NFC North: B.J. Raji

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- An examination of what the Green Bay Packers must do after their 36-16 loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday night:

Don Barclay isn't coming back to save the offensive line again, so if the knee injury that starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga suffered in the second quarter against the Seahawks is serious, Packers coach Mike McCarthy and offensive line coach James Campen better find a way to get Derek Sherrod to eliminate the handful of game-breaking plays that contributed to the Packers' demise in the opener.

Bulaga
Either that or they might have to consider other options.

The coaches might say Sherrod made only a few mistakes, but when your job is to protect quarterback Aaron Rodgers and clear holes for running back Eddie Lacy, even one mistake is too many.

Maybe Sherrod, the former first-round pick, will improve if he has to play again. After all, Thursday was his first meaningful game action since he broke his leg as a rookie in December 2011. But the two sacks he allowed were drive-killers. One came on fourth-and-5. The other resulted in Rodgers' fumble and a safety.

"You just go about it like you always do, work hard in practice," Sherrod said when asked what he needs to do to bounce back.

If the Packers have lost faith in Sherrod, general manager Ted Thompson might have to look to his emergency list for a roster addition. Or McCarthy and Campen could move right guard T.J. Lang to tackle and fill the hole at guard with reserve Lane Taylor.

This is where the knee injury that Barclay suffered early in training camp is costly. He started 18 games the past two seasons, including 14 last year at right tackle.

The Packers said the initial reports on Bulaga's knee were positive, and they called it a sprain. But remember, they also expressed initial optimism about B.J. Raji's arm injury (which turned out to be a season-ending torn biceps) and about JC Tretter's knee injury (which landed him on the temporary injured reserve list).

If they did not avoid a major injury to Bulaga, who missed all of last season with a torn ACL in the same knee he hurt Thursday, it will be a devastating blow personally to a player who had not played since Nov. 9, 2012 because of injuries, and it could cripple the Packers' offense.

"Obviously, he's a guy who's had some bad luck the last couple of years," Lang said. "He's one of the hardest-working guys we've got, and seeing him go down is never easy. Talking with him, I think he sounded pretty confident that he won't be out long. He's a guy that we need. He's a good player for us."
GREEN BAY, Wis. – It goes against everything you probably think run defense is about in the NFL.

Smaller cannot be better.

Not in a world of 325-pound offensive linemen, 250-pound fullbacks and 230-pound running backs.

But after watching their 1,000 pounds of girth on the defensive line last season fall from a top-five run defense at the midway point of last season all the way to 25th by end of the year, the Green Bay Packers are trying a different approach.

[+] EnlargeGreen Bay Packers
Matt Ludtke/AP ImagesMike Daniels moves into a starting role this season after posting 6.5 sacks in 2013.
With that kind of decline, the Packers could not stand pat. So they let two of their three starters from last year – 338-pound Ryan Pickett and 325-pound Johnny Jolly -- leave after their contracts expired. Both remain out of football. They planned to surround their 337-pound nose tackle B.J. Raji with a pair of lighter, more athletic defensive ends in Datone Jones (285 pounds) and Mike Daniels (305).

And then they lost Raji to a season-ending torn biceps in the preseason.

So the defensive line the Packers will take into Thursday's opener at the Seattle Seahawks has an average weight of 309.4 pounds. Last year's defensive line averaged 314.3 per man. This year, the Packers have just one 330-plus pounder, undrafted rookie backup nose tackle Mike Pennel (332 pounds).

"You look at the type of guys in which we have this year as opposed to years past, it's … I wouldn't say smaller, but I would say it's a more active, faster, more aggressive D-line as well as linebacker group," Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews said. "So we feel good about it."

The early returns suggest the Packers might be on to something, although it's always dangerous to make any assumptions based on the preseason. However, with the exception of a 40-yard run by Oakland's Maurice Jones-Drew, who broke three tackles on the play, the Packers' defensive starters did not have much trouble shutting down the run when they played in the first three preseason games.

