Richardson received more snaps. Missed nine tackles, tied for the third most on the team, and allowed a team-high five touchdown passes, according to ProFootballFocus.com. Scheduled to be a restricted free agent, he won’t be offered any more than the lowest tender -- if he’s tendered at all.

47. Chris Banjo, S: Undersized rookie who was signed a few days into training camp, made the team because of his speed, willingness to hit and intelligence. Factored more on special teams, where he ranked second on the team with 10 tackles. On defense, after some rotational play at the midway point of the season, he played only 11 snaps combined over the final six games. Could develop into a full-time player, but his height (5-foot-10) will always be a limitation.

48. Victor Aiyewa, LB: Promoted from the practice squad on Nov. 27, he had last been in the NFL in the 2011 season with the Buccaneers. Did not play on defense but was in for 51 percent of the special teams snaps over the final six games and finished tied for sixth with five special teams tackles.

49. Nate Palmer, OLB: Rookie sixth-round pick was bypassed on the depth chart by undrafted free agent Andy Mulumba. Did not play on defense after the Nov. 17 game against the Giants and was inactive for six of the last seven games.

50. Lane Taylor, G: One of three undrafted free agents to make the opening-day roster, he played just 14 snaps on offense over three games. Appeared in a total of 10 games, mostly on special teams.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- In 16 regular-season games plus the NFC wild-card playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers, the Green Bay Packers’ special teams was on the field for 511 plays, according to weekly snap counts kept by the NFL.

Hyde
Special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum used 58 different players on his units this season. That was four more than in 2012 and explains why coach Mike McCarthy said all the personnel changes caused in large part by injuries caught up with the Packers’ special teams by year’s end.

The Packers finished the regular season ranked seventh in punt return average (thanks largely in part to rookie returner Micah Hyde) but just 30th in kickoff return average. Slocum’s units struggled in coverage, ranking 29th in both punt return and kickoff return average allowed.

The specialists -- kicker Mason Crosby, punter Tim Masthay and long-snapper Brett Goode -- all had strong seasons.

Davon House, who played a team-high 338 snaps on special teams, led the Packers with 12 special teams tackles.

Here are the snap-count leaders on special teams with playing-time percentages in parenthesis. We’re not going to list all 58 players, but rather those who appeared on at least 10 percent of all special teams plays this season. (Earlier, we looked at playing time for every player on offense and on defense this season):
An analysis of the snap counts from the Green Bay Packers’ 23-20 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in Sunday’s NFC wild-card playoff game at Lambeau Field:

Offense (63 total plays)

Quarterback: Aaron Rodgers 63.

Offensive line: Don Barclay 63, Evan Dietrich-Smith 63, T.J. Lang 63, Josh Sitton 63, David Bakhtiari 52, Marshall Newhouse 11.

Receivers: Jordy Nelson 62, James Jones 60, Randall Cobb 44, Jarrett Boykin 27.

Running backs: Eddie Lacy 37, James Starks 15, John Kuhn 13.

Tight ends: Andrew Quarless 48, Ryan Taylor 8, Jake Stoneburner 1.

Noteworthy: Bakhtiari had all kinds of trouble blocking outside linebacker Aldon Smith before he leaving in the fourth quarter because of a concussion and giving way to Newhouse. ... Cobb played more snaps than he did a week earlier in his return against the Bears but was targeted only two times. He caught both of them for a total of 51 yards. ... Lacy seemed to tire in the second half, when Starks got more playing time. Starks finished off a productive season as a backup by averaging 5.8 yards on five carries. ... The Packers got almost no production from their tight ends in the passing game. Quarless had one catch for 8 yards. That was the only target for a tight end.

Defense (64 total plays)

Defensive line: B.J. Raji 48, Ryan Pickett 47, Mike Daniels 36, C.J. Wilson 19, Josh Boyd 14, Datone Jones 13, Jerel Worthy 2.

Linebackers: A.J. Hawk 64, Nick Perry 59, Andy Mulumba 57, Brad Jones 55, Mike Neal 5.

Defensive backs: Morgan Burnett 64, Tramon Williams 64, Davon House 61, M.D. Jennings 46, Micah Hyde 20, Sean Richardson 18, Jarrett Bush 10, Sam Shields 2.

