It’s pretty rare the for Green Bay Packers to find themselves with a poor defense these days—even rarer to have the worst in the League.
That’s just what happened in 2011 though, and GM Ted Thompson and Head Coach Mike McCarthy worked hard to turn it around this offseason.
The secondary takes a lot of heat for the yards it coughed up in 2011 and losing Nick Collins permanently doesn’t make it any easier on them. That said, Charlie Peprah and rookie Jarron McMillian are at least solid transitional replacements, if not long term.
It’s never easy to replace a Pro Bowl anything—so there will be some transition. If Peprah and McMillian can’t do it, the Packers could move Charles Woodson over to safety, though they’d prefer he stay at corner with Tramon Williams.
Williams and Woodson had a down year at cornerback, but they’ll bounce back quickly.
A key to some improved secondary play will be generating a pass rush.
Clay Matthews has become the focal point of offensive lines looking to shut down the Packers’ rush. He can’t do it all, but nobody has stepped up to help.
Thompson tried to address that with several offseason moves: the signing of Anthony Hargrove and the drafting of Jerel Worthy and Nick Perry.
Perry is transitioning from defensive end to linebacker, and there is some concern that it might take too long or, worse, he can’t do it. However, his speed, nose for the quarterback and aggressive pass rush skills should allow him to make an impact very quickly.
Hargrove was supposed to step in and help provide pressure from the defensive end position, but he’s suspended to start the season thanks to his involvement in the Saints’ Bounty Scandal. That means Jerel Worthy will have to transition from tackle to end that much faster.
Worthy is a huge athlete with better speed than you’d expect for a guy his size. That said, he’s going to have to adjust quickly with Hargrove out, if the Packers are going to turn the defense around.
It is very likely that Perry and Worthy will find themselves and their progress critical to getting the Packers back to the high level of defense they’ve played in the past.
There’s some risk in that, but the upside could be huge.
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