5 Packers Who Must Step Up to Get Franchise Back to the Super Bowl
After winning the Super Bowl in 2010, the Green Bay Packers have struggled to make it out of the divisional round the past two seasons. With some major personnel changes beginning to take place, there are several players who will need to step up for 2013.
The release of Charles Woodson and the retirements of both Donald Driver and Jeff Saturday have left some holes on this team. If they want to make another Super Bowl run next season, the rest of the team will need to pick it up.
The expectations for the Packers are high for next season, and the fans expect another Super Bowl appearance. If they want to make it that far, there are five players in particular that need to step up for next season.
The past season showed that the Packers have two solid cornerbacks in both Sam Shields and Casey Hayward. They provided a great boost to a defense that had some obvious problems.
Unfortunately, the same couldn't be said for Tramon Williams.
The numbers for Williams dropped for the second straight year, grabbing only two interceptions after four in 2011 and six in 2010. His previous dominance against wide receivers wasn't really shown last season, as he let receivers take advantage of him often.
Perhaps the most concerning part of his season were his mental mistakes. There were more than a few, including some late hits and calls for pass interference.
The biggest mistake was in Week 17 against the Minnesota Vikings. The Packers were able to stop the Vikings on third and goal, but Williams got too aggressive with Jerome Simpson. He got a penalty for illegal hands to the face and gave the Vikings a first down, leading to a touchdown.
Williams is only 29 years old, so age doesn't appear to be the big problem with how Williams is playing. Is something doesn't change, however, his first string spot may be in jeopardy for 2013.
Since A.J. Hawk signed a five year deal for over $30 million in 2011, he has failed to live up to the contract.
Hawk has done a good job at getting tackles, racking up 120 total in 2012. However, that is about all he did last year.
Besides the three sacks, there wasn't anything else to really talk about in Hawk's game. He struggled covering athletic tight ends, and wasn't the most solid player in terms of speed.
There are a few players on the depth chart that are looking to take Hawk's starting spot. Both Desmond Bishop and D.J. Smith have looked solid while on the field, and will work on trying to take the starting spot from Hawk. If Brad Jones is resigned, he would be another big option at inside linebacker.
Hawk will need to pick it up if he wants to live up to his big contract and keep his starting spot. He is a solid player, but needs to show that he is a great one to the organization.
The running back situation was a mess for the Packers last season. With so many running backs coming in and out of the lineup, it took a while to find any sort of consistency in the running game.
DuJuan Harris became the guy in December, impressing fans and coaches alike against the Detroit Lions. He provided some tough running, and was even able to run in for a 14 yard touchdown.
For the rest of the season, Harris was the top back for the Packers, receiving most of the carries. He wasn't afraid to make contact, fighting for constant yards.
It's unclear who will be the starting back next year for Green Bay, but it is obvious that Harris will be involved in the offense. He will need to show more of what he did last season for the running game to be respectable.
Harris certainly is capable of being a solid runner for the Packers, but he needs to prove that he can do it for an entire season. He has that opportunity next season, and will need to make the most of it.
Jermichael Finley has been a very talented tight end, and has showed serious signs of potential over the past few seasons.
He has also shown that he can mess up a lot as well.
Drops have been a problem for Finley over the past few seasons. He has struggled catching the ball, even on good passes from Aaron Rodgers.
Instead of owning up to the mistakes, Finley has often blamed chemistry between him Rodgers as the problem. Those kind of comments have had people question whether or not the Packers will keep him in 2013.
According to JSOnline.com, the future of Finley is still "up in the air." If he does stay with the team, he needs to step it up. The Packers realize he is very talented, but Finley needs to play much better if the Packers want to be a Super Bowl threat.
The departure of Charles Woodson was a tough decision, but it was the right one from a financial standpoint.
Now that Woodson is gone, it appears that M.D. Jennings will have to step in at safety.
Jennings did a solid job at safety while Woodson was sidelined with a broken collarbone. He had 52 tackles, as well as an interception that he returned 72 yards for a touchdown.
The Packers will now have two younger players at safety in Jennings and Morgan Burnett. Burnett has proved to be a pretty good starter, but Jennings will need to prove himself to the organization.
The Packers are accustomed to giving young players opportunities to win starting positions during training camp. If the Packers decide to draft another safety, Jennings will have some competition in 2013.
Regardless, Jennings will be responsible for containing big plays on defense. That was something the Packers struggled with at times last season, and they will need Jennings to help the defense out.