Problematic Areas for the Green Bay Packers
Fresh off of the Super Bowl victory, the Packers are poised to make another run at a championship this season as the team is healthy and hungry to continue its dominance in the NFC.
It is difficult to dissect this team to find weaknesses. The Packers are extremely balanced and have a multitude of talent in all areas; however, there are some specific areas that could become problematic enough to hinder their 2011 campaign.
The Packers main concern is protecting Aaron Rodgers. The quarterback in the west coast offense relies on timing more than anything else to run the offense successfully.
Although Rodgers can compensate and make adjustments on the fly, it is hard to do when you are on your back. The Packers most important concern this year is to reduce the amount of sacks they allow as a hurried quarterback is not a happy one.
The effects of the defensive penetration also reduces the effectiveness of the running attack with lanes closing quickly. The Packers need to employ an alternative to adjust if the running game is going to play a major role.
I would look to the screen pass and pitch outs to counteract this as James Starks and Ryan Grant both have the capability to make these types of sweeps into big plays.
I do have concern for the position of right offensive tackle. Bryan Bulaga needs to step up his game, especially in this division where there are formidable match-ups he will face.The center and left guard positions also have me watching for improvements.
The Packers should consider looking for a veteran free agent or a veteran that is released when teams start to cut down the rosters in order to add depth and experience to the offensive line.
I would also like to see the addition of a veteran quarterback to be added to the roster if Aaron Rodgers goes down with an injury for an extended period of time. Matt Flynn is a good back-up, but when the season is in the balance, a veteran that is capable of damage control and winning games would be a good insurance policy.
The receiving corps should be fine, provided Donald Driver stays healthy. I think James Jones is ready for a bigger role in the offense as the 3rd wide receiver, and could fill in for Driver if needed. Jones' main concern is his hands. Despite seeing an increase in receptions as each season passes, Jones should have had more than the 50 he recorded last season; although, most of his drops were passes that should have been caught.
Jermichael Finley is back and should be primed to go, but I would like to see some time split between him and Andrew Quarless (who I think has tremendous upside) to help ease Finley into the game and ensure his health for later in the season.
Concerns with the defense are limited in my opinion, however, to ensure continued success for the Packers I look to Tramon Williams to inherit the crown from Charles Woodson. Williams and Clay Matthews must continue to lead this team and continue to be its heart and soul.
The only position in the secondary that is a bit concerning is strong safety. Morgan Burnett must be ready, because he is will be tested quick and often. Burnett needs to look, listen and follow Woodson's direction to become a better player.
The defensive line must see bigger contributions from Ryan Pickett and Mike Neal; relying heavily on B.J. Raji as the main sack producer will not be enough, either. Perhaps, a veteran addition could assist in situational downs and allow the linebackers to work into the coverage more often.
Outside a major performance drop-off, or players sitting back with a Super Bowl hangover, I don't see the Packers really having a major issue. They should be poised for another run at a title. My only concern is if this team can compensate with more than two areas struggling at the same time.
Last year's trial and tribulations showed a team capable of overcoming strong adversity. That same team is intact so they should be able to duplicate such success in similar fashion in 2011; even though there still areas (particularly the offensive line) that bring much concern.
I still look for the Packers to win the division, but the road back to the Super Bowl will be interesting to see. Teams like the Detroit Lions, Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans and Philadelphia are going to provide interesting competition.
The Packers can repeat as champions if they don't beat themselves. Addressing small areas of concern will help avoid that.
They won by overcoming adversity last year and could very well do it again—but I'd rather not have it.
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