Lambeau Leap of Faith

May 6, 2010 10:45 PM

Favourite Packers, Current

Note: This is one of a three-part series on my favourite all-time Packers. I have editions on the favourite player from any era who I have met, favourite player I have ever watched, and favourite player currently on the team. Each will have a runner-up an honourable mention...

The traits I tend to appreciate most in a player are not so much performance, but perseverance, over-achievement, and character/leadership. Rookies really have no chance to make this list, as these traits cannot be proven in a short time. Without further adieu, the following are my favourite players on the 2010 roster...

Honourable mention

Ryan Grant
was an undrafted free agent that the Packers traded a late-round pick for, and he is already an near-elite back. He has two consecutive 1200-yard seasons and has more rushing yards (3412) over the past 41 regular season games than anyone in the league.

Grant also has shown character--something that was a question mark before his arrival with the careless injury he suffered off the field while with the Giants--by working to improve any part of his game lacking. In his first season as a Packer, he was a poor receiver, averaging fewer yards per catch (4.8) than per carry (5.1). In his second season, he improved in yards per catch (6.4) while he battled through a hamstring injury all season to be productive, but struggled with three fumbles lost and was still not good at picking up blitzes. By last season, he solved the fumble problem (no back over 700 yards had fewer), was adequate blocking, and was up to 7.9 yards per reception.

Runner up

Mark Tauscher
was a seventh-round pick who was already starting by his third game of his rookie season. Before 2009, the last game he missed was 2002; from 2003-2008, he anchored the right side on an offensive line that yielded just 91 sacks over 80 games despite a below average running game for its last three years. He took less than a year to come back from a knee injury that would end the career of a lot of 31-year old tackles to a line that had given up 32 sacks in half a season during his absence, solidifying it enough to see a sack reduction of over 40 percent (19) over the last eight games.

And it does not hurt that he grew up in Pewaukee, WI, about 15 miles from my hometown of Sullivan, either.

4290708704_e73016ac39.jpgBlue Ribbon winner

Aaron Rodgers
came in under nearly impossible circumstances, taking over an NFC runner-up after being chosen over a popular legendary quarterback who, while he had quit, wanted to return. The ugly divorce caused many fans to openly reject Rodgers and even blame/hate him; some even became turncoats and root for Brett Favre's team over the one they claimed to have been fans of.

Moreover, he had to endure a difficult season and the stigma of not being able to win because he was the primary change from a 13-3 team that went 6-10. However, not only had he come back to tie or take the lead in the fourth quarter eight times in that season, only to see his defense blow seven of those leads, but had put up Pro Bowl numbers (sixth-ranked passer with over 4000 yards passing, 32 total touchdowns--including rushing--and 16 turnovers). Yet he remained the consummate professional.

The next season, he made the Pro Bowl with even more astounding numbers, finishing as the fourth-ranked passer with over 4750 total yards (including being the top rushing numbers among all quarterbacks), 35 total touchdowns, and just 11 turnovers. He set franchise playoff records for yards and touchdowns, and became only the second quarterback ever to get over 4000 yards passing in his first two seasons starting.

The only quarterback who was more successful following a legend who was sent to play elsewhere was Steve Young, and Young had significant experience when he was thrown into the fire. In addition to being a starter in the USFL, he had started the better part of two previous seasons, thrown over 1100 NFL passes before, and made the Pro Bowl the previous year.

Rodgers is a player who has endured the worst pass blocking line in the league and unsurpassed emotional pressures accomplished greatness despite having never started.

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