Packers Annual Checkup: FB John Kuhn

Today is the 26th day of FOX Sports Wisconsin Packers writer Paul Imig’s offseason evaluations of every player on Green Bay’s roster. Click here for all of Paul’s previous evaluations and come back every day through mid-March for Paul’s in-depth film and statistical analysis. Coming up soon:

Saturday, Feb. 23: G T.J. Lang
Sunday, Feb. 24: LB Jamari Lattimore
Monday, Feb. 25: LB Terrell Manning
Tuesday, Feb. 26: LB Clay Matthews
Wednesday, Feb. 27: S Jerron McMillian
Thursday, Feb. 28: OLB Dezman Moses


Season stats: 16 games (14 regular season, two postseason); 26 rushing attempts, 67 yards (2.57 average), two rushing touchdowns; 17 catches, one dropped pass, 163 receiving yards, one touchdown reception; two QB sacks allowed; two forced missed tackles

Best game: Week 5 loss at Indianapolis (two carries, nine yards, one touchdown, 4.5 average; one catch, six receiving yards; one forced missed tackle; season-best 1.5 PFF rating)

Worst game: Divisional-round loss at San Francisco (one QB sack allowed, one dropped pass, zero carries, zero receptions; minus-0.9 PFF rating) season rating: 4.3 (seventh-best on Packers offense; ranked No. 12 out of 25 among NFL fullbacks)

Expectations at the start of the season: Medium

Expectations were … Met

Looking live: Kuhn entered training camp as one of three fullbacks on the roster, along with Jon Hoese and Nic Cooper. However, neither Hoese nor Cooper had much of a chance to overtake Kuhn or even make the regular-season roster (which they didn’t do). Kuhn, who was ranked by the NFL Network as the league’s 93rd-best overall player entering the 2012 season, had another average season by fullback standards. For the fourth year in a row, Kuhn finished in the middle of the fullback rankings. In 2011, when Kuhn made his first Pro Bowl and was named second-team All-Pro, his overall rank was the lowest of his career. But, players from winning teams — the Packers were 15-1 in 2011 — are often rewarded due to the success of the group as a whole. From an individual perspective, Kuhn had a better season in 2012 than he did in 2011 despite the accolades that he picked up a year ago. Kuhn battled a hamstring injury midway through the season and had to miss two games. It was the first time in three years Kuhn was forced to sit out with an injury.

Upon further review: Kuhn is a dependable player who takes a very workmanlike approach to his job. Those characteristics are often deemed to be exactly what Packers fans want to see from players, which is part of the reason Kuhn is better known around the league as “Kuuuuuuuuhn,” thanks to a chorus of 70,000 people at Lambeau Field on gamedays. Kuhn is popular with teammates as well, with Aaron Rodgers often citing the way younger players (especially running backs) follow the 30-year-old veteran’s positive practice and workout habits. It translates on the field, too, shown in nearly every clip of film from the season that Kuhn rarely doesn’t handle an assignment. Those are the positives that Kuhn offers. On the flip side, though Kuhn is often in the right spot, he’s not as physical as most NFL fullbacks. He does well enough in run blocking and well enough in pass blocking but doesn’t perform those tasks dominantly or at the level of a top-10 player at his position. This was also a very ineffective year for Kuhn running the ball. He finished with just one touchdown — he had four in each of the past two seasons — and only four first-down rushes. But, as long as Kuhn is the Packers’ most consistent pass blocker in the team’s backfield (which he was in 2012), there will be a role for him in Green Bay’s offense in third-down situations.

Overall 2012 grade: C

Status for 2013: 98 percent chance of being on the Packers’ Week 1 active roster. Sooner than later, Green Bay will have to find a fullback to replace Kuhn. Currently, he’s the second-oldest signed player on the Packers roster, younger than only defensive lineman Ryan Pickett. For all his hard work and diligent effort, Kuhn is the type of player whose production — at some point — is likely to fall off quickly from one season to the next. At the moment, Green Bay wouldn’t be prepared for that to happen. That’s why the 2013 season is almost certain to begin with Kuhn on the team. However, given the $2.3 million that Kuhn is owed next season in the final year of his deal, it’s possible the Packers could begin to look for his eventual replacement.

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