3 Green Bay Packers That Could Become Surprise Heroes

In 1967, Chuck Mercein’s statistics — 56 rushing yards and one reception for six yards — were about as eye-popping as beige wallpaper.

Mercein, a running back, didn’t join the Green Bay Packers until midway through that 1967 season. And many fans — and even some teammates — had a hard time remembering old No. 30’s name.

Today, Mercein’s name is etched in Packer lore.

During the NFL Championship Game — better known as the Ice Bowl — Mercein played hero. Mercein accounted for 34 yards on the Packers’ 12-play, 68-yard game-winning drive as Green Bay stunned visiting Dallas, 21-17.

Quarterback Bart Starr capped the march with a 1-yard touchdown run. But the Packers wouldn’t have been in position to win without the little known Mercein.

“I’m definitely not the guy most people would have picked,” Mercein said about being a hero. “It was just great to be placed in a position to make a contribution. You always hope to be up to bat with the bases loaded and two outs. That’s all I could have asked.”

The top-seeded Packers (13-3) host the sixth-seeded Los Angeles Rams (11-6) Saturday at 3:30 in an NFC Divisional playoff game. And if Green Bay is going to make a run to the Super Bowl, it undoubtedly needs new heroes to emerge.

Here’s a few surprise candidates that could play a big role in Saturday’s game.

1. Robert Tonyan, TE

Los Angeles star cornerback Jalen Ramsey figures to shadow Green Bay standout receiver Davante Adams. This season, Adams averaged 8.2 receptions, 98 receiving yards and 1.3 touchdowns per game. With Ramsey in his grill, though, it will be tough for Adams to match that production.

Los Angeles has terrific No. 2 and 3 corners, as well, with Troy Hill and Darious Williams. And that duo could contain Green Bay’s second and third wideouts, Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling.

That could mean Tonyan will become a focal point in the passing game.

Tonyan, who had 14 career receptions prior to 2020, had 52 catches and 11 touchdowns this year. The Rams’ linebackers aren’t special, meaning Tonyan could have several opportunities to shine.

“We have great coaches, we have a great team,” Tonyan said. “So wherever they put me I’m just going to go out and play my game within my role and obviously good things are going to happen.”

2. Lucas Patrick, RG

Most viewers follow the football every single play. When the Packers have the ball, they might want to keep their eyes glued on No. 62 this week.

Patrick had a solid season, allowing three sacks and being penalized three times in 939 snaps. Patrick was Green Bay’s lowest-graded offensive lineman, though, according to Pro Football Focus.

Now, Patrick faces the greatest challenge of his career when he lines up across from all-world nose tackle Aaron Donald Saturday.

Donald is the best interior defender in football and has been named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year twice. This season, Donald (6-1, 280) had 13.5 sacks, 27 quarterback hits and four forced fumbles for the NFL’s top-ranked defense.

Since 2017 alone, Donald has 57.5 sacks, 119 quarterback hits and 15 forced fumbles. Donald, a first-round draft pick in 2014, has 85.5 career sacks and will be a first ballot Hall of Famer if he continues at this pace another year or two.

Donald won’t be 100% due to a rib injury, but he’s still a human wrecking ball. The Rams will line him up in different spots, but the majority of his work figures to come against Patrick.

“He’s a once-in-a-lifetime-type player,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said of Donald. “This guy is dynamic. He’s a guy that can totally disrupt and have a major impact on a game.”

3. Rashan Gary, OLB

Gary is arguably the most-improved player on Green Bay’s roster from last season. Gary ranked second on the Packers in sacks (5.0) and tied for second in quarterback hits (11.0) this year.

League-wide, though, Gary is still flying under the radar as veterans Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith get most of the attention among Green Bay’s outside linebacker group.

The Rams’ offensive gameplan will undoubtedly start with slowing down Za’Darius Smith (12.5 sacks, 23 quarterback hits). That could leave Gary with favorable match-ups throughout the day and a chance to be the surprise player on Green Bay’s defense.

“He freaking loves football,” Packers outside linebackers coach Mike Smith said of Gary. “It’s amazing. These days you don’t see athletes and guys that are built like this. Talking about just old school football running the ball, just old school athletes that love to put their pads on and love to hit every play and have the mindset of just being tough and all that type of stuff, that’s who he is.

“That’s’ how I knew that this kid’s impossible to fail because you had the athletic ability. The kid loves it too much. He’s too violent of a person. Guys like that they don’t fail.”

The Packers are hoping that’s the case Saturday night.

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/robreischel/2021/01/14/3-green-bay-packers-that-could-become-surprise-heroes/