The Packers season came to what they thought was a premature end after Mike Adam's facemas.... Erm, forced fumble in a 51-45 loss. The season, however, was not a failure as the club took a leap to 11-5 after being 6-10 the previous season, and won the close games they could not win the year before. Let's start this article by naming a breakout player on offense, defense, as well as the MVP's of each respective side.
First, the offense.
MVP: Aaron Rodgers
Did you really think this would go anywhere else? In only his second season as a starter he threw for 4,434 yards, 30 TD's, and only 7 INT's with a 103.2 passer rating. He also was the best third down passer in the business. Aaron Rodgers is a top five QB in the NFL and in this reporter's opinion should have gotten at least some MVP attention.
But all the numbers were there the year before. The knock on Rodgers was "he couldn't win the close ones." That all changed week 1 against the hated rival the Chicago Bears. With The Packers trailing 15-13, Rodgers threw a perfect pass to a wide open Greg Jennings, sparking the Packers win. There were also games like Pittsburgh and Arizona where he went punch for punch with Kurt Warner and Ben Roethlisberger. The Packers are in good hands with No. 12 for a very long time.
Breakout Player: Jermichael Finley
Ted Thompson drafted Finley in the third round in the 2008 Draft hoping he'd be another athletic big target for Aaron Rodgers. This year, he showed flashes of brilliance and was a key cog to the Packers passing game down the stretch. He finished the year with 55 catches for 676 yards and 5 TD's. The best part about all this news is he is still only 21 years old, and can only get better as time goes on.
Now onto the Defense.
MVP: Charles Woodson
Again, another no-brainer. This award easily goes to the Defensive Player of the Year. Woodson started the year with the mindset of locking down one side of the field. He did all that and much much more before Al Harris got hurt.
He had two sacks, four forced fumbles and a tie for the league high with nine Interceptions. Woodson was also the leader of the defense and was the main reason they rose to No. 1 in the league. Woodson is easily Ted Thompson's best free agent acquisition in his tenure as Packers General Manager.
Breakout Player: Clay Matthews III
Clay Matthews represents Ted Thompson's second trade up in the NFL Draft (the first being for Jeremy Thompson) and he could not have asked for more. Matthews lead the Packers with 10 sacks and his signature play so far in his early career is stripping Adrian Peterson and taking it back for a touchdown at the Metrodome against the Vikings. Matthews should be a key cog to the Packers pass rush for years to come.
Now onto 2010. As many good things that happened to the Packers this year, they still fell short of the ultimate goal being the Super Bowl. So what do they need to get over the hump?
I believe the Packers first main need is a young offensive tackle. Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher are good offensive tackles but are getting old, and both are free agents. While I expect both to be re-signed, I think an OT should be drafted unless a young OT is available in Free Agency.
The second biggest need is a young CB. Woodson is very good but aging and the Packers dont know what to expect from Al Harris coming of ACL surgery. Tramon Williams is capable, but Jarrett Bush makes me and every other Packer fan puke. A young CB is needed to take over for the future when Woodson and Harris both hang up their cleats.
The third and final need the Packers have is another pass rusher. Clay Matthews is a stud, but he needs help. Brad Jones is a role player/Special Teams. Whether that means re-signing Aaron Kampman and seeing if he can complete the transition to OLB, signing Shawne Merriman out of Free Agency, or drafting an OLB, the Packers need to generate more pass rush to force QB's like Brees, Manning, Romo, and You Know Who to throw the ball before they want to.
All in all the offseason should be very exciting, stay tuned for my thoughts on who/what the Packers should take in the first round of the draft.