The Green Bay Packers came into 2009 with a lot of promise, lined with a veil of questions. Could Aaron Rodgers repeat his surprisingly great 2008 outing? Would the new 3-4 defense succeed, or would they struggle to grasp such a dramatically different system? How would the new look offensive line fare?
The Packers had just come off a disappointing 6-10 effort, despite a 4,000-plus yard passer and leading the league in takeaways. Head coach Mike McCarthy, blaming the defense for the failure, wiped out the defensive staff almost completely and brought in defensive 3-4 genius Dom Capers. McCarthy believed changing the defense completely would spell success for the Packers.
After the 2009 preseason, McCarthy and Capers looked like geniuses, leading the league in almost every offensive and defensive category. Rodgers and his receivers were clicking on all cylinders and the new 3-4 defense was surprisingly dominant.
That was before the offensive line decided that Rodgers was too good and didn’t need any protection. Without protection, the Packers struggled the first half of the season and needed answers.
Veteran tackle Mark Tauscher was brought in to stabilize the right tackle position and the Packers were finally allowed to reach their potential. In the last half of the season, the Packers roared past their opponents, posting a 7-1 record in that span, the only loss being by one point in a last second heart-breaker against the defending Super Bowl champions.
The Packers ended 2009 at 11-5 with the No. 2 ranked defense and No. 6 ranked offense. Looking for a deep playoff run, the Packers were expected to steamroll through the playoffs.
So, did Rodgers repeat his surprisingly great 2008 outing? Did the new 3-4 defense succeed? And did the new look offensive line fare well?
The answers would be: yes, yes, and partially.
Now, looking forward to 2010, the questions have evolved. Can the secondary stay effective if healthy? Can the offensive line perform as they did in the last half of the season? How much more effective will the defense be in its second year of the 3-4 scheme?
It is almost a guaranteed Super Bowl bid if these questions can all be answered positively.
Rodgers is the real deal, and with one of the deepest receiving corps in the league, the Packers passing attack looks to be unstoppable. Ryan Grant is coming off his second straight 1,200-yard year and looks to be improving due to the great attention teams will be giving the Packers passing game.
The Packers offensive line got themselves into quite a predicament last year after injuries, and a huge lack of depth was exposed. So they went out and got an insurance policy by drafting projected top five tackle Bryan Bulaga. And just to be safe, they threw in guard/tackle Marshall Newhouse in the fifth round.
With the offensive line addressed, the Packers needed some quality depth in their secondary. So they brought in Georgia Tech ball-hawk Morgan Burnett. But outside of him and some undrafted free agents, the Packers have done zero to address the secondary.
They seem to be banking on the hope that Al Harris, Pat Lee, Will Blackmon, and Atari Bigby can stay healthy. It is agreed that, with these players on the field, the Packers have a pretty good and deep secondary. But all of these players went down with injury last year, and if it were to happen again the secondary could be exposed again.
So, do the Packers have what it takes to reach Super Bowl XLV? Well, the components are certainly there. If the Packers can avoid injuries, a 2010 playoff berth seems to be almost a lock. And a Super Bowl bid is not a stretch of the imagination.
Stand tall Green Bay fans, huge things are expected for the Packers in 2010.