Thursday, June 30, 2011

Offseason Questions: Green Bay Packers

1.      Can the Packers Repeat?

That’s the question on everybody’s mind after the Packers’ victory in last season’s super bowl. The Packers seem stacked coming into next season and various media outlets have firmly situated themselves in their corner. The Packers are stronger on offense than defense with QB Aaron Rodgers returning after a season that vaulted him into the top 3 or 4 QB’s in the league. Also the Packers are stacked at wide out with the Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, rookie Randall Cobb, James Jones, Jordy Nelson and tight end Jermichael Finley. Meanwhile the Packers have some young talent on defense as well in linebacker Clay Matthews and cornerback Tramon Williams. On paper this team is built to win and possibly win big but a couple of potential obstacles could put a halt on another addition to Titletown’s reputation. The Packers play in a tough division and its only getting tougher. Don’t believe me? Fine let’s talk about that for a second. The Bears, are on the rise (aka the up&up) with an improving offensive line and a young QB in Jay Cutler who won the division last year, the Vikings are built to win now with RB Adrian Peterson running downhill, Jarred Allen running after Rodgers, and wide receiver Sidney Rice hoping to regain his ’09 form. But these were probably all things you knew, what you may not know is that the NFC North may have just become the toughest division in the NFC with the Lions on the rise. Let me just say that again, the Detroit Lions are showing promise, lots of it. Between talented but unproven QB Matthew Stafford, rookie wide out Titus Young, Jahvid Best, and Ndamukong Suh the Lions are no longer the division’s punching bag and that could hurt the Packers’ seeding come playoff time. Pair that with the fact that the other top division, the NFC South, may for the first time in a long time field 3 playoff teams and the Packers are going to be fighting hard to make it back.

2.      He’s Back

Now when one talks about the high injury season that the Packers endured last year this could mean a lot of people. But I’m talking about Finley, Jermichael Finley. Standing at 6’5” weighing 245 pounds Finley was an early pick last offseason to be one of the leagues best tight ends before experiencing a season ending injury chasing down a defender. Finley proved to have big play capability during Aaron Rodgers’ duel with Kurt Warner as he turned in a six catch 159 yard performance (second only to Kellen Winslow’s epic performance against Miami). Now Finley is back, mostly unnoticed compared to the media hype machine that surrounded him last offseason. Opposing coordinators would do well not to pat themselves on the back if the shaky handed wonder James Jones leaves.

3.      I’m Only One Man

Let’s be clear, the Packers could not run the ball last year. Attribute it to what you like, Brandon Jackson isn’t good, Kuhn is a fullback, Grant got hurt and Starks would have been good if he had played. Like I said do what you like with it, fact is the Packers sucked at running the ball and Rodgers ran far too much. Rodgers is the key to anything the Packers want to do in the future so it would be nice if he didn’t have to run that much. The Packers ranked 24th in rushing at a flat 100 yards, and 6th on rushing in the post season averaging 101 yards per game. The rushing average during the regular season was 3.8 and 3.7 in the postseason. Some might say this is really just knit picking a very solid team, that since the NFL is becoming a passing league running the ball is outdated. To that I’ll just say that nothing opens up an offense like a scared defense and if the defense knows that it’s a pass then they have all day to figure out a QB. Main point, Rodgers shouldn’t have to do it all himself, he’s only one man.

4.      Clay Matthews

I’ll be honest, I couldn’t come up with anything catchy or clever for this section regarding “the Claymaker” or the many other variants of his name that I’ve heard. Matthews is an absolute beast who comes from a long line of NFL linebackers and he has not disappointed. Matthews’ week in, week out work ethic has made him a media darling and his nice combination of speed power and relentlessness pursuit earned him a spot in the top 20 NFL Players list. Only one thing is ever really brought up of how Matthews could be better, a little help from his friends, specifically at the opposite outside linebacker spot opposite Matthews. What the Pack decide to do with this spot will be interesting to see going forward.

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