James Starks: There are still too many plays where the 30-year-old ball carrier tries to reach the perimeter only to be met by oncoming tacklers that limit him to minimal gains. Starks must come to terms with the fact that he isn’t going to make a living with his speed and acceleration, but rather with his size and patience to attack open running lanes.
After gaining all of two yards in the first quarter, Starks began running harder and smarter in the second quarter by following his blockers, putting his head down and pushing forward for extra yardage on his carries.
He bounced back from an inexcusable drop on a screen that could have netted the offense at least 10 yards in the second quarter by making a 4-yard reception in which Starks worked hard to get himself open by running across the field on 3rd-and-6. Rodgers wound up converting the subsequent 4th-down play by scrambling for 7.
No. 44 was at his best on a second-half, 6-play, 75-yard scoring drive where he used his instincts to start, stop and lunge for positive yardage on one 3-yard run followed by another play where Starks summoned all his strength to plow ahead in the trenches for 4 yards.
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On the last snap of the series, Rodgers found a wide-open Starks in the left flat, as the running back practically walked into the end zone on the 31-yard connection.
Due to the Packers once again playing from behind, the former sixth-round pick only carried the ball 9 times and, in fact, gained more yardage (46) as a pass catcher.
Starks will continue to see the majority of the backfield touches for now given his ability to play on all three downs. He gets high marks for his workmanlike effort in Week 11.
Overall, the Packers’ bookend was flawless in pass protection by allowing nary a pressure, as all of the pocket breakdowns were coming from the right side.
The Colorado product’s low center of gravity and ability to cover lots of ground on his side make him hard to get around for opposing rushers.
On the year, Pro Football Focus (PFF) ranks Bakhtiari as the second best pass-blocking lineman behind only Cincinnati’s Andrew Whitworth.
A holding penalty on a run play was the blindside protector’s only blemish in the Sunday-night tilt.
Jason Spriggs: The rookie came to the rescue of a battered, bruised and beaten Don Barclay early on in the third quarter by replacing him at right guard and adding a bit of stability to the offensive line.
Spriggs was an immediate upgrade in pass protection despite being a perimeter lineman by trade and also contributed in the ground game by serving as Starks’ lead blocker on an 8-yard run on a 2nd-and-2 play in the fourth quarter.
The 22-year-old wasn’t immune to error, as evidenced by a false-start infraction on his sixth snap, but Spriggs looked like he belonged and was immeasurably better than Barclay, who offered his quarterback zero security.
Jared Cook: The pass-catching tight end made an immediate impact in his return game by using his surprising foot speed to gain extra yardage by running past smaller defenders, as he did on a 47-yard hook-up in which Cook raced past a helpless Donte Whitner.
The 6-foot-5 weapon later lined up wide and beat Washington’s other safety, Duke Ihenacho, on a 29-yard catch that required Cook to run straight upfield and fade to the sideline while adjusting to a ball that Rodgers floated in his direction.
The one-time Tennessee Titan and St. Louis Ram made another adjustment to reel in a 6-yard touchdown pass and narrowing the Redskins’ lead to 29-24. Cook displayed uncommon agility for a player his size while beating former Packer Will Blackmon on the score.
The 29-year-old veteran wasn’t always on the same page with Rodgers, demonstrated by his failure to turn his head quickly enough on a ball thrown to him in the end zone on Green Bay’s first scoring drive of the contest.
On the day, Cooks secured 6 of his 11 targets for 105 yards. It was a tremendous outing indeed.
Julius Peppers: The 15th-year edge defender was one of the few consistent and effective players on the defensive side of the ball. His second-quarter deflection of a Cousins’ pass on 3rd and 15 could have resulted in an interception if one of his teammates had better positioning.
The 6-foot-7 North Carolina native was strong against the run by using his length and quick get-off to get through traffic and bring down Rob Kelley for a 1-yard loss in the third quarter.
The grizzled veteran has been critical of how the team has managed his snaps all year and thinks he can handle more. It’s hard to argue with him based on his still elevated level of play.
Blake Martinez: The rookie inside linebacker wasn’t out of this world, but he made solid reads and generally carried out his assignments without committing any glaring mistakes outside of one pass-interference call due to early contact that was negated by a Redskins’ infraction on the same play.
Martinez racked up 8 tackles while lending a helping hand in pass coverage, as was seen on the timely hit he applied on DeSean Jackson on a first-quarter incompletion.
His best play of the night, though, came on a 1st-and-10 tackle in which Martinez penetrated the backfield and jumped all over the Kelley before the ball carrier had a chance to change directions on the 4-yard loss.
The promising youngster left the game with an apparent knee injury. Stay tuned on his status for Week 12.