In 2009, Green Bay has made excellent strides to become a Super Bowl contender.
In his second starting season, Aaron Rodgers compiled an impressive quarterback rating of 103.2 with 35 touchdowns, including five rushing and only seven interceptions.
The overhauled defense was transformed from a 4-3 into a 3-4 which became one of the best run defenses in the NFL that only averaged 3.6 yards a carry in 2009 as opposed to 2008's average of 4.6 yards a carry.
As well as the team performed this year, there was still much room for improvement.
Rodgers was sacked 50 times this year, though only 13 of those sacks were allowed in the second half of the season.
The special teams coverage, as well as kicking, and punting, left much to be desired.
Player C/ATT YDS AVG TD INT RATING SACKS F. SCORE
B. Favre 24/31 271 8.7 3 0 135.3 0 L 23-30 (Week 4)
B. Favre 17/28 244 8.7 4 0 128.6 0 L 26-38 (Week 8)
B. Roethlisberger 29/46 503 10.9 3 0 121.9 5 L 36-37 (Week 15)
K. Warner 29/33 379 11.5 5 0 154.1 1 L 51-45 (Wildcard)
Throughout these four games, the defense was only able to hit the quarterback an average of three times a game. As a team that was able to force a league high 30 interceptions, Green Bay's pass rush was mediocre against the best quarterbacks.
Pass-rushing woes have not been new for the Green Bay defense. In 2008, the Packers ranked 25th in the NFL in total sacks with 27 even with All-Pro defensive end Aaron Kampman.
27 of the 37 sacks this year came from the linebackers:
- Clay Matthews: 10
- Brad Jones: five
- Aaron Kampman: four
- Nick Barnett: four
- Brandon Chillar: three
- A.J. Hawk: one
While Clay Matthews proved to be a big-time playmaker as a rookie, Aaron Kampman was unable to make a successful transition to an outside linebacker. Most of Kampman's sacks this year were from him playing with his hand down.
Though Brad Jones has performed well for a seventh round pick, he does not have the playmaking abilities that Clay Matthews possesses. With the NFL Draft approaching, Ted Thompson's best way to help Clay Matthews and the defense lies within another playmaking outside linebacker.
One of my favorite players that is projected to be drafted in the first round this year is OLB Jerry Hughes of TCU.
Though average in size, Hughes plays with incredible passion. He plays with a mean streak and is a hard-hitter. Hughes has a high motor and his explosive, big-play ability shows his dominance on the football field.
In his first year starting, Hughes compiled 52 total tackles, 19.5 for loss, and 15 sacks in 2008.
Last year, Hughes led TCU to its first BCS bowl game with 11.5 sacks.
Hughes has also many awards on his football resume:
- Four-time All-American (by three different media outlets)
- Two-time Bronko Nagurski Trophy award nominee
- Walter Campbell honorable member
Obviously with the NFL Combine approaching, player's stocks will rise and fall. Though Hughes may be selected before the Packer's 23rd overall selection, Thompson should look hard for another outside linebacker.
If the Packers look to advance deep into the playoffs in the next few years, they will need to get better on defense by adding another outside linebacker to compliment Clay Matthews.