5 Packers Who Exceeded Expectations in 2017
Over the past two months, we’ve evaluated each and every player who contributed to the Packers in 2017. Yes, even the backup long snapper.
We graded each player based on whether they exceeded, met or did not meet their preseason expectations. It’s an inexact science, but it helps us get an idea of how individual performances contributed to a team that failed to make the postseason for the first time in nearly a decade.
It wasn’t all bad news, however. These five players were voted by our readers as having overwhelming exceeded their expectations.
A whopping 93 percent of fans felt like Jones exceeded their expectations in his rookie season, and it’s easy to see why. Though he averaged under 20 snaps per game over his 12 contests on the active roster, he certainly made an impression in his complementary role.
Paired with fellow rookie running back Jamaal Williams, it’s easy to envision a future Packers backfield that makes life easier for Aaron Rodgers and his receivers.
Top highlight: Jones had just one carry against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 13, and it was one to remember. This touchdown in overtime won the game and kept the Packers’ narrow playoff hopes alive for another week.
As a rookie, Martinez was expected to be a cure all for a defense that needed way more than help at inside linebacker. It didn’t go very well. But in 2017, facing much lower expectations, Martinez delivered – 92 percent of our readers agreed with our evaluation that Martinez exceeded expectations.
Though his tackle total probably has something to do with the excellent efforts of Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark in front of him, a league-leading 144 is nothing to sneeze at.
Top highlight: Week 12’s Sunday night shootout between the Packers and Steelers was one of the season’s most entertaining games, and Martinez made one of the game’s biggest plays. Green Bay was leading by seven in the third quarter when the linebacker alertly got his hands on the ball after Ahmad Brooks tipped Ben Roethlisberger's screen pass into the air.
Over the season’s first three contests, Aaron Jones didn’t touch the ball and Jamaal Williams rushed five times for 21 yards. Williams was called upon late in the season and provided steady, dependable yards on the ground. The rookie from BYU ground out yards one bruising run at a time.
When Aaron Rodgers is at full strength next season, it’s clear the Packers will have one of the league’s best rushing attacks at his disposal.
Top highlight: While he may not have been the big play running back that Aaron Jones can be, Williams’ soft hands and excellent field vision allowed him to turn a screen pass around midfield into a touchdown in Week 12’s loss against the Steelers.
The former first-round draft pick remained Green Bay’s youngest player in 2017, but more than fit in on the defensive line. Clark and Mike Daniels excelled when on the field together, and the pair provided ample pass rush and run defense throughout the season.
While Daniels may be the team’s best lineman today, there’s no question Clark is well on his way to claiming the title in the near future. The NFL may be in a golden era for defensive lineman – Ndamukong Suh, Aaron Donald, J.J. Watt, and Fletcher Cox to name a few – and Clark is on his way to joining that elite group.
Top highlight: Green Bay’s season was on the line in Carolina, and Clark delivered this massive sack of Panthers quarterback Cam Newton late in the third quarter. The play may have sparked the Packers’ dramatic comeback, though they ultimately fell short in the end.
A change at quarterback from Aaron Rodgers to Brett Hundley did little to slow down wide receiver Davante Adams in 2017. He was on the receiving end of two game-winning touchdowns, one from each quarterback, and was arguably Green Bay’s most dominant offensive player this season.
Adams passed up the opportunity to explore free agency this offseason to sign a four-year, $58 million contract extension. The deal was one of the final moves by outgoing general manager Ted Thompson.
Top highlight: By the time the Packers traveled to Cleveland to play the 0-12 Browns, there was a sense that eventually Cleveland had to win at least one game. Green Bay seemed to give the Browns every chance to secure their first victory, but this walk-off touchdown in overtime by Adams pushed Cleveland’s record to 0-13.