Noteworthy: Injuries to Neal (knee, did not return) and Mulumba (who did return) forced Datone Jones to take his first snaps of the season at outside linebacker. Perry saw his most snaps of the season, two more than in his previous high from Week 1 against the 49ers. ... Defensive coordinator Dom Capers used a heavy dose of his base defense with three linemen, including more than usual with Raji in the middle of the three. ... House, who played only four snaps on defense in the previous three games, was pressed into action in the base defense after Shields’ knee injury on the opening series.

Top special-teams contributors (26 total plays): Bush 22, Jamari Lattimore 21, Taylor 21, Hyde 17, Kahlil Bell 16, Jennings 16, Kuhn 13, Victor Aiyewa 12, Daniels 10, Stoneburner 10.

Packers' Week 17 playing time breakdown

December, 31, 2013
12/31/13
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An analysis of the snap counts from the Green Bay Packers’ 33-28 win over the Chicago Bears on Sunday at Soldier Field:

Offense (78 total plays)

Quarterback: Aaron Rodgers 78.

Offensive line: David Bakhtiari 78, Don Barclay 78, Evan Dietrich-Smith 78, T.J. Lang 78, Josh Sitton 78.

Receivers: Jordy Nelson 77, James Jones 76, Jarrett Boykin 39, Randall Cobb 37.

Running backs: Eddie Lacy 43, John Kuhn 24, James Starks 20.

Tight ends: Andrew Quarless 61, Ryan Taylor 13.

Noteworthy: In his return from a seven-week absence due to his broken collarbone, Rodgers stayed relatively clean (three sacks) by throwing a lot of quick hitches and receiver screens and also going down early when he had to scramble. There’s no denying he was rusty, especially in the first half, when he threw behind several receivers, but he got much better in the second half. … Cobb was targeted only twice in his first action since he broke his leg on Oct. 13, but he caught both of them for touchdowns (including the 48-yard game winner). His return allowed Nelson to move out of the slot and play more on the perimeter (although he still played some inside), and Rodgers targeted him a whopping 16 times (10 catches for 161 yards). … Lacy probably played too many snaps considering his sprained right ankle made it difficult for him to cut, and he averaged just 3.1 yards on 21 carries. Starks was far more effective (8.0-yard average on 11 carries). Kuhn was often charged with protecting Rodgers on third down and was fantastic.

Defense (50 total plays)

Defensive line: B.J. Raji 32, Mike Daniels 26, Ryan Pickett 25, Josh Boyd 9, Datone Jones 5, Jerel Worthy 2.

Linebackers: A.J. Hawk 46, Mike Neal 46, Andy Mulumba 42, Jamari Lattimore 39, Nick Perry 12.

Defensive backs: Morgan Burnett 50, Tramon Williams 50, Sam Shields 50, Micah Hyde 47, M.D. Jennings 32, Sean Richardson 18, Jarrett Bush 11, Davon House 4, Chris Banjo 4.

Noteworthy: Datone Jones, the rookie first-round draft pick, has all but disappeared from defensive coordinator Dom Capers’ plans. He has played just 31 snaps in the last three games combined. There weren’t a lot of defensive line snaps to go around because Capers played almost exclusively nickel or dime, which use only two down linemen. Worthy was active for just the second time this season but was barely used. … Maybe Perry’s foot injury is still a problem, but twice he was taken out after poor plays. Once, he lost contain on a Matt Forte run in the third quarter. Later in the same quarter, he blew coverage on a swing pass to Forte that went for 33 yards. Mulumba replaced him both times. … Capers used eight defensive backs on the Bears’ final series, which included a key pass breakup in the end zone by Burnett.

Top special teams contributors (27 total plays): Bush 22, House 22, Kahlil Bell 17, Richardson 17, Banjo 16, Hyde 16, Nate Palmer 16, Taylor 15, Victor Aiyewa 15, Jennings 14.

Packers' Week 16 playing time breakdown

December, 24, 2013
12/24/13
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An analysis of the snap counts from the Green Bay Packers’ 38-31 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday at Lambeau Field:

Offense (78 total plays)

Quarterback: Matt Flynn 78.

