After winning the Super Bowl in 2010 and winning 15 regular season games in 2011, the Packers entered 2012 as probably the favorite to win it all. After a 2-3 start, that kind of faded away and even though they finished the season 9-2 from that point on, they still never really felt like the type of contender they were supposed to be. They only beat 2 playoff teams in that stretch and only won 3 games by more than 10 points. They finished the season just 4-4 on the road.
In the post-season, they took care of business at home against the Vikings, but things fell apart in San Francisco the following week and their season ended the same way it started, with a loss to the 49ers. Their problems on the road reared their heads again, as did their issues defensively. They looked completely confused and unprepared, allowing 45 points and a record day from dual threat quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Once regarded as one of the best defensive minds in the NFL, Dom Capers was badly outcoached by Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman twice in the same year and once again his defense was the issue. And once again, defense has to be the priority of their off-season this year.
3-4 Defensive End
No defensive line got pressure less frequently than the Packers’ did in 2011, getting a 3.4% pass rush rate (sacks + hits + hurries / pass rush snaps x 100). They used a 2nd round pick on Jerel Worthy in 2012, but while he was decent against the run, he didn’t get any pressure either and he’ll be in a race to be ready for week 1 after tearing his ACL late in 2012. This team really struggled for pass rush this year, ranking 31st in pass rush efficiency and they were even worse when Clay Matthews was hurt. They desperately need another pass rusher to step up, particularly someone from the defensive line. Adding another defensive lineman to get to the quarterback should be atop their off-season needs list.
The Packers were kind of just throwing shit at the wall and seeing what stuck at running back this year, using Alex Green, James Starks, Cedric Benson, Ryan Grant, and DuJuan Harris at running back. They were generally ineffective, ranking 22nd in the NFL, averaging 3.9 YPC. Harris played well down the stretch, but can they really count on him in 2013? I know they don’t value the running back position much, but they need to bring someone else into the mix this off-season.
One of the funnier stories this year was Jeff Saturday getting elected to the Pro-Bowl after getting benched. I guess that’s what happens when most fans don’t have access to any sort of stats that mean anything with offensive lineman. Saturday is a big name and probably the most recognizable center in the NFL, but he really struggled this year, especially as a run blocker, as he ranked 28th out of 36 eligible overall on ProFootballFocus. 38 in June, it’s probably time for him to hang them up and I think that’s what will happen. Evan Dietrich-Smith was better once he took over for him, but they could use some competition for him, if he returns at all. He’s a free agent this off-season.
Jermichael Finley never seems to be able to live up to his athleticism, even in one of the best passing offenses in the NFL. Owed non-guaranteed 7.95 million in 2013, including a 3.5 million dollar roster bonus due in March, I’d say there’s less than a 50% chance he returns to Green Bay. If he doesn’t, the Packers don’t have much in the way of internal replacements and while they like promoting from within, they may also turn to the draft for help.
Clay Matthews is obviously a great player and Nick Perry, despite missing most of this year with an injury, was a 2012 1st round pick and is still the future opposite him. However, their depth is atrocious. This was really exposed as Matthews and Perry missed time with injury. Despite not getting a ton of playing time, Dezman Moses and Erik Walden ranked 28th and 35th respectively out of 35 eligible 3-4 outside linebackers this season on ProFootballFocus. Walden has ranked dead last at his position for 2 straight years and by a pretty wide margin, struggling both against the run and as a pass rusher. There’s a reason they brought in Perry in the first place, but they clearly need better depth.
The Packers didn’t make it far enough in the post-season for anything to come down to a big kick, but if they had, they could have been in some trouble. Mason Crosby was probably the most inaccurate kicker in the NFL this season, making just 23 of 35, missing two from inside 40, and going a pathetic 2 of 9 from 50+. The Packers should at least try out other kickers this off-season.
Randall Cobb is a dangerous return man, but as he becomes a bigger part of the offense, the Packers may take him off special teams to make sure he doesn’t get hurt.
Copy and paste what’s above.