"People have tried to run the ball on us in the preseason, and we've done a nice job against that," Packers defensive line coach Mike Trgovac said. "Some of the teams we played -- Oakland, Tennessee and St. Louis -- they were not fancy. Oakland, especially, was a power team. I think we'll be OK there."

The Seahawks might be the better judge of that.

The defending Super Bowl champs ranked fourth in the NFL in rushing yards per game (136.8) last season, which is nearly what the Packers allowed per game last season. And the Seahawks' featured back, Marshawn Lynch, breaks tackles by the handful.

The Packers go into that game with a new nose tackle -- free-agent pick Letroy Guion (315 pounds) replaces Raji in the starting lineup -- but perhaps defensive coordinator will play even less of his base 3-4 defense than he did last season, when he used it just 24.8 percent of the time.

The alternative would be to use just two down linemen. Either way, the Packers will be smaller and lighter up front than last season.

"It makes me laugh when people say we're smaller," Jones said. "We're not small. Josh Boyd and I are both 6-4, 290 pounds. That's not small at all. Those are two big defensive ends. I wouldn't necessarily say we're smaller. I would just say we went away from the 330-pound defensive linemen and went to a more traditional guy. A lot of people don't see that, but it's not like we're a small defensive line so we can't play the run."
GREEN BAY, Wis. – Aaron Rodgers fell from atop the ESPN #NFLRank list.

But he's still the highest-ranked quarterback.

The Green Bay Packers star slipped to No. 2 in the second annual offensive player list, flip-flopping spots with Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson, but Rodgers remained on top of the quarterback class. He edged out Denver's Peyton Manning (No. 3 overall).

Other quarterbacks in the top 10 were New Orleans' Drew Brees (No. 6) and New England's Tom Brady (No. 7).

According to ESPN Stats & Information, since Rodgers became the Packers' starting QB in 2008, his 3.67 touchdown-to-interception ratio is the best in the NFL. His Total QBR of 74 during that span is second only to Peyton Manning (80).

The Packers finished with nine players in the top 100 combined on offense and defense. Only four teams – San Francisco (15 players), Seattle (13), New England (10) and Denver (10) – placed more players on the lists.

Here are the Packers in the rankings:

Defense
No. 95: CB Sam Shields
No. 81: DT B.J. Raji
No. 50: OLB Julius Peppers
No. 14: Clay Matthews

Offense
No. 77: G Josh Sitton
No. 66: WR Randall Cobb
No. 60: RB Eddie Lacy
No. 34: WR Jordy Nelson
No. 2: QB Aaron Rodgers
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- There is no doubting the impact that linebacker Clay Matthews has when he is on the field for the Green Bay Packers.

Matthews
According to ESPN Stats & Information, when Matthews was on the field over the past two seasons, the Packers had a sack percentage of 8.9 percent, which would have been tied for second best in the league.

The problem is that Matthews has missed nine regular-season games over the past two seasons, including five last season because he twice broke his right thumb.

That is the likely reason that Matthews dropped eight spots to No. 14 among all NFL defensive players in this year's ESPN #NFLRank.

He is the fourth -- and (spoiler alert) final -- Packers defensive player to appear in the top 100. The Packers will not have any defensive players in the top 10, which will be revealed on Friday.

Here are the Packers in the rankings so far:

Defense
No. 95: CB Sam Shields
No. 81: DT B.J. Raji
No. 50: OLB Julius Peppers
No. 14: Clay Matthews

Offense
No. 77: G Josh Sitton
No. 66: WR Randall Cobb
No. 60: RB Eddie Lacy
No. 34: WR Jordy Nelson
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- How many 29-year-old NFL players are still ascending?

Count Green Bay Packers receiver Jordy Nelson among the small group that can make that statement.

Nelson, who turned 29 on May 31, jumped 32 spots to No. 34 among all offensive players in ESPN's second annual #NFLRank project.