Offensive line: Don Barclay 78, David Bakhtiari 78, Evan Dietrich-Smith 78, T.J. Lang 78, Josh Sitton 78, Marshall Newhouse 2.

Receivers: Jordy Nelson 76, James Jones 73, Jarrett Boykin 70, Chris Harper 1.

Running backs: Eddie Lacy 38, John Kuhn 25, James Starks 25, Mike Daniels 1, B.J. Raji 1.

Tight ends: Andrew Quarless 59, Ryan Taylor 18, Jake Stoneburner 1.

Noteworthy: For the second straight week, coach Mike McCarthy used defensive linemen Daniels and Raji as blocking fullbacks in a goal-line situation. It didn’t work this time. Steelers linebacker Vince Williams shed Raji’s block and tackled Lacy for a 2-yard loss on first-and-goal from the 3. … Operating most of the game out of a three-receiver set, Nelson was targeted only five times (three catches for 46 yards). Boykin (13 targets, five catches for 54 yards) and Jones (12 targets, nine catches for 84 yards) made some tough catches. Jones took away an interception from cornerback Ike Taylor and made it an 8-yard gain. Boykin went over cornerback Cortez Allen to catch a 5-yard touchdown. … After catching 12 passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns the previous two games combined, Quarless was used far more often as an extra blocker out of the backfield. On one such play, he collided with Flynn on a run-pass option play that resulted in Flynn’s pick-six. … Lacy reinjured his sprained right ankle in the third quarter, and Starks played more snaps than he had in any game since Week 3.

Defense (58 total plays)

Defensive line: Raji 33, Ryan Pickett 32, Daniels 29, Josh Boyd 24, C.J. Wilson 7, Datone Jones 4.

Linebackers: A.J. Hawk 58, Mike Neal 49, Jamari Lattimore 34, Andy Mulumba 25, Nick Perry 22, Clay Matthews 21, Brad Jones 19.

Defensive backs: Morgan Burnett 58, Tramon Williams 57, Sam Shields 53, Micah Hyde 49, Sean Richardson 36, M.D. Jennings 22, Jarrett Bush 6.

Noteworthy: For the third straight game, Boyd played more snaps than Datone Jones, whose play count was a season low. Wilson returned from a three-game absence because of an ankle injury. … The only sack of Ben Roethlisberger came courtesy of Matthews, who reinjured his broken thumb on the play and is probably finished for the season. Lattimore’s increased workload came because of Brad Jones' recurring ankle injury, and Lattimore forced Le'Veon Bell’s third-quarter fumble. Hawk continued to be the defensive play-caller and intercepted his first pass since Week 16 of 2010. … The nickel-heavy game plan put Hyde on the field for 84 percent of the snaps. For the third straight game, Richardson replaced Jennings during the game and played more snaps.

Top special teams contributors (37 total plays): Bush 31, Davon House 31, Mulumba 26, Taylor 23, Richardson 23, Hyde 20, Lattimore 20, Kahlil Bell 20, Victor Aiyewa 18, Kuhn 17, Stoneburner 17, Jennings 17.

Packers' Week 15 playing-time breakdown

December, 17, 2013
12/17/13
5:10
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An analysis of the snap counts from the Green Bay Packers' 37-36 win over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday at AT&T Stadium:

Offense (73 total plays)

Quarterback: Matt Flynn 73.

Offensive line: Don Barclay 73, David Bakhtiari 73, Evan Dietrich-Smith 73, T.J. Lang 73, Josh Sitton 73.

Receivers: Jordy Nelson 69, James Jones 64, Jarrett Boykin 52, Chris Harper 1.

Running back: Eddie Lacy 56, John Kuhn 27, James Starks 7, Mike Daniels 1, B.J. Raji 1.

Tight ends: Andrew Quarless 58, Ryan Taylor 26, Brandon Bostick 3.

