You know Aaron Rodgers ranks among the best quarterbacks in the NFL.
You know the weekly exploits of Davante Adams and the dominance of nose tackle Kenny Clark.
But in a season where the Green Bay Packers have been ravaged by injury, they have seen a slew of unsung heroes stepping forward and helping their stars establish an 8-3 record. In the spirit of Thanksgiving weekend, here are six players who exceeded expectations and for whom the Packers should be extremely grateful.
1. De’Vondre Campbell, ILB
By now, most of the Packer Nation know Campbell’s story. His story, however, is not as well known throughout the league.
Campbell, a six-year veteran, was a street free agent when the Packers signed him on June 9. Campbell had made 71 career starts with Atlanta and Arizona and was a respectable player in both cities. In Green Bay, however, he became a star.
Campbell leads the Packers with 95 tackles, which ranks him seventh in the league. He has played 98.0% of the snaps and has two interceptions, four defended passes, two forced fumbles, one sack and four tackles for a loss.
Oh yeah, and he’s the league’s highest rated inside linebacker according to Pro Football Focus.
“How the hell was that guy on the street?” Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers asked earlier this season. “It’s a great pickup from our staff. He can run, he’s a great tackler, he’s around the ball all the time, he’s a great locker room guy. I mean, it’s confusing to me.
“We are so grateful to have him because I think as he continues to play his leadership opportunities will continue to grow. The guys listen to her. He’s running the defense as much as he feels comfortable and he’s a guy we’re really lucky to have.
2. Jon Runyan Jr., LG
Runyan failed to land a starting job this summer, but when injuries ravaged the offensive line he entered the roster in week two. Runyan has started the last 10 games, allowed just two sacks and is the Packers’ highest rated indoor starter according to Pro Football Focus.
Runyan, a left tackle in college, isn’t always pretty. But he’s a fighter who has played 643 snaps and continues to improve.
“He’s just playing hard. He’s playing hard, he’s using his fundamentals, ”Packers offensive line coach Adam Stenavich said. “He’s not perfect, but he gets better with it. If he keeps driving, he’s gonna do some good things around here.
3. Randall Cobb, WR
Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst traded to Cobb at the end of July for one and only one reason: quarterback Aaron Rodgers asked him to.
In a bid to appease Rodgers and ensure the future Hall of Fame quarterback returns to Green Bay, Gutekunst struck a deal for Cobb.
While many eyes have been raised across the league, Cobb currently ranks third on the team in receptions (24) and targets (34). Cobb’s four touchdown receptions are tied for second on the team. And his two TD game in Arizona in Week 8 helped the Packers defeat the Cardinals 24-21 on a night they missed their first three wide receivers.
“It’s just crazy. I’m so grateful to be here, to be a part of this team, ”said Cobb. “It’s a special group of guys. I am so grateful, grateful for this opportunity. I am thankful for wearing the G and representing Packer Nation.
4. Dean Lowry, DE
Typically, a player in his sixth year who has $ 3.8 million against the cap would not be considered an unsung hero.
But Lowry is tied for second on the team and has already tied his career high with 3.0 sacks. He’s also tied for seventh in tackles (31), has two defensive passes, two tackles for a loss and a fumble recovered.
The Packers considered releasing Lowry last offseason. Now he has responded with the best season of his career.
“He’s in a good position,” Packers defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery said of Lowry. “He believes in it. His confidence returned. He plays physical. When you’re a guy this size and want to go ahead and walk through people, he’s got the right frame of mind. I’m happy with where he’s at mentally, and that helps.
5. Rashan Gary, OLB
Gary entered the season as Green Bay’s third outside linebacker. Today, he leads the team in sacks (5.5), at 14 years olde in the league with 25 pushes and forced a fumble.
Pro Bowler Za’Darius Smith hasn’t played since Week 1, but the Packers haven’t missed a beat with Gary. Gary suffered an elbow dislocation two weeks ago and could be limited the rest of the year, but he’s already been a major reason the Packers’ defense has improved significantly in 2021.
“You know, I think, you know one thing that always stands out with Rashan is his effort,” Packers outside linebacker coach Mike Smith said. “You know, he’s everywhere. He’s violent, he’s physical.
6. Eric Stokes, DC
Green Bay’s first-round draft pick was supposed to be the No.3 cornerback this season. Instead, Stokes played more snaps (562) than any of Green Bay’s corners due to injuries to Jaire Alexander and Kevin King.
Stokes has been hassled at times, such as in week 11 when Justin Jefferson of Minnesota got the better of him. Overall, however, Stokes held up well and his blazing speed (4.29) helped him make up for his mistakes.
“I think he did a great job,” said Packers defensive back coach Jerry Gray. “When you see the kids aren’t shaking, I really attribute that to training camp when he was up against (Davante) Adams and Aaron Rodgers and he wasn’t shaken.
“When you face the best combo in the league… and then in playing time, it’s a little different. You are not so shaken up. I think he did a great job.