The Packers clearly believe Nelson has not reached his plateau. After all, they gave him a four-year, $39 million contract extension last month. In new money, it made Nelson the ninth-highest paid receiver in the NFL by average salary per year.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Nelson has 31 receptions of 30 or more yards since the start of 2011. That ranks second to only Detroit's Calvin Johnson (32).

Here's a look at the Packers in the rankings so far:

Defense
No. 95: CB Sam Shields
No. 81: DT B.J. Raji
No. 50: OLB Julius Peppers

Offense
No. 77: G Josh Sitton
No. 66: WR Randall Cobb
No. 60: RB Eddie Lacy
No. 34: WR Jordy Nelson
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers reached the mandated 75-player roster limit on Tuesday by placing six players on injured reserve. Two days earlier, they waived seven players.

Most surprising move: When the Packers used to hold their offseason practices on the old practice field that bordered Oneida Street, there was a term for players who stood out in helmets and shorts and then faded when the pads came on. They were known as members of the “All-Oneida Team.” Put receiver Chris Harper in that category. The second-year pro drew praise from quarterback Aaron Rodgers and coach Mike McCarthy for his production during the offseason program. After a practice on June 3 during which Harper caught a deep pass, McCarthy said: "That’s the kind of explosiveness that he has." Two and a half months later, Harper did not even make it to the final cuts. He was one of seven players released on Sunday.

Change of plans: So much for tight end Colt Lyerla spending the season learning the Packers’ ways while on injured reserve. On Tuesday, they reached an injury settlement with him, the details of which can be found here. If the Packers truly wanted to develop Lyerla, it would seem logical that they would have kept him on injured reserve to keep a close eye on him.

Packers’ moves: After Sunday's release of seven players -- Harper, safety Charles Clay, cornerback Antonio Dennard, linebacker Korey Jones, fullback Ina Liania, quarterback Chase Rettig and receiver Gerrard Sheppard -- the Packers were at 81 on their roster. On Tuesday, they placed the following six players on injured reserve: receiver Jared Abbrederis (knee), guard/tackle Don Barclay (knee), running back Rajion Neal (knee), nose tackle B.J. Raji (biceps), linebacker Joe Thomas (knee) and guard Andrew Tiller (calf). Abbrederis, Barclay and Raji will remain on injured reserve for the entire season, but Neal, Thomas and Tiller most likely will be given injury settlements and released at a later date.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- It often takes an injury or an unusually poor preseason showing for a Green Bay Packers draft pick to get cut at the end of his rookie training camp.

Take last year's class as an example. Of the 11 players picked, eight made the opening-day roster.

The three who did not – fourth-round pick JC Tretter plus seventh-rounders Charles Johnson and Kevin Dorsey – all had injury issues. Tretter missed all of camp because of a broken ankle that forced him to start the season on the physically unable to perform list, while Johnson and Dorsey battled injuries throughout the offseason. Johnson played in only two preseason games, while Dorsey played in only one. Johnson landed on the practice squad before the Cleveland Browns signed him, and Dorsey spent the season on injured reserve.

With that in mind, here's a look at where things stand for each member of general manager Ted Thompson's 2014 draft class heading into Thursday's preseason finale against the Kansas City Chiefs, plus the undrafted rookies who could be on the verge of winning a roster spot:

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S (first round): After a slow start to training camp, Clinton-Dix has found himself around the ball more often of late. He has three interceptions during practices this summer, which ties safety Sean Richardson for the camp lead. However, it looks like he won't unseat second-year pro Micah Hyde for a starting job. That means Clinton-Dix likely will play only in the dime (six defensive back) package to start the season.

Davante Adams, WR (second round): Early in camp, Adams was pushing Jarrett Boykin for the No. 3 receiver spot but inconsistent play derailed that. Meanwhile, Boykin has overcome a slow start to secure that spot. If Adams can refine his route running and shore up his hands, he could still make a push for more playing time as the year goes on.