Noteworthy: Targeted six times apiece, Boykin and Quarless caught every pass thrown their way. Boykin's six catches went for 83 yards, while Quarless caught six for 66 and a touchdown. Nelson, Jones and Starks also caught touchdown passes from Flynn. Jones continues to gut it out on a bum knee and broke several tackles on his 39-yard catch-and-run in the first quarter. ... If we learned anything about Flynn's limitations, it's that he can't throw the fade. He's missed that throw consistently since he was put into the lineup on Nov. 26 against the Vikings and missed it again to Jones late in the fourth quarter against the Cowboys. ... Daniels and Raji lined up at fullback on Lacy's 1-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. It was a play the Packers just started working on last week.

Defense (73 total plays)

Defensive line: Daniels 42, Raji 39, Ryan Pickett 34, Josh Boyd 32, Datone Jones 17, Johnny Jolly 6.

Linebackers: A.J. Hawk 73, Clay Matthews 67, Mike Neal 46, Brad Jones 45, Nick Perry 27, Andy Mulumba 9, Jamari Lattimore 7.

Defensive backs: Morgan Burnett 73, Sam Shields 73, Tramon Williams 73, Micah Hyde 47, Sean Richardson 40, M.D. Jennings 33, Jarrett Bush 20.

Noteworthy: Boyd, the rookie fifth-round draft pick, saw his playing time increase for the third straight week. He made an impressive tackle for 3-yard loss against running back DeMarco Murray when he easily beat left tackle Tyron Smith. Jolly never returned from a first-half shoulder injury. ... Neal had a coverage sack and Matthews had a couple of hurries but the outside linebackers didn't get much else done. ... Like Boyd, Richardson's playing time increased for the third straight game. For the second straight game, he played more snaps than Jennings. ... As Datone Jones' playing time has decreased on defense, it has increased on special teams. The first-round pick is now on the kickoff return unit.

Top special-teams contributors (35 total plays): Bush 30, House 30, Taylor 27, Lattimore 25, Richardson 22, Victor Aiyewa 18, Hyde 18, Jennings 17, Datone Jones 17, Bostick 15, Kuhn 15, Daniels 14, Burnett 12, Mason Crosby 12.

Packers' Week 14 playing time breakdown

December, 10, 2013
12/10/13
3:00
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An analysis of the snap counts from the Green Bay Packers’ 22-21 win over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday at Lambeau Field:

Offense (71 total plays)

Quarterback: Matt Flynn 71.

Offensive line: David Bakhtiari 71, Don Barclay 71, Evan Dietrich-Smith 71, T.J. Lang 71, Josh Sitton 71.

Receivers: Jordy Nelson 70, James Jones 66, Jarrett Boykin 55, Myles White 3.

Running backs: Eddie Lacy 49, John Kuhn 19, James Starks 15,

Tight ends: Andrew Quarless 47, Ryan Taylor 18, Brandon Bostick 11, Jake Stoneburner 2.

Noteworthy: Intent on running the ball more effectively against the Falcons, coach Mike McCarthy used Taylor, a better blocking tight end, more than Bostick. He didn’t call for many deep shots down the field but when he did, Nelson made a good play on an underthrown ball from Flynn for a 46-yard completion that set up a third-quarter field goal. Had Flynn put more on the throw, it might have been a touchdown. … Bostick and Jones each had a drop. … Lacy was on his way to another heavy workload until he sprained his right ankle at the end of the first half and gave way to Starks for the first two series of the third quarter. … Dietrich-Smith gamely went the distance on an ankle he sprained in practice on Wednesday. He took out two defenders on a 16-yard screen to Lacy in the first quarter but also got beat badly by defensive tackle Corey Peters for a red-zone sack on third down in the second quarter that forced the Packers to settle for a field goal.

Defense (59 total snaps)

Defensive line: B.J. Raji 35, Johnny Jolly 32, Ryan Pickett 25, Mike Daniels 24, Josh Boyd 12, Datone Jones 9.

Linebackers: A.J. Hawk 58, Clay Matthews 54, Brad Jones 39, Mike Neal 36, Nick Perry 34, Jamari Lattimore 4.

Defensive backs: Morgan Burnett 58, Tramon Williams 58, Sam Shields 57, Sean Richardson 38, Micah Hyde 36, M.D. Jennings 21, Jarrett Bush 17, Davon House 1, Chris Banjo 1.

