As we begin entering the final previews for the 32 NFL Team breakdowns, today we’ll be talking about the Green Bay Packers. The Packers are a team that you consider when thinking of teams representing the NFC in the Super Bowl. Mike McCarthy was hired in 2006 by the organization to bring the Lombardi Trophy home. He did exactly that in 2010 and has only not made the Playoffs in 2 seasons. Last season, McCarthy led the Packers to 13th in Total Offense and 11th in Total Defense. Expectations are high for the franchise, internally as well as externally, in 2013. Anything less than a Super Bowl victory would be a let down for fans and players.
Offense: Aaron Rodgers is one of the most recognized names in the NFL. He is the leader of the Offense for Green Bay and mainly responsible for their 9th ranked Passing attack in 2012. Rodgers season wasn’t as spectacular as his 2011 MVP performance, but it was as close to it as he threw for 4,295 yards, 38 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. Arguably the best Quarterback in the league, Aaron Rodgers is very effective with his arm and his feet. He wasn’t slick enough on his feet though last year because he got sacked a total of 51 times. The Offensive Line for the Packers has a Pro Bowler in Guard Josh Sitton. He and T.J. Lang are the two players who will be the starting for the team at Guard. They, along with Center Evan Dietrich-Smith, will have the main duties of success for the running game and anchoring of the Offensive Line. The starting Tackles for the Pack begin with Left Tackle Bryan Bulaga. He only played 9 games last season, at Right Tackle, and is the one that’s responsible for the Quarterbacks blind side. That job used to fall on Marshall Newhouse, but since the team selected Bulaga with the 23rd pick in the draft, they’ve been grooming him to take over on the left side. Newhouse will be the team’s starting Right Tackle. Newhouse has allowed 21.5 sacks in the last 2 seasons alone, so there will need to be some kind of improvement in his game this season in order for him not to be a liability on the field. Derek Sherrod has a great opportunity to win the Right Tackle position during Training Camp. He was taken with the 31st overall pick in the 2011 Draft. The group of guys that will be playing every Sunday will need to gel together better than they did last year, due to the amount of times they allowed opponents to hit their Quarterback. Notably, Green Bay planned for the future by drafting Tackle David Bakhtiari along with Guard J.C. Tretter in the 4th round this year, in hopes that they’ll be molded into starters after a few years. The Packers needed to improve their 20th ranking in rushing, so they drafted 2 big time players in the Draft. Eddie Lacy was a superstar at Alabama and was chosen in the 2nd round, which some saw as a steal. Johnathan Franklin was also a big time player for his school (UCLA) and is considered to be good as a passing option. Lacy should go into the season as the starter and both will almost certainly share the same amount of time, as well as carries, until someone steps up and solidifies themselves as the starter. Looking at the Tight End position, Jermichael Finley is one of Rodgers’ favorite targets to get the football too. Catching 116 balls for 1,434 yards the last 2 seasons, Finley will assuredly be Aaron Rodgers’ main security blanket. Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb head the Wide Receivers for the Packers. Nelson is going into his 6th season in the league. Over the past 5 years he’s caught a total of 28 touchdowns passes. Cobb blew onto the scene last season, becoming the most targeted receiver on team, and catching 8 touchdowns on 80 receptions. He led the team with 974 yards and in plays over 20+ yards with 17. James Jones has been with the Packers the last 6 years and had his best season yet in 2012 when he caught 14 touchdowns. They, as well as Jarrett Boykin notably, will be in charge of making plays. Green Bay’s Offense is one of the most dangerous in the league and one that many opponents won’t be successful in handling during 2013. They should put up big numbers with a number of highlight plays.
Defense: Clay Matthews is the face of the Defense and one of the most well known names throughout the game. The Linebacker has accrued 42.5 sacks in his 4-year career, 13 last season. He’s considered one of the best pass rushers in the game and has been selected to every Pro Bowl since joining the league. He and Nick Perry will fill the positions of Outside Linebacker. Middle Linebacker, A.J. Hawk, has been with the Packers since being selected 5th overall in 2006. Hawk led the team in tackles for loss with 6 last season, on his way to having 120 total tackles and 3 sacks. Brad Jones will be joining him at the position. He racked up 77 total tackles, 2 sacks and a forced fumble in 2012. Key for the Linebackers are the men up front on the Defensive Line. Datone Jones was selected 26th overall in the Draft and will be a starter at Defensive End. Jones, one of the better pass rushers during the Senior Bowl, seemed to give every Offensive Lineman some kind of trouble during drills throughout the week. He will be joined with B.J. Raji at the end position. Raji had a disappointing 2012 season, not even registering a sack, and will be looking to rebound in the coming campaign with a Pro Bowl caliber-type performance. Ryan Pickett is a 33-year-old player whose job will be to anchor the 3/4 Defense. He’s a run stuffing type of talent who, at 340, should have no problems living up to his duties. Green Bay’s Defensive Backfield group has plenty of talented players at both Safety and Cornerback. Casey Hayward, Sam Shields and Tramon Williams are the players whose duties will be to cover the Wide Receivers. Hayward had an impressive rookie season, intercepting 6 passes and deflecting a team high 21 balls. Sam Shields intercepted 3 passes and deflected 10 balls, along with a sack, in 2012. Williams deflected 16 passes and picked off 2 of them. This group of Cornerbacks is one of the best the NFL has. They drafted another player during the 2013 Draft in Micah Hyde out of Iowa. The Safety position lost one of its more known players in Charles Woodson during the Offseason. Now the Free Safety job will belong to Morgan Burnett, who actually led the team in tackles last season with 123 total. Burnett also had 2 sacks, 2 interceptions and 2 forced fumbles. He shouldn’t have any problems filling the shoes of the Hall of Famer who vacated the position. The Strong Safety spot will go to 3rd year player, M.D. Jennings. Jennings had over 50 tackles for the Pack last season. He had 1 interception that went for the only defensive touchdown the team had all season. The weakest part of the Defense might be the line, which the team tried to address during the Offseason. The Defense for the Packers should bode similar results, as they had the previous season, in 2013 and will be key for the franchise going down the stretch.
End Result: I foresee the Green Bay Packers going 13-3.