Most Important Packers: Nine through Six.
Number 9: Coming in at number nine in the top ten most important Packers for this season is wide receiver James Jones. Last season James Jones aka Darth Vader had a career year. With Greg Jennings missing most of the season and Jordy Nelson battling injures, James Jones stepped up and delivered. Jones led the league in touchdown receptions with 14. While notching career highs in receptions (64) and yards (784).
This season Jones could be in for an even bigger year. With Jennings now wearing purple, Jones could be in line for even more opportunities. It wasn’t that long ago that the Packers fan base wanted Jones out of Green Bay as he struggled with drops. Now he has become a fan favorite and he is entering the final year of his contract and the Packers fan base wants him back. Funny how things change.
Jones won’t have as many receptions as Randall Cobb, but he could wind up with more big plays and touchdowns. Nobody is expecting him to put up 14 touchdowns again, but with Aaron Rodgers throwing him the ball nobody would be surprised if he did. Jones, unlike Jordy Nelson is durable. In his six year career he’s only missed six games. As long as the drops don’t come back, Jones could be in for a career year. Last season was the official coming out party for Jones. This year could be the year Jones becomes a household name. Prediction: Jones will have 81 receptions for 1,053 yards and eight touchdowns.
Number 8: Number eight on the most important Packers for this season is tight end, Jermichael Finley. Last season Jermichael Finley was the definition of a diva superstar. Actually he wasn’t even a superstar, he was just a diva. He did more talking than playing. It seemed like every week Finley had something new to say to the media. Thus far in training camp Finley has looked impressive. Last week against the Rams he looked phenomenal having four receptions for 78 yards. He looked like a player that was ready for a breakout season. The big question surrounding Finley is, can he be consistent and string games like that together?
Despite struggling with drops last season Finely still managed to catch 61 passes. If the Packers are going to get back to the Super Bowl though they need Finley to be more of a playmaker. Last season he only had two touchdown receptions. That’s just not good enough for a big bodied tight end like Finley. He has to be more of a weapon in the red zone. The Packers need a mix of
Jermichael Finley and
Finley. Just with the 2011 Finley, less showboating. It’s ridiculous how last season he would catch a five yard pass for a first down and act like he just scored the game winning touchdown in the Super Bowl and than follow it up with a drop.
This is a make or break year for J-Fin. He is entering the last year on his contract and there were rumors this past offseason that the Packers weren’t going to bring him back. Another season like last year and you can bet that J-Fin will be playing elsewhere.
Prediction: J-Fin will have 65 receptions for 845 yards with seven touchdowns.
Number 7: Coming in at number seven on the top ten most important Packers for this season is guard Josh Sitton. Even before Bryan Bulaga went down with his season ending injury, Josh Sitton was the best lineman the Packers had. Now with Bulaga lost for the season, Sitton needs to be even better. Sitton needs to be the anchor of what is a very inexperienced offensive line for the Packers. T.J. Lang the other starting guard is the only other starting offensive lineman with more than ten career starts (34).
Last season Josh Sitton was charged with three of the 51 sacks given up by the Packers last season. Other guard T.J. Lang gave up nine. Sitton needs to be that good in pass protection again this season. With the Packers hoping to improve their running game this season Sitton needs to pave the way. Sitton is already regarded as one of the best guards in the league. This season he needs to be even better if the Packers ground game is going to take off. Sitton needs to be a leader for the young guys on that offensive line. An offensive line that will employ two offensive tackles with a combined four NFL starts and a center who only has nine career starts. Sitton signed an extension in 2011 and he’s already regarded as one of the best lineman in the game. The scary thing is, I think he can be even better. Sitton is best known for his antics on Twitter, but after this season he’ll be known as All-Pro Offensive Guard
Number 6: The second rookie to make my top 10 most important Packers for this season is first round pick, Datone Jones, defensive end out of UCLA. Jones stands at 6’4 and weighs 285 pounds. Since the Packers have switched to a 3-4 defense they’ve never employed a defensive end with the athletic ability that Jones possesses. Last season the Packers defensive line managed 11.5 sacks. J.J. Watt had 20.5 sacks last season. Let that information sink in.
Datone Jones is an athletic big man, who will bring a jolt of life into the Packers defensive line. He’s strong against the run and quick enough to post double-digit sacks in the 3-4 defense. Jones has been battling an ankle injury thus far in preseason action, but, look for him to be ready to go week one. It will be a good test to see how Jones will stack up against the run early in the season. Week one they play the San Francisco 49ers, the team that blasted them on the ground in the Divisional round of the playoffs. Week two they play the Washington Redskins who boast a strong ground game with Alfred Morris and Robert Griffin III.
Outlook: Datone Jones will be the playmaker that the Packers defensive line has been sorely missing since they made the transition to a 3-4 defense. Look for him to provide a spark that lights up the rest of the defensive line. Bold Prediction: Jones will have 8.5 sacks this season and will light a fire under B.J. Raji who will have five sacks. Packer Nation should be excited about this rookie class and Jones is big reason why. He will be a force to be reckoned with and will be a strong candidate for Rookie of the Year.
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