With just over two weeks until the Green Bay Packers open training camp, there is a cautious optimism when attempting to predict how the season will unfold.
There is little concern with the offense and reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers, but the defense is another story.
Can the defense rebound from what turned out to be a historically bad year?
With the emphasis that the Packers GM Ted Thompson put on revamping the defense, the early answer has to be yes … only because they couldn’t get any worse.
Let’s rewind to January 15, 2012 as I sat on my couch watching my beloved Packers get trounced by the New York (football) Giants, ruining a record-setting 15-1 season.
I can’t necessarily say that I was surprised.
The Packers were living on the edge and on the golden arm of MVP Aaron Rodgers all season. It seemed only a matter of time before the Packers offense that seemed to be unstoppable all year would experience a hiccup.
Unfortunately this hiccup occurred during the divisional round of the NFL playoffs.
And it’s not like there weren’t warning signs of this playoff collapse:
- The surrendering of 400+ passing yards to rookie Cam Newton in his second career NFL game.
- The battle in the Metrodome with the lowly Vikings as Christian Ponder made his first NFL start and at points during the game looked like a NFL veteran.
- Even the offensively challenged Bears found success at Lambeau on Christmas night.
These, among other games, were evidence that the Dom Capers defense was going to burst like a crack in the Hoover Dam.
Now let’s fast forward to present day.
When glancing at the Packers defensive roster, there are numerous changes.
Ted Thompson has remained steadfast in claiming his approach to the draft is to take the best player available. It’s debatable weather or not this approach was followed as Thompson used the first six picks of the 2012 draft on defensive players.
Ted clearly recognizes the need for youth, energy and help on the defensive side of the ball. Among the issues that were obvious on defense last year:
- With no pressure coming from the right side, Clay Matthews could be double- and triple-teamed on each snap.
- There were times when Sam Shields appeared to get lost in coverage, and Tramon Williams never found his 2010 form that landed him a Pro Bowl invite.
- The middle linebacking duo of A.J. Hawk and Desmond Bishop were often hurt and many times couldn’t shed a block. They also took terrible angles in pursuit, especially Hawk!
- With the release of Pro Bowler Nick Collins due to the season ending neck injury he suffered in the Carolina game, the safety position also has major concerns.
Incoming rookies such as Nick Perry, Jerel Worthy, Mike Daniels, Casey Hayward, and Terrell Manning were drafted to hopefully address the some of the defensive woes or at the very least provide competition to the establish veterans.
Will Jerel Worthy give the Packers max effort on each snap and provide a must needed push up the middle?
Can Casey Hayward find a role in the Nickel package or even push Sam Shields for a starting spot?
And what about 2nd year safety M.D. Jennings; can he overtake Charlie Peprah and find himself starting next to Morgan Burnett?
These are some of the questions that will be answered during training camp, and all of the faithful railbirds will get a firsthand look at Thompson’s prized selections.
Let’s remember that the Packers’ defense doesn’t need a meteoric rise. A ranking anywhere in the top half of the NFL will go a long way towards helping Green Bay capture its 14th world championship.
Come July 26, 2012 the road to New Orleans begins in Green Bay, Wisconsin.