[+] EnlargeRichard Rodgers
Benny Sieu/USA TODAY SportsRookie Richard Rodgers is in line to be the Packers' starting tight end.
Khyri Thornton, DE (third round): Much like fifth-round defensive end Josh Boyd last season as a rookie, it's been a big adjustment for Thornton. Thompson has never cut a third-round pick coming out of his first training camp, but Thornton might have trouble getting on the field early in the season. Playing mostly against second- and third-stringers in preseason games, Thornton has just one quarterback hurry and no sacks or hits in 81 snaps, according to ProFootballFocus.com. Boyd was inactive for six of the first eight games last season. Thornton could follow a similar path.

Richard Rodgers, TE (third round): Without much fanfare, Rodgers appears to have won the starting job over veteran Andrew Quarless and up-and-comer Brandon Bostick (who went down with a foot injury in the second preseason game). However, Bostick almost certainly would have been the tight end in two-minute situations and likely will be when he returns next month. Rodgers' blocking has to catch up to his pass-catching ability.

Carl Bradford, LB (fourth round): It doesn't matter how the Packers spin the last-minute decision to switch Bradford from outside to inside linebacker this week, that's a tell-tale sign that they're concerned he may never be able to be a productive pass-rusher off the edge. Thompson has not cut a fourth-round rookie since receiver Cory Rodgers in 2006, but Bradford has been just as disappointing. If he makes it, it's solely because they're not ready to give up on him yet.

Corey Linsley, C (fifth round): This was supposed to be a redshirt season for him, but the knee injury to Tretter last week means Linsley might be the most important rookie on the team when the Packers open the regular season in Seattle. His responsibility as the starting center, even if it's only until Tretter returns, is far greater than what any other member of this draft class faces. Physically, he looks the part, but his mental errors have hampered him.

Jared Abbrederis, WR (fifth round): The former Wisconsin standout almost certainly would have made a strong push for the No. 5 or 6 receiver spot if not for a torn ACL in the first week of camp. He also would have had a chance at the kick return job but instead will spend his rookie season on injured reserve.

Demetri Goodson, CB (sixth round): The former college basketball player at Gonzaga who then played three years of football at Baylor has struggled mightily in coverage despite obvious athleticism. He sustained a concussion in last Friday's preseason game against the Raiders, leaving his status his doubt.

Jeff Janis, WR (seventh round): Still raw and unschooled in the complexities of the Packers’ offense, Janis' speed can't be ignored, which is why Thompson likely will keep him on the roster. After his impressive 34-yard, catch-and-run touchdown in the second preseason game, it's likely a team would claim him before the Packers could sneak him through to the practice squad.

Undrafted rookies with a chance: Defensive tackle Mike Pennel of Colorado State-Pueblo is a virtual lock to make the roster after B.J. Raji's season-ending injury, while outside linebacker Jayrone Elliott (who is tied for the NFL preseason lead in sacks with four) might be only one more good showing away from joining him on the 53.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers signed Letroy Guion this offseason because they liked what he showed during his six seasons with the Minnesota Vikings.

Guion
If they're going to keep him on their roster, it might have to be for the same reason.

The 6-foot-4, 315-pound defensive tackle finally made his practice debut on Monday after missing nearly the entire training camp because of a hamstring injury he sustained the week before camp opened. His return coincided with the final full-pads practice of camp, and it's not a given he will play in Thursday's preseason finale against the Kansas City Chiefs. Between now and then, the Packers will hold only one more practice -- Wednesday's light, day-before-the-game session.

"We'll take another step further at Wednesday's practice in getting some more reps and keep progressing," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Monday. "It'd be foolish to throw him out there and give him a full load."

The Packers don't have much invested in the 27-year-old, who was a backup in his first four seasons before starting 28 games combined in 2012 and 2013. The only guaranteed money they gave him came in the form of a $100,000 signing bonus.

But with the season-ending injury to nose tackle B.J. Raji, Guion suddenly became a much more important player.

"It's always an urgency when a man goes down," Guion said. "It makes me have to step up, having to be that guy. So I'm going to take all my steps forward to do what I've got to do to get prepared."

