In a six-part series to kick off the the 2010 off-season for the Packers, we jump into the needs for the Packers. In part one, we will go over the biggest needs for the Packers and then break them all down over the next few weeks.
It was a solid season for the Packers, finishing 11-5 and losing a heartbreaker to the Cardinals in the first round of the playoffs. While the youngest team in the league is set at some positions, they need help at others. Here are the top five positions Ted Thompson will need to address in 2010.
1. Offensive Line
The Packers' offensive line played much better the second half of the season, but that doesn't mean they are ready to succeed in 2010. Age is an issue at both tackle positions as left tackle Chad Clifton (will be 34 next season) and Mark Tauscher (will be 33 next season) can not be expected to hold up much longer. There is a chance both will remain starters next season, but the Packers will need to look for a replacement on day one. T.J. Lang showed some promise on the outside but doesn't seem to be the long-term answer at tackle as much as he does at guard.
It had been a valiant from the Packers' secondary to survive as long as they had without veteran Al Harris, but it was clear he was sorely missed in the playoff loss to the Cardinals. Defensive Player of the Year Charles Woodson and up-and-comer Tramon Williams would make one think the Packers do not need help here, but depth is a huge issue. Harris should be back next season but Jarrett Bush is a special teamer at best, Pat Lee can not stay healthy, and Branden Underwood is still finding his way.
3. Outside Linebacker
Ted Thompson struck gold in last season's draft as he found two eventual starters in Clay Matthews and Brad Jones, but depth remains a question. Matthews seems like a long-term starter but the verdict is still out on Jones. Past the two of them, Aaron Kampman's future in Green Bay is up in the air and Brady Poppinga has not fit in to the 3-4 defense as well as expected. Also, Jeremy Thompson's neck injuries could cost him his NFL career, making an outside linebacker a need.
4. Strong Safety
Atari Bigby had an average season before bursting out for three interceptions in the last two weeks, but they came at the expense of Matt Hasselback and Matt Leinart. He missed three games due to injury and back-up Matt Giordano is...well, Matt Giordano. Finding a back-up that can also play special teams would be a good pick, and finding a starter would be even better.
5. Running Back
Ryan Grant is the most underrated running back in the NFL and should have been a Pro Bowler this season, but after him there are a lot of question marks. Brandon Jackson had a breakout game against the Seahawks but is nothing more than a good pass-blocker and average third down back. Ahman Green was solid but he is slowing fast and can not be expected to give much more than another year. The Packers could desperately use a speed back and someone that could potentially return punts and kicks.
Others on the list:
Punter: The Packers recently signed Tim Masthay to compete (or take over) with Jeremy Kapinos, who struggled mightily all season. Since John Ryan left for Seattle, the Packers have struggled in the punting department and made things harder on the defense.
Defensive Line: The question mark that is Justin Harrell makes defensive line a potential issue heading into 2010 and a 3-4 defense can never have too many good defensive linemen to rotate. Ryan Pickett should be back next season, but if he is not the Packers will need to look for another nose tackle.