Packer fans too smitten with current team
The Green Bay Packers had roster problems entering the 2011 offseason, problems that adding four particular players could have helped obviate in their campaign to repeat as champions.
Now, as the dust has settled from the 2011 draft, free-agency, and preseason, the Super Bowl Champion Packers head into the regular season with those same, glaring roster holes.
Title Town denizens have seemingly brushed these potential problems off their shoulders like dandruff, eschewing proactive measures for contented complacency.
After all: "Why mess with a good thing?"
They are blinded by the Lombardi trophy light...it's understandable.
But, before the regular season officially kicks-off, let me lament their problems:
In retrospect, here are four ways the Packers should have tinkered with success. These are the four players who would have mollified any concerns.
Aaron Rodgers feels Manny Lawson's power
Free-agent Linebacker Manny Lawson would have warmed right up to Clay Mathews and friends.
Meanwhile, the Packers said farewell to linebackers Nick Barnett and Brady Poppinga, relying on Frank Zombo and Erik Walden to line up opposite Clay Mathews, but not expecting much from either.
Lawson, on the other hand, is only 27 years old. It could be argued that this former first rounder's potential has yet to even be fully realized.
He boasts a freakishly unique combination of speed, size and athleticism that an intelligent D-coordinator—(cough) Dom Capers (cough)—might finally be able to maximize—or, at the very least, utilize effectively.
Lawson is also already acclimated to playing OLB in the 3-4 defense that was employed in San Francisco. Although, what he would not find familiar would be playing alongside the likes of Mathews, Hawk and the blossoming Desmond Bishop, in addition to a couple of savage souls up front.
Such talented surroundings could have unfettered Lawson to finally stretch his wings that once made scouts salivate.
Lawson, so far, has been a solid, all-around NFL player, but hasn't stood out the way he was expected to...yet.
However, advanced statistics suggest that Lawson has been a top five OLB pass-rusher in terms of Pass Rushing Productivity (PRP), according to this algorithm detailed below from profootballfocus.com ...
"Pass Rushing Productivity (PRP) is [...] the result of how much pressure a pass rusher gets, and how many snaps it takes him to get it:
First, we total what we refer to as 'QB Disruption Points,' which values sacks over hits and pressures:
QB Disruption Points = Sacks + Hits (0.75) + Pressures (0.75)
We arrived at that balance after a general audit of our grades and tracking over the past three seasons, and found that hits and pressures represent about 75 percent of the value of sacks.
Then, to arrive at a score that measures productivity per rush, its simple:
Pass-Rushing Productivity = QB Disruptions Points / Number of Pass Rushes x 100."
To help translate, despite the limited amount of chances Lawson was given to feast upon quarterbacks, he was supremely efficient when he did. In fact, as the table below illustrates, he was among the top five at his position in doing so ...
|3||DeMarcus Ware||DAL||3-4 OLB||509||12.38|
|4||Manny Lawson||SF||3-4 OLB||218||12.04|
|5||Cameron Wake||MIA||3-4 OLB||445||12.02|
*statistics taken from 2010 regular season
But, alas, the Packers balked. Meanwhile, Lawson has excelled for the Bengals so far, registering two and 1/2 sacks while forcing a fumble this preseason.
Da'Quan Bowers has bone to pick
The Packers failed to re-sign defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins, who fled to Philly instead. This left a gaping hole on the Green Bay Defensive line, which the Packers are expecting 2010 second-round draft pick Mike Neal to fill.
Da'Quan Bowers was recently touted as a possible No. 1 pick overall in the 2011 draft, but precipitously fell to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the late second round, due to injury concerns around his knee. Despite these worries, he’s looked great in the preseason, and could prove to be an absolute heist by the Bucs.
Bowers is the quintessential pass-rusher, whose ceiling for success is comparable to literally anyone else's in the 2011 draft class. The fact that he dropped into the second round could have been a blessing for the Packers, who were bereft of DE's of his ilk.
Not only was his unexpected availability felicitous, but he would have come at a reduced price.
The Bucs capitalized upon his unforeseen fall and signed him to a financially viable, 4-year/3.85 million dollar contract.
Losing Jenkins could prove costly for Green Bay, as he was an integral part of an imposing Packer pass-rush, accruing seven sacks last season and menacing opposing offenses.
Now, the depth on the D-line is strained.
Jenkins' current replacement, Neal, has been hampered by injuries in his short career, including one he sustained to his knee in training camp. Behind him is Green Bay's 2010 seventh-rounder, C.J. Wilson.
Bottom line: Bowers has all the makings of becoming a potential star, and at the very least could have buttressed a D-line that finds itself very thin at a position that was key to last year's success.
braylon edwards would have fit in well with Aaron Rodgers
Signing wide-out Braylon Edwards would have given the Packers a much needed physical playmaker to line up opposite Greg Jennings.
Currently (and much to the chagrin of the Packer nation, who cling to the idea that the Packer wide receivers are among the deepest and most talented in the league) Green Bay lacks a true threat outside of Jennings.
The team's current number two, Donald Driver, is 36, and saw his production decrease by half last season, despite playing in 15 games.
James Jones and Jordy Nelson proved time after time that they could not be relied upon, especially in the playoffs. Any gaudy numbers they might have posted were more the result of Aaron Rodgers gift-wrapping perfect passes for them than it was the making of their own superior abilities.
Randall Cobb is cute, but come on. He's a slot-receiver, at best.
Furthermore, aside from Jordy Nelson, this WR corps is relatively diminutive in stature, peaking at 6'1" in height.
Edwards, on the other hand, is a beast: tall, strong, physical, athletic and an all-around playmaker.
And, at only 28 years old, he would have come at a discount, signing with the San Francisco 49ers for a mere $1 million over one year (with an additional $2 million in incentives).
The former first-rounder would have immediately provided the Packers someone to help take the attention off of Jennings, as well as a legitimate end-zone threat.
Finally, if you're thinking of citing Edwards' alleged butter-fingers, think again. His “drops” have been greatly exaggerated, as he ranked 12th in lowest drop percentage with a paltry four drops last year.
donte whitner stares down jerks
Packer free safety Nick Collins reigns among the NFL elite; however, Green Bay's current strong safety position is cause for concern.
Collins' seemingly ubiquitous presence in the secondary veils the true extent of the problem at SS. The current listed starters, Morgan Burnett and Charlie Peprah, are far from the answer.
On another note, Green Bay's most problematic area was defending the run, where they surrendered an NFC high 4.7 yards per carry to opponents last season.
That's not bro, not bro at all.
However, had they swooped in and lured Donte Whitner away from the 49ers this offseason, then they might have substantially lowered this embarrassing number.
Whitner, a littler more expensive than the players previously mentioned, has always been stout against the run. In fact, he registered 144 tackles last year, and maintains the skills that not too long ago made him a first round pick of the Buffalo Bills.
Only 26 years young, Whitner still has time to improve his all-around game, yet wouldn't face as much pressure as he used to with Collins taking much of the focus off of him.
Or, the Packers could have taken a flier on ex-Colt Bob Sanders, who signed a $1 million/1 year contract with the Chargers.
Injury prone? Definitely. However, when he's healthy, he's an indisputable beast, who could single-handedly shore up the running defense from the secondary's end while also putting the fear of God in anyone who dares cross his pass with the ball.
The man can hit.
But, the Packers brass felt otherwise, and both players are having solid preseasons with each of their respective teams.