9 Bold (and Slightly Less Bold) Predictions for the 2014 Green Bay Packers
With OTAs just finishing up for the Green Bay Packers, the 2014 regular season will be here sooner than you think. One of the most exciting things to do during the current slow time of the NFL offseason is to make bold, and slightly less bold, predictions.
This allows us to hypothesize about which Packers will have big years and which ones will struggle. We'll also throw out a prediction or two about the team as a whole.
Here's a look at nine bold predictions for the Packers' 2014 season.
Aaron Rodgers Has a Career Year
There are only a handful of quarterbacks in the NFL as talented as Aaron Rodgers. In fact, you could certainly make the case that no quarterback in the league is as good as Rodgers.
While Rodgers doesn't always put up huge statistics from season to season, that should change this year. For starters, Rodgers is surrounded by an incredible amount of weapons in the passing game.
From wide receivers Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Davante Adams and Jarrett Boykin to tight ends Andrew Quarless, Brandon Bostick and Colt Lyerla, Rodgers has a bevy of talent players at his disposal. Defenses also won't be able to hone in solely on the aerial attack of the Packers thanks to the emergence of Eddie Lacy as a franchise running back last year.
The best statistical season Rodgers has had came in 2011 when he threw for 4,643 yards, 45 touchdowns and had an NFL record 122.5 passer rating. All those numbers should fall this year as Rodgers makes the Packers offense one of the best in the league.
Randall Cobb Will Catch 100 Balls
With Rodgers having a career year, you can expect at least one of his targets to have an incredible season. The most likely candidate for that is Randall Cobb.
In fact, Rodgers predicted that Cobb would catch 100 passes last year, but his season was ruined early due to a fractured tibia. He did come back in Week 17 to help propel the Packers past the Chicago Bears with 55 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
When healthy, Cobb is one of the most dynamic receivers in the league. He can make an impact as a deep threat or out of the slot, and his ability to pick up extra yards after the catch is truly remarkable.
While Nelson may be the No. 1 receiver on the depth chart, Cobb has the highest ceiling on the team. Look for him to have an extremely impressive year and establish himself as a top-10 receiver in the league.
The Same Offensive Line Will Start All 16 Games
This may not seem like that bold of a prediction, but it isn't something that the Packers did during the 2013 season. Aside from their five regular starters, offensive tackle Marshall Newhouse also started two games for Green Bay because of an injury to Don Barclay.
This year will be different. This year the Packers will have the same five offensive linemen start all 16 games.
We know who four of the five starters will be with David Bakhtiari, Bryan Bulaga, Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang all locks to start in Week 1. The only starting spot still up for grabs is center with J.C. Tretter and Corey Linsley as the two favorites to win that job.
As long as this group can stay healthy, there's no reason that they shouldn't be one of the best offensive lines in Green Bay in recent memory.
The Packers Offense Finishes as a Top-3 Offense in the NFL
The combination on offense of Rodgers, Lacy, Nelson and Cobb will simply be too much for opposing defenses to handle. And that's really just the start of the Packers offense.
There's also the rest of a very deep and talented receiving corps. Mix that with a group of tight ends that have a ton of potential and the passing game should be nearly unstoppable.
Then you need to realize that James Starks, DuJuan Harris and Johnathan Franklin will combine with Lacy for an unbelievably talented rushing attack. Finally, both the ground and passing games will be held together with a strong offensive line.
When the regular season is all over, the Packers should boast one of the three best offenses in the league.
B.J. Raji Will Get Back on Track
Last year was just brutal for defensive lineman B.J. Raji. He finished the year as the third-worst 3-4 defensive end in the league, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
So, why exactly did the Packers decide to re-sign him to a one-year contract? The simple answer is because they plan on moving him back to his natural position.
When Raji played nose tackle when he first entered the league he was a legitimate Pro Bowl-caliber player. It may be a stretch to say he can get back to that level of play, but there's no reason why Raji shouldn't improve in a major way simply by being back at the position he knows best.
Look for Raji to be the anchor of the defensive line this year and help get the Packers defense, especially their run defense, back on track.
Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews Will Combine for 25 Sacks
Just so we're all on the same page, this isn't just any standard bold prediction; it's a ridiculously crazy prediction.
The reason for this is because Clay Matthews only recorded 7.5 sacks last year and Julius Peppers had even less with just seven sacks. However, these two are also two of the most natural pass-rushers in the league.
The key for this prediction to happen will be the health of these two superstars. Matthews only played 11 games last year because of a broken thumb, but he's had injury issues in nearly every season he's been in the league. As for Peppers, he's a 34-year-old player with a ton of wear on his body.
If they can both stay healthy and play all 16 games, they should be able to help each other be extremely impressive. The way this extremely bold prediction will likely happen is Matthews will record 15 sacks while Peppers adds another 10.
Brad Jones Will Be Benched by Week 8
When looking over the entire Green Bay roster, the weakest link is, without a doubt, inside linebacker Brad Jones. He never took that step forward last year like many expected. In fact, it actually appeared as if he regressed as a player.
Many thought the Packers would spend an early draft pick on an inside linebacker, but that obviously didn't happen. So, in order for Jones to be benched by Week 8, one of the current players on the Packers roster will have to step up in a major way.
The most likely candidate to do that is Jamari Lattimore. He had brief flashes last year where he looked like a he could become a legitimate starter for the Packers defense.
With Jones likely to struggle to start the year, Lattimore should get plenty of opportunities early to make an impact. Once he proves that he's a better option at inside linebacker than Jones, he should be able to bench Jones for good.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix Will Lead the Team in Interceptions
This one really isn't that bold of a prediction because the Packers only combined for 11 interceptions as a team last year. At the top of the list was Sam Shields, who finished the season with a mediocre four interceptions.
Heading into the 2014 NFL draft, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was seem as one of the premier playmakers at the safety position. He should start in Week 1 for the Packers and instantly improve the overall production in the secondary.
Clinton-Dix's only real competition to lead the team in interceptions is cornerback Casey Hayward. He recorded six interceptions as a rookie and is a true ball hawk.
However, Clinton-Dix should play more overall snaps and will excel as a roaming free safety. Look for him to not only lead the Packers in interceptions this year, but for him to be near the top of the league overall.
The Packers Defense Will Be Top-10 in the League
We might as well end with our boldest prediction.
To call the Packers defense terrible last year might be an understatement. The team couldn't do anything right and certainly couldn't slow down any offense that came their way.
One reason for this was injuries plagued the defense throughout the year. Then there was the problem at the safety position that also allowed offenses to run and pass all over the defense in Green Bay.
This year the Packers are actually healthy heading into training camp. They've also addressed their biggest needs via the draft with Clinton-Dix. Finally, moving Raji back to nose tackle should help them slow down the run.
There's no doubt that the Packers have the overall talent on defense to be one of the better units in the league. As long as they can execute at a high level, the sky is literally the limit in Green Bay.