Packers Exit Survey: Season Recap Series

After nearly three months, our Packers season recap series has concluded. 

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.

With the hard work behind us, Jon and Gary answer some tough questions about the evaluation and the Packers going forward.

1. Which Packers player was the hardest to evaluate in 2017?

Jon: For me, Kyle Murphy. Here’s a guy firmly on the roster bubble entering training camp, and not only did he make the roster, he started and played well in key games after a wave of offensive line injuries early in the season.

Gary: You’re onto something there with Murphy, Jon. I remember when we put together the 2016 recap series and we both spent what felt like hours looking for a photo of Kyle Murphy in a Packers uniform. This is what we came up with.

Jon: But then Murphy himself was caught by that wave of injuries and ended up on injured reserve. How do you truthfully evaluate a season for a guy like that? He certainly exceeded expectations for the time he was around, but he wasn’t around very long.

Gary: For him to go from an obscure, forgotten rookie to a starter who held his own certainly counts as exceeding expectations for me.

2. Readers disagreed with our evaluation of a Packers player 21 times. Is there a player out of the 21 that you would evaluate differently?

Jon: If anyone, Kentrell Brice. Not only did people disagree with our assessment that he met expectations in 2017, a whopping 88 percent said he failed to do so. That’s a significant disagreement between our take and that of our readers, so Brice probably merits further investigation. Fortunately, as he figures to play a big role in the Packers’ defense next season, we’ve already been preparing to do just that.

Gary: Along those lines, I wrote that rookie running back Devante Mays met expectations in 2017. Much like they did with Brice, our readers voted overwhelmingly – 87 percent – that he did not meet expectations. By simply making the roster out of training camp and sticking with the team for all sixteen games, I think Mays met expectations. What else could you hope for out of a seventh round draft pick?

3. Just 15 Packers players exceeded your preseason expectations. Of those 15, the offensive line made up the greatest percentage with six representatives. Why?

Jon: Having done a lot of the line reviews, I think I’m uniquely qualified to take on this question. My read on the offensive line is this: early in training camp, the offensive line was thought to be a significant weakness for the Packers. We even wrote about it at length, primarily because we perceived a lack of depth along the line. That perceived lack of depth was largely the result of having inexperienced players along the line, leading to a lot of guys with low expectations.

Gary: It’s hard to remember just how poorly most viewed the Packers’ offensive line as recent as seven or eight months ago. I think the departure of guard T.J. Lang to the Lions played a part in that viewpoint. Lang is an easy person to root for, and seeing him leave in free agency to a division rival without much of a fight from Green Bay was disheartening, if not the correct move.

Jon: But as the early parts of the season showed, the depth was largely fine, even if it resulted in some odd groups of linemen on the field together. When players like Justin McCray, Kyle Murphy, and Lucas Patrick played well, it was easy to mark them down as exceeding expectations.

4. Nine players had low preseason expectations and did not meet them. Is there anyone from that list who can contribute to the team in 2018?

Gary: Here’s the nine players who had low expectations and did not meet them: QB Jerod Evans, WR DeAngelo Yancey, WR Max McCaffrey, CB Herb Waters, CB Demetri Goodson, LS Derek Hart, LS Taybor Pepper, DT Montravius Adams and LB Chris Odom.

Jon: Of that list, I’d point to Montravius Adams as having the best chance to improve his evaluation for the better in 2018.

Gary: That’s a good choice, and probably the easiest from the list considering his draft status.

Jon: He really had a hard time getting on the field last season, partly due to injury and partly due to the fact that he plays a position where it’s very hard for young players to make a big time impact early on. Rookie defensive linemen are by and large just boys playing against men, and they often struggle. Adams is on my short list of guys I’m watching heading into 2018.

Gary: Adams is likely the only one on that list who is virtually guaranteed a roster spot in 2018. I do like the upside on DeAngelo Yancey. He showed enough in the preseason to warrant a year on the practice squad, and his college tape shows a player in the mold of former Packers receiver James Jones.

5. When evaluating a player’s individual contributions, did your opinions on any particular Packers player change through this process?

Jon: Very much so, and I think if your evaluations don’t change at least a little bit as you go through the process, you’re probably not doing it right. Every time you look to evaluate a player, you’re going in with some kind of bias, conscious or otherwise. Recognizing that bias makes it easier to change, and I saw my opinions change in the face of my bias a few times during this series.

Gary: I think it’s really easy to fall into the bias trap on players who didn’t see the field much. We talked about Devante Mays earlier, but those players who maybe make it on the field for a handful of snaps often can be perceived as “bad” because they haven’t made a show-stopping play yet. That doesn’t mean they didn’t meet or even exceed expectations.

Jon: For example, though we never believed that outside linebacker Chris Odom truly met expectations in 2017, the evaluation process helped me see his season in a new light. Yes, he struggled in 2017, especially compared to players like Reggie Gilbert, who produced in very limited time last season. But looking deeper into why Odom played the way that he did and the timeline around his move to the Packers contextualized my understanding of his play and I was more sympathetic in my evaluation.

6. What would you change about your evaluation process?

Jon: In the magical world where The Power Sweep is funded by the generosity of a benevolent billionaire with an interest in independent sports media, I would spend time breaking down every snap of every player on the Packers.

Gary: Considering this is a magical world, I would humbly request the ability to avoid traffic jams. Also, I’d like a private jet. Make it two private jets!

Jon: Back in the normal world, I would love to figure out a way to get every player’s opinion on how they played in 2017. There’s always a barrier between people who write about the game and those who play it, and finding a way to break down that barrier in this evaluation process would be very interesting.