Every NFL team has players who perform better than expected and the 2023 Green Bay Packers are no exception. When the season started, these players were unsure of their role on the team, or it was expected to be minimal. But these five Packers players have been pleasant surprises this season:

Packers Pleasant Surprises, Number Five: ILB Isaiah McDuffie

Before the season started, Isaiah McDuffie was expected to be the Packers third inside linebacker. The former Boston College star has started only one game in his first two NFL seasons while playing extensively on special teams.

But when injuries hit both De’Vondre Campbell and Quay Walker, McDuffie stepped into the starting lineup and he’s played well.

McDuffie has started six games and has played 54 percent of the Packers defensive snaps. McDuffie is presently second on the Packers defense with 67 total tackles including three tackles for loss.

This season, McDuffie seems to have a better grasp of the defense. He also has done a better job of shedding blocks and getting himself into position to make plays.

Surprise Number Four: DL Karl Brooks

Karl Brooks made a big jump from Bowling Green to the NFL. GM Brian Gutekunst picked Brooks in the sixth round of the 2023 NFL Draft. Brooks made the team and has been part of the team’s rotation on the defensive line. Thus far, Brooks has played 36 percent of the team’s defensive snaps while playing in all 11 games.

Brooks has done a good job of getting into the opposing team’s backfield to disrupt plays. He has recorded three sacks and eight pressures. In addition, Brooks has four tackles for loss and four passes broken up.

Brooks has demonstrated a lot of potential and his role in the defensive line rotation should increase as he continues to adjust to life in the NFL.

Packers Pleasant Surprises, Number Three: WR Dontayvion Wicks

The Packers selected Dontayvion Wicks in the fifth round of the 2023 NFL Draft. Wicks was expected to be near the bottom of the depth chart as a rookie but has stepped up and made an impact this season.

Wicks has played in 10 of the team’s first 11 games this season and started two. He has 20 catches for 331 yards and scored his first NFL touchdown in Week 2 against Atlanta.

Wicks has a 62.5 percent catch percentage and has proven he can get downfield and make big plays. The Virginia alum is averaging a healthy 16.6-yards per catch.

The Packers believe Wicks can be an even bigger part of the offense in the future.

Surprise Number Two: S Rudy Ford

Safety was considered one of the biggest question marks on the Packers roster entering the 2023 season, but the play of Rudy Ford helped solve that problem.

Ford won the starting job in training camp and started a career-high eight games before missing the last three contests due to injury.

According to Pro Football Focus, Ford has done a very good job in pass coverage this season. In fact, he has the highest grade in coverage of any Packers defensive back. Ford has two interceptions this season. Opposing quarterbacks have a quarterback rating of just 54.4 when throwing to receivers covered by Ford this season according to pro-football-reference.com.

The Packers will benefit from Ford’s return to the lineup which could come as soon as this Sunday against Kansas City.

Packers Pleasant Surprises: Number One, CB Carrington Valentine

The Packers selected Carrington Valentine in the seventh round of this year’s NFL Draft. Valentine stood out in training camp and in the preseason and earned a roster spot. In fact, the strong play of Valentine made Gutekunst comfortable enough to trade veteran cornerback Rasul Douglas to the Buffalo Bills at the trade deadline.

Valentine is physical and thrives in press coverage. He has started seven games and broken up six passes thus far. Opposing quarterbacks have completed just 45.7 percent of their passes when throwing to receivers covered by Valentine.

The Kentucky alum has played well enough to secure a starting job even when the team’s other cornerbacks return healthy. He has taken advantage of all opportunities and has the potential to become a solid starter in this league for years to come. The Packers coaching staff is eager to see how much better he can become with some more experience.




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