Green Bay Packers: Packers Positions To Be Addressed To Build a True Dynasty
The 2010 season was probably the most injury filled one that the Packers have had in quite some time. The Packers went from preseason favorites to a sixth-seeded Wild Card team that had little hope in making it past Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles.
But, they managed to exceed all expectations. Despite injuries to starting tackle Mark Tauchser and stellar tight end Jermichael Finley , the Packers still produced a top tier defense led by corner back Charles Woodson and an explosive offense led by Aaron Rodgers. With the help of a great supporting cast of players who stepped up when the starters went down, the Packers became the only sixth seeded team to win a Super Bowl, its fourth Super Bowl title.
They did it with over 15 players on injured reserve.
To build a dynasty, the Packers must continue to build upon its Super Bowl success, and with Aaron Rodgers at the helm of the offense and a top five defense, the Packers look to have a bright future ahead of them.
With the Super Bowl win and an impending CBA agreement still in question, the Packers still have several tough choices to make on their roster and are in need of several key components to have a shot at repeating their Super Bowl run.
These pieces shall be obtained mostly through the draft and free agency, though general manager Ted Thompson has done a tremendous job in building the franchise through the draft.
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The Packers were able to make their incredible Super Bowl thanks in large part to the consistent pressure they were able to put on opposing quarterbacks, with Clay Matthews rushing off the edge. Matthews didn't disappoint any Packer fans in his second year in the league, boasting another Pro Bowl as the starter and receiving a First Team All-Pro selection as a starter.
However, one spot that did disappoint was the outside linebacker position opposite Clay Matthews. Brad Jones entered the season as the starter, but produced little pass rush and was injury prone for the first part of the season, eventually making it to IR. Then, undrafted rookie Frank Zombo stepped in and filled in well as the starter, but was also bitten by the injury bug and missed five games, playing only in the Super Bowl for his last game of the season.
When Zombo was hurt, he was replaced by off the street free agent Erik Walden, who stepped up big in the key game against the Bears in the last regular season game, recording three sacks and 16 tackles to help propel the Packers to victory to make the playoffs. But, he was bitten by the injury bug during the playoffs, and replaced by a still rusty Zombo, who, while recording a sack, didn't have the same effect he did earlier in the season.
With that said, the Packers don't have the pass rusher opposite Clay Matthews that they need. If you look at teams like the Steelers (who despite their loss have great linebackers), they have not one, but two great pass rushers off the edge who are able to take pressure off of each other, so that it's harder to just lock onto one of them. The Packers held that advantage inside with Jenkins, Pickett and Raji, but lacked it at outside linebacker.
The addition of a consistent, pass rushing linebacker could take pressure off of Matthews and give Capers more in his deck to work with at outside linebacker, which lacked depth after the injury of Brad Jones. They need to draft one within the first two rounds to get a player of quality to man the outside edge opposite of Matthews.
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The Packers offensive line showed a lot more consistency with the lineup staying the same throughout the majority of the season. The only injury was to long time starter Mark Tauscher, who was replaced by first-rounder Bryan Bulaga, who showed flashes of potential, but also showed he's a rookie and still has plenty of work to do. The question for him now remains whether he'll remain on the right, or be switched back to left tackle, which is where he was drafted to play.
But, for now, the position most up in the air on the offensive line is the left guard position, which was manned by Daryn Collegde all season. However, his contract is up this season and it's not guaranteed that he will return.
Colledge has been inconsistent for the past two seasons, and overall isn't very versatile as an offensive lineman. Most teams like their linemen to play at least two position, and Colledge isn't a good player at either tackle spot at all, which was evidenced last year by the first Minnesota Vikings game last season in 2009. Colledge may also demand more money in a new contract, which the Packers will not want to pay him.
If Colledge doesn't return, the Packers will have young T.J. Lang, who can play tackle and guard positions. The Packers may need to move forward with Lang at guard, as he shows plenty of potential and looks to have starter material at the position. If that happens, the Packers will need guard depth, and could address the need thorough the NFL draft or free agency by way of a cheaper back up option.
The Packers have no glaring need at center, but would do well to draft one to groom behind Scott Wells, who isn't getting any younger. This is what became the issue with long time tackles Tauchser and Chad Clifton.
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As is the case with Colledge and the guard position, the tackle position is likely to be addressed yet again in this draft. With Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher on their last legs, the young tackles of the future must be addressed if the Packers don't believe they have it. They already have one in 2010 first-rounder Bryan Bulaga, who received invaluable playing time when Taucsher was lost for the season.
However, while Bulaga is still likely to play the left side in the long term, it's still up for debate whether he will play the left side or the right side, the Packers may feel they need to address this spot in the early rounds of the draft.
Last year, the Packers drafted Bulaga in the first round and Marshall Newhouse in the fifth round, who showed some ability at the tackle position. He stayed on the 53 man roster for most of the season, but was never on the active roster and was placed on IR near the end of the season with a back injury.
A lot of whether the Packers draft an offensive tackle will depend upon whether Newhouse shows any signs of manning the right tackle spot, which would allow Bulaga to slide back to the left side, where he worked all of last training camp.
The Packers wide receivers are among the best wide receiving corps in the NFL and were instrumental in their Super Bowl run. So why does this position need addressing?
Well, there are two key factors to address: Donald Driver's advancing age and James Jones uncertain return.
Donald Driver has reached the age of 36, and is clearly on his last legs. The 2010 season was his most injury plagued season, and the Packers will be in trouble if they don't address the position for depth behind Jordy Nelson and Greg Jennings.
As for James Jones, he's an unrestricted free agent, and is likely to test the open market for a bigger contract. If the Packers aren't willing to pay Jones top money, it's likely he won't be seen in a Packers uniform whenever the 2011 season starts. Receiver Brett Swain hasn't shown any ability as a receiver, playing primarily special teams, and gave a poor showing in the Super Bowl when he came into the game as a receiver.
The Packers have young receivers in Chastin West from the practice squad, who stayed there all season, and may have a legitimate shot at making the roster. The Packers are likely to address someone in the draft who has potential as a receiver and has return ability, as the Packers have been in need of consistent kick and punt returners.
The Packers are notoriously known for acquiring good receivers and they will address this position in the draft in the middle rounds, as this is a good draft for wide receivers as well.
#21 Charles Woodson
Last season, the Packers didn't draft the much needed corner they needed to have to groom behind Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams. However, they made a rare find in undrafted rookie Sam Shields, who played a solid nickel position all season, which allowed Capers to do so much more for long time corner Charles Woodson, a big time playmaker in the Green Bay secondary at age 34.
Despite his playmaking ability, Woodson is old, and the addition of a solid nickel corner gives Capers more options and aces in his defense to do so many things with his players.
The Packers seem to have its future starters at corner in Sam Shields and Tramon Williams, and will need to have a decent nickel corner to bolster its secondary in the future. The Packers current corps of corners behind Williams, Woodson and Shields are very questionale.
Jarret Bush is purely kept for his ability on special teams and his versatility to play both corner and safety. Pat Lee is injury prone and it is unsure of how much he can be trusted at the nickel position. Brandon Underwood has shown character issues and has been unsuccessful in Green Bay and his days may be numbered.
Overall, if Green Bay thinks Pat Lee can be enough, as he is currently the dime corner, then they may hold on drafting a corner. If not, look for them to address the position in the middle rounds of the draft in the third or fourth round. A corner may also be addressed to fill the need of a kick/punt returner that the Packers could use.