The 2009 Packers will face many challenges in the coming season. The roster, while infused with some young talent, is coming off of a 6-10 season.
Green Bay was horrible both running the ball on offense and defending against it on defense. First of all, the run defense was especially bad, somehow managing to give 131 yards per game, which ended up being 26th in the league.
Simultaneously, the Packers offense once again had trouble running the ball. Green Bay had only 10 runs of 20-plus yards, and lead back Ryan Grant only managed 3.9 yards per carry.
On the other hand, our pass offense and defense were relative bright spots. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw for over 4,000 yards, not to mention he had a relatively healthy 2:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
Likewise, the passing defense was 12th in the league, although a fair amount of big plays were given up. So what have the Packers done to fix their problems and fortify their strong points this off-season? What should YOU expect?
Generally speaking, if a team has a bad year then someone is fired. That someone ended up being almost the entire defensive staff not to mention the "retirement" of the special teams coordinator and a new strength coach.
In their place the Packers hired Dom Capers (Defensive Coordinator), Kevin Greene (Outside Linebackers), Scott McCurley (Defensive Quality), Darren Perry (Secondary), and Mike Trgovac (Defensive Line).
Both Trgovac and Capers have been defensive coordinators in the past. Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers specializes in the "3-4" defense, which means that he will play three defensive lineman and four linebackers. In contrast, former Defensive Coordinator Bob Sander ran a version of the "4-3."
Since Green Bay decided to switch their base defense to the 3-4 they had to draft defense and draft early.
Players already on the roster such as DT Ryan Pickett and LB A.J. Hawk should be able to make the transition with no problems.
On the other hand, DE Aaron Kampman will switch to left outside linebacker, which should prove to be a challenge. On draft day the Packers selected NT B.J. Raji, OLB Clay Matthews III, DE Jarius Wynn, CB/S Brandon Underwood, and OLB Brad Jones.
Raji and Matthews should be able to contribute immediately, whereas the other three are more developmental players.
Raji has the capability to play nose tackle, 3-4 defensive end, and also play in the 4-3 nickel and dime packages. Matthews is also a scheme diverse player because of his pass rush and coverage capabilities.
So this year we can expect a mix of the 4-3 and 3-4 defense as the season progresses.
So let's get to the expectations.
1. Aaron Kampman will transition to OLB
I think that he will make the transition fine. According to Mike McCarthy most of Kampman's sacks came from nickel and dime packages in which he will still be playing defensive end.
So the switch to the 3-4 base defense may increase Kampman's sack totals.
2. Aaron Rodgers will improve
Aaron Rodgers as an individual will improve. However, there is a glaring hole at RT, not to mention that LT Chad Clifton is running on fumes.
So if the Packers are able to protect Aaron Rodgers for more than 2.5 seconds he should improve.
3. B.J. Raji and Clay Matthews will be Day One starters
As much as I would like to see them come out swinging, the chances of that happening are slim. B.J. Raji should see time rotating at NT and even some time at LDE on running downs.
Clay Matthews will be given every chance to start at ROLB, but he should at least contribute in sub packages.
4. The running game will finally come together
At this point our line looks like it has a lot of potential. Moving Jason Spitz to C and Josh Sitton to RG should pay big dividends in the run game.
Current center Scott Wells is simply too small to deal with larger defensive tackles. The RT position could also see an increase in muscle with the addition of Allen Barbre or TJ Lang, who are both very strong.
Green Bay is also moving away from the zone-blocking scheme and are incorporating more power (man to man) blocking plays.
5. Potential will finally see the field
Players such as Allen Barbre, Breno Giacomini, Jermichael Finely, Jeremy Thompson, and Aaron Rouse have all been touted by coaches as just a step away.
However, in spot duty all of them have been fairly uninspiring. If they step up, then depth and holes on the team could be solidified.
In conclusion, the Green Bay Packers were blessed with one of the easiest schedules in the league. However, teams like the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears should prove to be very good adversaries.
I do not think that it is out of the question for Packer fans to expect the playoffs this year. It all depends on the new defense, players stepping up, and the avoidance of the injury bug. Cheers.