Noteworthy: Jolly played his best game of the season with five tackles, including one for a loss on a critical fourth-quarter play, batted down his first pass of the season and recovered a fumble. Despite leading the defensive linemen in playing time, Raji came away without a sack for the 32nd straight game. His last sack came on Nov. 24, 2011. Boyd was active over Jerel Worthy for the second straight game and the rookie fifth-round pick played more than the first-round pick, Datone Jones. … Neal and Perry both had solid days rushing the passer, while Neal came up with the big play -- the fourth-quarter strip sack of Matt Ryan that Jolly recovered. Hawk was the only available inside linebacker left after Brad Jones (ankle) and Lattimore (knee) were knocked out of action. … Richardson, who previously had played only 22 snaps on defense this season, may have wrestled a starting safety job away from Jennings with a solid performance after the coaches benched Jennings late in the second quarter. Bush had played only 42 snaps on defense since Week 2 but got the call in the dime package because dime back Hyde replaced House in the nickel. Williams played all of his snaps on the outside, leaving Bush and Hyde to cover the slot receivers/tight ends. That put Bush in position to make two key plays late in the game, the fourth-down break up of a pass to Tony Gonzalez and the game-clinching interception.

Top special teams contributors (25 total plays): Bush 21, House 21, Lattimore 20, Taylor 20, Richardson 16, Victor Aiyewa 15, Bostick 15, Hyde 14, Jennings 13.
A roundup of what’s happening on the Green Bay Packers beat.

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- When the Packers placed rookie Johnathan Franklin on injured reserve last Wednesday because of a neck injury, they replaced him on the roster with practice-squad linebacker Victor Aiyewa.

But they still needed another running back because without Franklin, they had only two halfbacks -- Eddie Lacy and James Starks -- plus fullback John Kuhn on their roster.

So it should not have come as a major surprise that on Monday they signed a running back, former Chicago Bears veteran Kahlil Bell, according to an NFL source.

The deal was not finalized before the end of league business on Monday, so the Packers did not announce the signing.

Perhaps they were still figuring out whose roster spot Bell would take.

That could depend on the Packers’ injury situation. Coming out of Thursday’s loss at the Detroit Lions, they announced only one new injury -- to center Evan Dietrich-Smith, who left the game in the second quarter with a knee injury and did not return.

Because coach Mike McCarthy postponed his Monday news conference until Tuesday at 3:15 p.m. local time, there were no injury updates available.

If Dietrich-Smith’s injury is not season-ending, then the Packers will have to find another roster spot for Bell. Among their inactive players against the Lions were four injured players -- quarterback Aaron Rodgers (collarbone), linebacker Jamari Lattimore (quadriceps), tight end Brandon Bostick (concussion) and defensive end C.J. Wilson (knee).

If the Packers don’t place any of those players on injured reserve, then perhaps they will cut Aiyewa and hope he clears waivers so that he can return to the practice squad.

In case you missed it on ESPN.com:
  • Rodgers turned 30 on Monday, but that’s hardly an age when quarterbacks decline. Seven of the last 10 quarterbacks who have won the NFL’s Most Valuable Player award were 30 or older.
  • In our latest mailbag, many readers had questions about general manager Ted Thompson’s plans for turning the Packers around after this season has gone awry.
Elsewhere:
  • At ESPNWisconsin.com, Jason Wilde made the comparison between this year’s Packers and the 2003 edition, which also saw its season at a crossroads following a Thanksgiving loss at the Detroit Lions.
  • In the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Mike Vandermause wrote that the Packers proved one thing over the last month, that they can’t win without Rodgers, and Pete Dougherty had a scouting report on the Packers’ next opponent, the Atlanta Falcons.
  • In the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Lori Nickel wrote that until Thursday’s game against the Detroit Lions, who recorded seven sacks, the offensive line had been doing a decent job protecting the Packers quarterbacks.

Packers sign running back Kahlil Bell

December, 2, 2013
12/02/13
5:40
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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers signed veteran running back Kahlil Bell on Monday, according to an NFL source.

Bell
The Packers were down to just two halfbacks -- Eddie Lacy and James Starks -- after they placed rookie Johnathan Franklin on injured reserve last Wednesday because of a neck injury.

