John Kuhn has spent eight of his nine seasons in the NFL with the Green Bay Packers, and signed a one-year contract to remain with the Packers in 2015. Despite having only a limited role with the team, Kuhn is definitely a fan favorite and one of the most recognizable players on Green Bay’s roster.
But will he even be on the team this year? If there were a prop bet on an NFL betting site about whether Kuhn will make the 2015 roster or not, which side would you take? Let’s examine the facts:
Kuhn is the second oldest player on the Packers. He will turn 33 at the beginning of the season. The Packers are consistently one of the youngest teams in the league, and both Kuhn and the Packers are aware that his career, at least with Green Bay, is nearing an end.
That means that Packer fans must ready themselves for games without the player whose name they yell each time he touches the ball. Green Bay drafted 22-year-old Aaron Ripkowski in the sixth round this season, and he appears to be the heir to the Packers’ fullback position. Ripkowski will benefit from learning behind Kuhn to develop into a player as smart and instinctual as Kuhn has been.
In his career, Kuhn has performed well at both run-blocking and pass-protection. His block on Julius Peppers in 2013 helped Green Bay defeat the Bears on the now-famous 4th and 8 play, and he has helped open running lanes for Eddie Lacy over the past two seasons. His success in 2014 led to a Pro Bowl appearance and a selection as first-team All-Pro.
While Kuhn’s touches have remained relatively low, he has always had a high football knowledge and knows exactly what his role on the team is. His role in the 2015 regular season may stay the same, but the Packers will have a new assignment for him in training camp and the preseason.
Despite the diminishing presence of fullbacks in the modern-day NFL, the Packers would want to continue using one as a lead blocker for Lacy even after Kuhn departs. Green Bay needs a replacement for Kuhn in the very near future, and the Packers hope that Kuhn can help develop Ripkowski into a solid fullback.
Ripkowski has almost the same dimensions as Kuhn, measuring one inch taller and four pounds lighter. He needs to accept a role primarily as a blocker who will see occasional touches in short yardage situations.
It’s hard to imagine Kuhn being left off the 53-man roster entirely, but the Packers will then have to use two roster spots on fullbacks. It is likely that 2015 is Kuhn’s last season donning the green and gold, and Green Bay would be smart to ensure that the short-term future is secure.
Ripkowski’s presence on the roster and Kuhn’s age signify the imminent end of Kuhn’s tenure with the Packers. The Green Bay offense, which relies heavily on the pass, has one of the league’s best young running backs, and a solid offensive line, will not suffer a significant blow when Kuhn does leave the team.
It is only a matter of time before the fullback position is manned by someone else, and Packer fans must prepare for the day when shouts of “KUUUUHN” will no longer rain down on Lambeau Field.——————
Sean Blashe is a Packers fan who grew up in Bears territory and is currently a journalism and history major at Marquette University. Sean is a writer with PackersTalk.com and you can follow him on twitter at @SeanBlashe .