Top 5 Issues the Green Bay Packers Need to Address Before the 2014 Season
What can the Green Bay Packers do to prevent a fourth consecutive early playoff exit? Since they won Superbowl XLV, they've failed to reach the NFC Championship.
Do they need to fix their defense? Possibly pull a Denver Broncos and try to buy a Super Bowl? Maybe it's as simple as stopping the perpetual onslaught of Collin Kaepernick.
There's no doubt the Packers have weaknesses that must be addressed if they want to make a deep postseason run. Here are five issues that will determine the outcome of the 2014 season for Green Bay.
5. Build a Strong Defensive Front
To stop the pass, you must stop the run first. If you can't, you must bring a safety closer to the line of scrimmage to help. This tactic exposes you to the deep pass.
In the Packers' case, bringing a safety up didn't slow the run or pass. Their defense finished 25th in rushing yards per game allowed, according to ESPN.com. Defensive linemen must sew gaping holes that allow embarrassing stats like the one above.
Mike Daniels' development last year was the defensive line's only bright spot. B.J. Raji must be better in creating double-teams. This won't be enough to shore up the run. Datone Jones needs to prove his worth as a former first-round draft pick. He was a monster at UCLA, posting 19 tackles for loss his senior year, according to NFL.com. He must create havoc in the backfield in 2014 for the Packers defense to be successful.
4. Create a Consistent Combo at Safety
The Packers face a variety of dangerous aerial attacks in 2014. The Saints, Patriots, Eagles, Lions, Falcons, and Bears will test a secondary that was decimated in 2013. Green Bay finished 24th in the NFL in passing yards allowed, according to ESPN.com. Also placing 27th in opponent passing yards per attempt shows the safeties were at fault. To pour salt on the wound, the Packers had zero interceptions.
To patch this problem, the Packers have increased competition at safety. They are hoping either Clinton-Dix or Micah Hyde will be the answer. Both players are young and full of talent. If one of them develops, the other will be a nice counterpart to Morgan Burnett.
3. Establish a Dominant Duo at Middle Linebacker
A.J. Hawk had arguably his best season in 2013. Unfortunately, the opposite could be said for his counterpart.
Brad Jones struggled to stay on the field, and his replacement didn't step up. The Packers defense gave up 4.6 yards per carry, according to ESPN.com, finishing 29th in the NFL. This shows once the running back got past the line of scrimmage, he had no problem eluding linebackers.
Unfortunately for the Packers, they did not address this problem in the offseason. They do have some options, though. Brad Jones could come back barring no setbacks, or Jamari Lattimore could develop. With the addition of Julius Peppers, they can also experiment with Nick Perry at middle linebacker.
2. Find a Strong Starting Center
Loosing Evan Dietrich-Smith could come back to haunt the Packers, especially this year with the dominant defensive tackles on their schedule.
Ndamukong Suh, Henry Melton, Gerald McCoy, Vince Wilfork, and Marcell Dareus look to ground Eddie Lacy and pound Aaron Rodgers. If they can't fill the void, they risk disruption to their offense—or worse, another Aaron Rodgers injury.
The Packers are depending on JC Tretter to fill that void. He showed promise last year before breaking his ankle. For a security blanket, they drafted Corey Lindsey from Ohio State. He also shows a lot of promise and could end up being the starter once the season rolls around.
1. Stay Healthy
The top issue that seems to sting the Packers every year is injuries. Last year, the Packers ended the season with 15 players on injured reserve, according to ESPN.com.
Starters have missed a total of 153 games in the past two seasons. That is more than any other team in the NFL. Randall Cobb, Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, Jermichael Finley, Bryan Bulaga, Nick Perry and Casey Hayward all missed significant time in 2013.
The Packers have taken steps to prevent the injury bug from swarming them in 2014. EPSN.com's Rob Demovsky confirms the Packers are using a GPS-based tech firm to study injures and aid in their prevention.
As ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert states, "Tracking devices measure player movement during training, practice and games, compiling data on running speed, the force of collisions, friction created by the playing surface and more." This gives Mike McCarthy data on the wear his players absorb through out a period of time. It could keep the Packers healthy enough to make a strong playoff run.