In Guion, the Packers have a rare veteran option on a defensive line that without Raji features only one player who has made a start for the Packers. That's third-year pro Mike Daniels, a projected starting defensive end who in his first two years has made one start.

"That's good to have that veteran presence," said Daniels, who also could be an option to move to nose tackle. "[The] guy's been doing this for going into his seventh year; obviously had some success. He's played some very good, tough football. He's a tough, strong guy. We could use that."

Guion and undrafted rookie Mike Pennel are the only two true nose tackles the Packers have without Raji. Second-year pro Josh Boyd, who replaced Raji after his injury against the Oakland Raiders on Friday, played almost exclusively at defensive end last year as a rookie. However, Boyd played nose tackle in college at Mississippi State for two years before moving to end.

"You know, I've always been a guy who could play pretty much all the positions," Boyd said. "So it really doesn't matter. The best place they need me is where I'll play. So I'm very comfortable with anything."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers spent nearly five months preparing JC Tretter to start at center when the regular-season opens on Sept. 4 at the Seattle Seahawks.

Now they have less than two weeks to prime rookie Corey Linsley for the task.

Tretter
The news that Tretter sustained a knee injury in Friday's preseason game against the Oakland Raiders and will miss up to six weeks struck a bigger blow than the loss of nose tackle B.J. Raji, who sustained a season-ending torn biceps in the game.

Raji is the bigger, more recognizable name, but Tretter is the greater loss.

Tretter is the reason the Packers opted not to re-sign last year's starting center Evan Dietrich-Smith, who went to Tampa Bay in free agency.

The Packers felt so confident in the second-year pro even though he had never played center that they devoted their entire offseason to getting him ready to help Aaron Rodgers run the no-huddle without so much as looking at another option in practice. Rodgers was going to have his fourth different starting center in as many years anyway. Now it will be a center he might not take a game snap with before the opener given that Rodgers does not typically play in the final exhibition game.

"It can be done," said backup quarterback Matt Flynn, who has worked extensively with Linsley this summer. "It's the 10 other guys around him that are key factors in not letting there be a setback. It's a blow for us, spending that much time with a guy getting him ready, getting him prepared. But the thing about training camp is everyone's getting about the same amount of reps. We've also been getting Corey ready. We hope that there's not going to be a drop off there. And he couldn't have any better people surrounding him, whether it's the two guards [Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang] or Aaron behind him, with the mental part of it."

It will be a crash course. The Packers have just two more practices this week before the preseason finale against Kansas City on Thursday and then have a short week to prepare for the Thursday night opener against the defending champs.

"This will be my millionth center, so it's not anything new to us," said Sitton, who also took some snaps at center on Sunday. "I wouldn't say it's difficult; it's just a process. I told JC this morning, 'Right when I got real comfortable with you, now you're gone.' It sucks. It's unfortunate, but we're used to working with a bunch of guys, so it's something you've got to roll with."

Before Sunday's practice, Linsley had not taken a single rep with the No. 1 offensive line since the time he was drafted in the fifth round out of Ohio State in May.

The physical aspect of the game does not look like a problem for him. For example, Linsley's record in the one-on-one pass-blocking drill in training camp is a respectable 8-2. However, offensive line coach James Campen has had to harp on Linsley about mental mistakes and missed assignments in both practice and preseason games.

"It's definitely the mental side of the game that I've been slacking on and that I need to improve on," Linsley said. "It's just the subtleties -- the outside zone step as opposed to the inside zone step, the differences between the aiming point are very subtle -- but they make a difference. That's what I've got to work on."

