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Packers' rookie report: Week Nine

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Dan Arkush
Executive editor

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By Dan Arkush

Here's a look at how the Packers' first-year players are faring through nine games (player rundowns are in order of draft selection):

OT Bryan Bulaga (first round): In his fifth straight start at right tackle in place of Mark Tauscher, Bulaga made a nice comeback from a lackluster Week Eight effort against the Jets. Bulaga did a terrific job with his pass blocking matched up against a normally very tough customer in Cowboys LOLB Anthony Spencer. Bulaga's run blocking continues to be a bit suspect, however, as he often tails off after a strong initial burst. Tauscher figures to be fully healed from his shoulder injury after the Packers' bye week, and it remains to be seen whether or not he will reclaim the starting ORT job from Bulaga.  

DE Mike Neal (second round): Neal was placed on injured reserve before the Jets game in Week Eight with a season-ending shoulder injury. He showed good potential in the two games in which he was able to play, but he had problems staying healthy.

SS Morgan Burnett (third round): Burnett was placed on injured reserve after suffering a season-ending knee injury in Week Four. He entered the season as the starting strong safety after an excellent offseason and training camp.
TE Andrew Quarless (fifth round): Quarless was inactive against the Cowboys with a shoulder injury but figures to return as the starter after resting the injury this week during the team's bye.

OG Marshall Newhouse (fifth round): Newhouse has yet to be activated this season and remains an emergency insurance policy for the offensive line.

RB James Starks (sixth round): After missing all of training camp with a hamstring injury, Starks remains in limbo after having been on the physically-unable-to-perform list and then being activated Tuesday. Daily team observers expect him to be very gradually worked into the mix after a prolonged layoff from football.

DE C.J. Wilson (seventh round): Wilson continues to make his presence felt, adequately picking up the slack against the Cowboys for veteran Ryan Pickett, who once again had to leave the game early due to an ankle injury. Against Dallas, Wilson had two tackles and the first sack of his pro career on the final play of the game.

Undrafted rookies:

OLB Frank Zombo — In his fourth start of the season at right outside linebacker against Dallas, Zombo had three tackles, including one for loss. Nine games into his rookie season, he has 22 tackles, a pair of sacks good for 18 yards in losses and a forced fumble.

CB Sam Shields — Continuing to play really well since coming back from a calf injury that forced him to miss the games against Detroit and Washington, Shields could be the biggest reason the Packers decided to release veteran Al Harris. He's arguably the fastest guy on the team, and he does not back down from anybody. Against the Cowboys, he made a highlight-film interception of a pass intended for Miles Austin. He was beaten on Dallas' lone TD matched up against 6-foot-2 Dez Bryant, but overall, he's been a very pleasant surprise. Shields also appears to have taken over the kickoff-return duties from the injured Patrick Lee (ankle) and looked good returning his one kickoff against Dallas for 49 yards.
TE Tom Crabtree — With Quarless sidelined with a shoulder injury, Crabtree split time with Donald Lee at tight end against Dallas and was pretty much a nonfactor, catching one pass for four yards. He has made much more of an impact on special teams, however, ranking among the team's leaders in special-teams tackles.

RB Dimtri Nance — Nance rushed for five yards on four carries against Dallas in garbage time after being inactive the previous week against the Jets. The Packers continue to be intrigued by the ex-Falcon.

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