Here’s a look at how the Packers’ first-year players are faring through 13 games:
OT Bryan Bulaga (first round): As generally solid as Bulaga has been as the starting right tackle in place of veteran Mark Tauscher (injured reserve), he continues to have his share of growing pains. Such was the case against the Lions in Week 14. Bulaga was pressured consistently by the Lions’ fired-up front four on a day when the entire offensive line left a lot to be desired.
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 had his best numbers of the season against the Lions (team-high five catches for a team-high 62 yards). But his fumble at the end of a sizable gain, which stopped a promising game-opening drive dead in its tracks, was a costly mistake. Quarless’ 20-yard catch on the Packers’ first second-half possession helped set up the team’s only points of the day on Mason Crosby’s 42-yard field goal.
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): One week after a very impressive pro debut (18 carries for a team-high 73 yards), Starks, who was activated from the physically-unable-to-perform list on Nov. 9, came down to earth big-time against the Lions with only eight yards rushing on six carries, one of which was a seven-yarder.
DE C.J. Wilson (seventh round): Wilson’s playing time increased in Week 14 with Cullen Jenkins sidelined with a calf injury, but he failed to get on the stat sheet. On the game’s lone TD — Lions TE Will Heller’s 13-yard TD catch — Wilson was out of position on his zone drop.
OLB Frank Zombo — Zombo contributed two tackles against the Lions before leaving the game early in the fourth quarter with a sprained knee that could keep him out of the Packers’ next game in New England. He has been doing a surprisingly solid job as the team’s starting right outside linebacker in place of the injured Brad Jones, and the Packers’ run defense quickly went downhill after he was removed from the Lions game.
CB Sam Shields — The fastest player on the team continued to be reliable both as the nickel corner — Dom Capers went with a nickel defense 75 percent of the time against the Lions — and primary kickoff returer (2-47 vs. Lions). Green Bay’s special-teams coaches believe Shields is a good bet to go the distance on a kickoff return any game now.
TE Tom Crabtree — Crabtree’s primary contribution has been as a blocker and special-teams performer, but he had a bad day at the office in Detroit, getting beaten badly for a sack and also failing to block the Lions’ Lawrence Jackson on a couple of runs.
RB Dimitri Nance — Returning to the lineup after being inactive the previous week, Nance had only four yards rushing on two carries but looked good picking up 14 yards on a screen pass late in the game.
OL Nick McDonald — The undrafted center-guard from Division II Grand Valley State is currently the team’s 10th offensive lineman and is not likely to see any playing time unless there is suddenly a rash of injuries on the O-line. But the Packers like his versatility and toughness and believe he could have a promising future.
CB Josh Gordy — Having spent four months with Jacksonville as a rookie free agent before being cut Sept. 1, Gordy is fast and athletic with skills similar to those of Shields. While he is expected to contribute more in the future, he shapes up as a special-teamer and emergency fill-in at cornerback for now.