Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Packers Minicamp This Week: Kuuuuuuuuhn!

This is the week for the Green Bay Packers minicamp, and it marks the last bit of real Packer news until training camp begins in late July. It'll be marked with some humongous quotes about receivers and how some players live in the gym. The Packers official twitter feed had the following picture of one of the all-time fan favorites who is entering the twilight of his Packer career:
I was a little surprised when the Packers re-signed FB John Kuhn this offseason. He's coming off a Pro Bowl nod because there are very few true full backs playing in today's NFL but the Packers have been decreasing his usage over the past three seasons. The following number of snaps and run blocking rating over the past five seasons is from Pro Football Focus:
Year Snaps Run Blocking
2014 249 5.2
2013 337 5.8
2012 437 -2.4
2011 432 -7.7
2010 420 0.2
My nutshell description of Kuhn is that he's a player who doesn't make mistakes, he can occasionally make a big play (maybe a few per season), and he's not a very good run blocker. I should also add that he's very reliable because he's only missed a few games due to injury since 2008.

But there's been also been a big change in his usage over the past two seasons which can be summed up as thus: Eddie Lacy. Since Lacy's arrival in 2013, the Packers have been using Kuhn less and all of sudden his run blocking rating has shot up. I don't think he's really gotten that much better as a run blocker; it's more about how Lacy's such a powerful runner that he makes his blockers look good.

At age 32, the only older player on the roster is LB Julius Peppers. GM Ted Thompson has preferred a roster full of young players for almost his entire tenure, so Kuhn has to be approaching the end of the line. He'll be playing on a one-year, non-guaranteed contract in 2015 with zero salary cap hit if he was released tomorrow. He wouldn't have been re-signed if he wasn't expected to fill the same role in 2015 as he had in 2014 (blocking, occasional short-yardage carry). But at the same time, this could very well be his last season in Green Bay so enjoy chanting Kuuuuuuhn while you can.


Anonymous said...

Hey Brandon. I've actually read a lot that Kuhn has specifically worked to gain strength the past 2 yrs and has changed his focus to become a very good run blocker. I think the fact he's got Lacy behind him helps, but I definitely think Kuhn has become a good to very good run blocker. The problem is his age... I don't think the Packers are ready to trust Ripkowski to handle the many situations Kuhn does, so I expect both to make the roster this year, then the Packers go w/ just Rip starting next year.

Brandon said...

I wouldn't be surprised if it's a bit of both (working on his blocking and the presence of Lacy). I'm not expecting much from Ripkowski in 2015 either. He seems like a good candidate for the practice squad, which is not a slight, Kuhn started his NFL career on the practice squad, to keep roster flexibility and fullbacks aren't in high demand so I wouldn't expect another team to offer him a spot on their 53-man roster. Based on Kuhn's age (old by GM Ted Thompson's standards) it does seem like they expect Rip will be the starter in 2016.