Packers Camp Report: Day 19

August, 24, 2014
Aug 24
5:15
PM ET
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Green Bay Packers training camp:
  • Before practice began on Sunday, the Packers released seven players. They were: safety Charles Clay, cornerback Antonio Dennard, receiver Chris Harper, linebacker Korey Jones, fullback Ina Liaina, quarterback Chase Rettig and receiver Gerrard Sheppard. That left the Packers with 81 players on their roster. NFL teams must cut down to 75 players by Tuesday, but the Packers might only have to release three more if they place receiver Jared Abbrederis (knee), guard/tackle Don Barclay (knee) and nose tackle B.J. Raji (biceps) on injured reserve. All have been lost for the season but remain on the roster.
  • Cornerback Casey Hayward, who did not play in Friday's preseason game against the Oakland Raiders, returned to practice on Sunday, although he appeared to be on a limited snap count. Hayward also missed two days of practice last week because coach Mike McCarthy said they were just being smart with him given that he missed all but three games last year because of a hamstring injury.
  • In addition to Raji, the Packers also were without another defensive starter, linebacker Brad Jones. McCarthy said Jones sustained a quadriceps injury and won't play in Thursday's preseason finale against Kansas City but should return for the season opener at Seattle.
  • Second-year pro Josh Boyd took most of Raji's snaps at nose tackle with the No. 1 defense on Sunday. Last season, Boyd played almost exclusively at defensive end. "Maybe things happen a little faster because it's got you closer to the ball," Boyd said. "It's a more closer area, more faster reactions, but it's nothing I can't handle."
  • It does not look like rookie running back Rajion Neal will return before the end of the preseason. Neal sustained a knee injury in the preseason opener at Tennessee but impressed the Packers early on with his hard-running style. Others who did not practice were: cornerback Demetri Goodson (concussion), linebacker Joe Thomas (knee), guard Andrew Tiller (calf), center JC Tretter (knee), tight end Brandon Bostick (leg) and defensive tackle Letroy Guion (hamstring).
  • Sunday's practice, which was closed to the public, lasted only one hour and 40 minutes. There will be just two more practices open to the public: Monday at 11:45 a.m. local time and Wednesday at 10:30 a.m.
video 

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The immediate reaction when a player gets hurt is to bring back an aged veteran to replace him, but the Green Bay Packers should -- and likely will -- resist that temptation.

Raji
General manager Ted Thompson would have a couple of those options to replace starting nose tackle B.J. Raji, who has a torn right biceps and learned on Saturday that he will miss the entire season.

But don't look for the Packers to bring back Ryan Pickett, who teamed with Raji on the defensive line the past five seasons. The same is likely the case for Johnny Jolly, who was the third member of the starting defensive line in Green Bay last year.

Both Pickett and Jolly are out of work and available, but neither fits what the Packers want to do on defense this season. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers aspires to be quicker across the front line, which means they have to get younger. Pickett will turn 35 in October, while Jolly turned 31 in February. Also, Jolly is coming off a neck injury that required fusion surgery.

A year after the Packers started a three-man defensive line that combined to weigh 1,000 pounds -- with Raji at 337, Pickett at 338 and Jolly at 325 -- this season they planned to pair Raji with Mike Daniels (305) and Datone Jones (285).

The Packers signed former Minnesota Vikings backup Letroy Guion to play behind Raji, but Guion has yet to practice because of a hamstring injury.

That leaves former fifth-round pick Josh Boyd, who replaced Raji after his injury on Friday against the Oakland Raiders, as the most likely replacement. It would mean the starting defensive front would feature a pair of second-year players (Boyd and Jones) and a third-year pro (Daniels). The Packers also are high on undrafted rookie Mike Pennel, who likely would have made the team even before Raji’s injury.

While the Packers lose a starter in Raji, he's not a full-time player. Last season, Capers used his base 3-4 defense on just 252 of 1,015 snaps (24.8 percent). Raji was slated to see some playing time in the nickel package, but Daniels and Jones are the primary duo in that package. Raji would not have played at all in the dime defense.

For Raji, the injury comes at the worst possible time. The 28-year-old former first-round pick signed just a one-year, $4 million contract this offseason with the hope that he could improve his stock with a strong season and parlay that into a bigger deal next offseason.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- B.J. Raji seems to think the arm injury he sustained in Friday's preseason game against the Oakland Raiders is not serious.

At least that's what he conveyed to Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy.

Raji
"He's pretty confident about it," McCarthy said after the Packers’ 31-21 victory.