Bell worked out for the Packers once last season, but they did not sign him. They brought him back in for a workout on Monday, according to the source, and signed him to a contract for the remainder of this season shortly after his session. Bell would be a free agent after this season.

The 5-foot-11, 219-pound Bell had the best game of his career against the Packers on Christmas Day 2011. As a member of the Chicago Bears, Bell rushed for 121 yards on 23 carries. It remains Bell’s only 100-yard rushing performance in 26 career regular-season games. He also had four catches for 38 yards in that game.

He also has some experience as a kick returner. Most of it came during preseason with the Bears.

Bell went to training camp with the New York Jets this past summer but was released during the final cuts. He played in three games for the Jets last season, sandwiched around two different stints with the Bears. Of his 26 career games, he played in 23 of those with the Bears.

He has a career rushing average of 4.3 yards in limited work. He has a total of 148 carries in his career.

The Packers will have to make a corresponding roster move to clear a spot for Bell. It was not immediately known what that move was. When they placed Franklin on injured reserve last week, they promoted practice squad linebacker Victor Aiyewa.

Weekend wrap: The 57th man and more

December, 1, 2013
12/01/13
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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Emptying out the notebook from the week that was with the Green Bay Packers:

Special teams turnover: When linebacker Victor Aiyewa lined up on the kickoff coverage team to start Thursday's game against the Detroit Lions, he became the 57th player to appear on special teams for the Packers this season.

Aiyewa, who tackled Lions returner Jeremy Ross on the opening kickoff, was promoted from the practice squad only hours before the Packers boarded for their plane for the Thanksgiving game at Ford Field.

The 6-foot-1, 237-pound first-year linebacker from the University of Washington who spent part of the 2011 offseason with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers played 12 of the 27 special teams snaps in his NFL debut.

It was another sign of just how hard the Packers have been hit by injuries. As coach Mike McCarthy said earlier in the season, it impacts special teams the most.

With four games remaining this season, the Packers already have used more players on special teams than they did all of last season, when 54 different players appears on Shawn Slocum's units.

"We always have the ability to change where guys are playing and who's playing," said Slocum, the fifth-year special teams coach.

That doesn't mean it's easy or a recipe for success. The Packers entered Week 13 ranked last in average yards per kickoff return. They also entered the week allowing the most yards per kickoff return in the league, while their punt coverage unit also was ranked near the bottom, at No. 22 overall. They were eighth in punt return average.

Still high on Tolzien: Within a five-day stretch, quarterback Scott Tolzien was taken out of a game, lost his starting job and then wasn't called upon when his replacement struggled worse than he did.

Tolzien
Yet the Packers still may be high on him as a long-term backup to Aaron Rodgers.

"I really like Scott Tolzien," McCarthy said this past week. "I think he's a young, developing quarterback. I think he has a lot of growth in front of him."

In fact, the Packers probably like Tolzien more long term than they do Matt Flynn, who was ineffective in Thursday's loss to the Lions. When the Packers promoted Tolzien to the roster on Nov. 6, they signed him to a two-year deal. When they signed Flynn off the street six days later, they signed him only through the end of this season.

Sherrod's time: Next season, the Packers expect to have both of their first-round tackles available -- Derek Sherrod (a first-round pick in 2011) and Bryan Bulaga (2010).

Bulaga is continuing to rehab his reconstructed knee that he blew out in August, while Sherrod took another step toward making that a reality Thursday. It might have seemed insignificant at the time, but the fact that Sherrod took the final six snaps against the Lions at right tackle was a major milestone.

It represented the first offensive snaps for him in more than 23 months. Sherrod had not played on offense since he broke both bones in his lower right leg Dec. 18, 2011. He spent most of the last two years on the physically unable to perform list. He was finally activated off PUP on Nov. 5. He appeared in the next two games only on special teams before taking his first offensive snaps against the Lions.

"It was good for Derek," McCarthy said. "If there was anything you felt good about, walking off the field, that was about it. Just the fact to get him back on the field. It's been two years. Just with what he's gone through and the amount of work that he's put in, that's exactly what he needs."

Franklin's future: Rookie running back Johnathan Franklin made the trip to Detroit on the same day he was placed on season-ending injured reserve.

