2014 Season Previews:
Green Bay Packers
What did happen to the Packers last year?
Number one you can look at all-world QB Aaron Rodgers missing out on 7 games, but the Packers did go 3-3-1 in those games. The larger issue is Rodgers wasn’t the only one to miss time. 11 starters missed a total of 58 games. The third reason for such a record is that 25th ranked defense.
Aaron should be fine, the injury bug shouldn’t be as bad, but will the defense improve? Lets take a look.
4 of the 5 starters return, and one of those is looking to be replaced by Byran Balaga who is coming off back to back injuries. His replacement, Don Barclay will be there. The biggest issues is at center, where the 4th guy in 4 years will be snapping the ball back. Andrew Tretter could be back there, and he is also coming off injury.
Have Aaron? All good, right? Not so fast.
Even before getting hurt, Rodgers was not having the best year. Rodgers ended the year with 17TDs and 6 picks, if you take them over a full year, the Packers would have had one of worst year from Rodgers since taking over the Packers job, Rodgers is still getting hit way too often for Packers fans to be confident he’s going to last the entire year.
Matt Flynn is back from stealing money from the rest of the NFL, and he did go 2-2 as a starter, but he hasn’t improved, and his confidence is shaken a bit.
One good thing about Aaron being gone, is the Packers had to do something with the running game, and Eddie Lacy was a major find. He ended the year with almost 1200 yards and 11 TDs. As long as Lacy is able to stay healthy (are you getting a theme?) then this is one of the most solid spots on the team, since James Starks is a pretty good back and the Packers brought him back.
I don’t quite get this, they Packers have Jarrett Boykin, Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson, and only lost James Jones and his 3 TDs- so the Packers go out and use 3 picks on receivers, I just don’t get using that many when they could have gone Center in Round 2 and been better off. (or maybe DEFENSE?) But things being what they were, the Packers are bringing 10 WRs to camp, and if Cobb is back off his broken leg, this could be a scary, scary unit. Sitting at Tight End is Andrew Quarless, but he’s not exactly the pride of the team, but did catch 32 balls. The Packers brought 7 tight ends to camp as well.
BJ Raji is still the anchor of the line, but had a bad year last and came back on a cheap contract to try and get that good contract. Beside him is going to be Julius Peppers, who keeps thinking he is going play End and Linebacker, but thats not going to happen. Last years number one pick, Datone Jones is supposed to be on the other side, but needs to have a strong sophomore year. Behind them is going to be Mike Daniels and Josh Boyd, both a little smaller than the starters, but could get some playing time in down and distance packages, if Peppers does move back a bit.
AJ Hawk has come back to earth after a great start to his career. Next to him is either Brad Jones or Jamari Lattimore. Lattimore is more talented, but is a serious feast or famine guy. If the secondary was better, then Lattimore might get more playing time, but Jones is more of a consistent player.
Clay Matthews is still a star, but has been hit with the injury bug- but when he plays, he’s a MAN. The other side could be held by a rotation with Mike Neal and Julius Peppers wanting to play here, as well as Nick Perry. This position has a lot of flux, and could be considered a weak spot this year . . .especially if Clay Matthews gets hurt again.
Sam Shields is back, but is he worth 10M a year? He better be. Tramon Williams is the other corner, and he can be a solid player, if he’s healthy, see the theme here? The safeties sucked last year, period. The Packers got ZERO picks from the duo, and were lucky that Ha Ha Clinton-Dix fell to him, its amazing that he fell that far. He’s not the fastest guy out there, but he’s always in the right place at the right time, and rarely made a bad mental mistake. Morgan Burnett is other starter, and he simply has to be better than last year.
Mason Crosby had a career year, so the Packers feel better going into 2014 than they did in 2013, and Tim Masthay is an above average punter.
The Packers were dead last in the league at Kickoff Returns, and I doubt they ever let Cobb back there. Now the late round WR picks? You betcha. This unit also needs some love put on it in the coverage area.
I still think the Packers made a serious error in going after offensive players, Obviously the Packers have a great GM, but I’m not sure I would have picked single offensive player, unless a Center just fell into my lap.
Have Aaron, will travel. The Packers have a great QB, a Pro Bowl RB and a solid line, plus one of the best WR core in the game. Again, say it with me, if healthy. If the game turns into Madden, or they played in a dome- this could be a monster team. Problem is, they don’t, defense counts in the NFL, the Packers held ONE team under 20 points. Each level on the defense has talent, and if 100% this defense could be good, if not, then the defense has places to attack. Peppers could help, but he does have a tendency to vanish during games, and the Packers seem to forget that he’s THIRTY-FOUR.
This season they get to play the NFC South and AFC East, so Car/No/Pats is going to give them problems, but they also get Philly and Seattle. I can see 5 losses there. Looking at the division, it all depends on the Lions. If the Lions can compete, then they could be fighting for the division crown all the way to the week 17 clash, with the loser staring at tie-breakers.
I’m seeing 10-6, and much like the Panthers, depends on matchups how far they go.
EJ: Green Bay had a rough season last year due to injuries. Most notably they lost their quarterback Aaron Rodgers for 7 games, and they still made the playoffs. So, at the end of the day this is a good team. Playing without Aaron last season, the Packers finally discovered a running game. Running back Eddie Lacy is a popular pick in fantasy drafts right now. The 2nd year player comes into this season as the key to the Packers offense. That’s not a slight to Rodgers, not at all, but the Packers offense and the team will go much further if Lacy is picking up serious yardage.
In Aaron Rodgers you know what you are getting, a Pro Bowl QB, and his receiving unit are the prime benefactors of that production. Jordy Nelson recently got paid, Randall Cobb is another player fantasy players have their eyes on, and I like Boykin. Tight end, however? That spot likes pretty questionable. The former Penn State Nittany Lion Andrew Quarless looks like the play here, and while he’s a solid athlete, I don’t think he matches the impact of a pre-injury Jermichael Finley.
The Packers defense in interesting. The strength of the team is at linebacker with AJ Hawk and Clay Matthews. Hawk may have had a subpar season, but he’s still a player to keep an eye on, and if Matthews is healthy, he’s one of the best at his position. Adding Julius Peppers who may play defensive end or linebacker is big for this defense. BJ Raji needs to be a force on the defensive line, and look for Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix to make an impact his rookie year at safety.
So where am I coming in on the Packers? I think David is right on with 10-6 but I’ll go one game less and say 9-7. The second half of the season sees the Bears, Eagles, Patriots, and Falcons all come to Lambeau and I think a couple of those teams will win at the Frozen Tundra. So, I got the Packers at 9-7 and chasing an NFC Wildcard berth.
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