But even McCarthy did not sound sure.

Raji is scheduled to undergo more tests on Saturday.

"That's why you do the tests," McCarthy said. "We'll see what the tests say tomorrow."

Raji played parts of the first two defensive series and then did not return. The nose tackle's last play was a 1-yard run by Raiders running back Darren McFadden, and Raji did not appear to injury himself on that play. He was replaced by second-year pro Josh Boyd.

Raji remained on the sideline for the remainder of the first half and had a long, protective sleeve on his right arm, which he did not use during the game. He had ice on his upper arm after the game.

If Raji's injury is serious, the Packers could turn to Ryan Pickett, who played for the Packers from 2006 to 2013. He was not re-signed this offseason and remains unemployed. So does Johnny Jolly, who returned to the Packers last season after serving a three-year NFL suspension, but Jolly plays defensive end and not nose tackle.

The only other injury the Packers announced was to rookie cornerback Demetri Goodson, who sustained a concussion.
Lacy
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- It did not take Eddie Lacy long to enter into the NFL's consciousness.

By his fourth game as a pro last season, the Green Bay Packers running back had posted his first 100-yard game. By season's end, he was one of the league's most recognizable – and productive – running backs.

And 1,178 rushing yards later, he finds himself well within the top 100 offensive players in ESPN's #NFLRank project. When the next set of 10 players was unveiled on Friday, there was Lacy at No. 60.

It was Lacy's hard-charging running style that perhaps made him so popular with fans and respected by opposing defenses. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Lacy had the fourth-most yards after contact in the NFL last season with 531. He also was the only rookie with more than 1,000 rushing yards and at least 10 touchdowns in 2013.

The top-50 players on each side of the ball will be announced next week.

Here's a look at the Packers in the rankings so far:

Defense
No. 95: CB Sam Shields
No. 81: DT B.J. Raji

Offense
No. 77: G Josh Sitton
No. 66: WR Randall Cobb
No. 60: RB Eddie Lacy
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- How good do the voters in ESPN’s #NFLRank feel about Green Bay Packers receiver Randall Cobb?

How's this for a sign: He missed 10 games last season yet slipped only two spots from last year. In our second annual rankings, Cobb checked in at No. 66 among all NFL offensive players when Nos. 61-70 were revealed on Thursday.

Perhaps the lingering memory of Cobb was his game-winning, NFC North-winning 48-yard touchdown catch on fourth down with 46 seconds left in the regular-season finale against the Chicago Bears. It came in Cobb's first game back after breaking his tibia and landing on the temporary injured reserve list.

Cobb was on his way to a big season before his injury.

He has become one of Aaron Rodgers' most reliable receivers. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Cobb caught 78 percent of his targets in 2012, second best among wide receivers (Brandon Stokley, 79 percent) that season.

Cobb is the fourth Packers player to make one of the lists. Nos. 51-60 will be revealed on Friday, followed by the rest next week.

Here's a look at the Packers in the rankings so far:

Defense
No. 95: CB Sam Shields
No. 81: DT B.J. Raji

Offense
No. 77: G Josh Sitton
No. 66: WR Randall Cobb
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Josh Sitton is no longer an unknown commodity around the NFL.

Last season, the Green Bay Packers left guard was named to the Associated Press' All-Pro second team.

And now the seventh-year veteran has cracked the ESPN #NFLRank project, which picks the top 100 players on each side of the ball. When players 71-80 were revealed on Wednesday, Sitton popped up at No. 77.

He's the third Packers’ player to show up in the rankings so far, but the first on the offensive side of the ball.

ESPN Stats & Information has come up with nuggets about each player selected and had this to say about Sitton:

"Sitton and the Packers' offensive line allowed their running game to average 2.9 yards before contact per rush last season, fifth best in the NFL. Sitton played more offensive snaps than any other Packer last season.”

Packers in the rankings so far:

Defense
No. 95: CB Sam Shields
No. 81: DT B.J. Raji

Offense
No. 77: G Josh Sitton

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