Youngsters Shining On Both Sides Of Ball For Packers

By Michael Tiscia
Bruce Kluckohn-USA TODAY Sports

The Green Bay Packers have always been known to draft well. GM Ted Thompson, along with president Mark Murphy and head coach Mike McCarthy have built an organization that relies on drafting young talent and making them productive immediately. This has been the case over the past several years for the Packers, but this season may be their best ever.

So far this season, the Packers have had rookies that have been put into starting positions, and they have stepped up in a big way. Five of their first six draft selections have made an immediate splash on this team and already are fan favorites.

On the offensive side of the ball, Eddie Lacy, David Bakhtiari and Johnathan Franklin have been great all season long and are proving to coaches and fans that they are dependable players who can make plays. So far this season, Lacy has rushed for 446 yards and three touchdowns. Along with his numbers on the ground, he has proven he can protect Aaron Rodgers and also catch the ball out of the backfield.

Along with Lacy, Franklin has done a nice job sparring carries. Franklin has dealt with a few injury problems early on this season but when he has played, he has been productive. Franklin’s biggest game came in Week 3 against the Cincinnati Bengals. Filling in for an injured Lacy and James Starks, Franklin ran for 103 yards and a touchdown. He has been solid in his time on the field, and I expect him to continue to be a very good second option for McCarthy’s offense.

The one rookie on the offensive line that has made the running and passing game possible is Bakhtiari. Coming out of the University of Colorado, Bakhtiari was highly rated by the Packers and he has immediately become a factor, filling in all season for an injured Bryan Bulaga. Bakhtiari has had to protect Rodgers’ blindside and he has done a fantastic job in that role.

He has had tough matchups against guys like Aldon Smith, Terrell Suggs and Brian Orakpo. Bakhtiari has worked on his craft all season long, and has gotten nothing but praise from the Packers. His performance continues to improve and you can expect even bigger things to come from Bakhtiari as he gets more repetitions.

On the defensive side, first-round selection Datone Jones has been very solid and continues to look like a guy who can be a great pass rusher. Jones has dealt with a few injuries, but has done his best to overcome them. He hasn’t seen much time on the field but when he has, he’s shown signs of a guy who is powerful, quick and can create havoc. If Jones can get back to 100 percent, he will add a much-needed pass rusher to a defense that has improved this season.

Maybe the most impressive rookie on the defensive side of the ball is a guy that not many people knew about. His presence on defense has been very visible, and he has also given the Packers a threat on special teams. I am talking about Micah Hyde. The fifth-round selection from the University of Iowa has stepped into the defense and has become a very reliable cornerback while also emerging as a very good return man.

This season, Hyde has recorded 25 tackles along with a sack. This past week, Hyde also had his first career return touchdown as he took a punt 93 yards against the Minnesota Vikings. He is exactly what the Packers hoped for when they drafted him, but even the Packers couldn’t have thought he would be so good so soon.

The Packers’ success this season has been a collective team effort, but there is no doubt that these rookie sensations have given the team a boost. I expect even better things this season from the rookies as they continue to grow and learn. They will continue to become more dangerous and if they can stay healthy, look out!

Michael Tiscia is a Green Bay Packers writer for Follow him on Twitter, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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