Franklin, a fourth-round pick from UCLA who rushed for 103 yards in Week 3 against the Cincinnati Bengals, declined to discuss his injury situation in the postgame locker room at Ford Field.

He left last Sunday's game against the Minnesota Vikings because of a concussion and a neck injury. McCarthy said it was neck injury that landed Franklin on injured reserve. It was unknown whether Franklin will need surgery.

Mailbag coming: With the long layoff between the Thanksgiving game and the next outing on Dec. 8 against the Atlanta Falcons, the weekly Twitter mailbag will be pushed back to Monday. Tweet your questions to me @RobDemovsky and use the hashtag #PackersMail.

Packers' Week 13 playing time breakdown

November, 30, 2013
11/30/13
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A look at the snap counts from the Green Bay Packers' 40-10 loss at the Detroit Lions on Thursday:

Offense (43 total plays)

Quarterback: Matt Flynn 43.

Offensive line: David Bakhtiari 43, T.J. Lang 43, Josh Sitton 43, Don Barclay 37, Evan Dietrich-Smith 18, Marshall Newhouse 16, Lane Taylor 9, Derek Sherrod 6.

Receivers: James Jones 43, Jordy Nelson 43, Jarrett Boykin 31, Myles White 2.

Running backs: Eddie Lacy 25, John Kuhn 22, James Starks 7.

Tight ends: Andrew Quarless 34, Ryan Taylor 8

Noteworthy: Lang moved from right guard to center for the final 25 snaps after Dietrich-Smith left late in the second quarter with a knee injury. It was the second time this month that Lang has played center. He played 42 snaps there on Nov. 10 against the Philadelphia Eagles. Before that, he had never played center in the NFL. Newhouse, who started the previous two games at right tackle while Barclay was out with a knee injury, got his first action at right guard after Lang moved to center. Lane Taylor played the final two series at right guard, while Sherrod played the final series at right tackle for his first action on offense since he broke his right leg nearly two years ago on Dec. 18, 2011. ... Jones and Nelson played every snap for the third time this season.

Defense (81 total plays)

Defensive line: B.J. Raji 46, Ryan Pickett 41, Johnny Jolly 36, Mike Daniels 32, Datone Jones 12, Josh Boyd 11.

Linebackers: A.J. Hawk 81, Brad Jones 70, Clay Matthews 57, Nick Perry 39, Mike Neal 38, Andy Mulumba 26.

Defensive backs: Morgan Burnett 81, Tramon Williams 81, Sam Shields 81, Davon House 65, M.D. Jennings 64, Micah Hyde 13, Sean Richardson 11, Chris Banjo 6.

Noteworthy: In a five-day stretch, the Packers played 161 defensive snaps in two games combined, including Sunday’s tie against the Minnesota Vikings. Only Burnett played all 161 snaps. Hawk played 159 and Williams 157. ... Datone Jones played his lowest percentage of snaps (15 percent) this season in part because defensive coordinator Dom Capers did not use his dime package, which features Jones as an inside pass-rusher. ... Boyd was active instead of Jerel Worthy likely because Boyd is better against the run. ... Perry played for only the second time in the last seven games. He missed five games because of foot and ankle injuries. His strip-sack of Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford led to the Packers’ only touchdown of the game, a fumble return by Burnett.

Top special teams contributors (27 total snaps): Jarrett Bush 25, Mulumba 24, House 20, Jennings 18, Richardson 18, Banjo 17, Kuhn 15, Ryan Taylor 15, Daniels 14, Burnett 13, Hyde 12, Victor Aiyewa 12.
GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers promoted linebacker Victor Aiyewa to the active roster from the practice squad shortly before they boarded the plane Wednesday for their Thanksgiving game at the Detroit Lions.

Aiyewa, a first-year player from the University of Washington, was signed to the practice squad on Oct. 15.

He replaced rookie running back Johnathan Franklin, who sustained a concussion while returning a kickoff in Sunday’s game against Minnesota and was placed on injured reserve.

It ended up-and-down season for Franklin, the fourth-round pick from UCLA. He rushed for 103 yards in Week 3 against Cincinnati but fumbled on a key fourth-down play late in that loss. Franklin had not had a carry since Oct. 20 against Cleveland.

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