With the NFL Draft starting tonight, the story of the Green Bay Packers’ future success is about to be written. For a team like the Packers that eschews free agency and builds almost exclusively through the draft, the next three days are vitally important in rebuilding a once dominant defense. A defense that has let the Packers down the last two seasons when it counted the most and is in need of play-makers to ensure that does not occur again.
Since the neck injury and forced retirement of Nick Collins, the Packers’ pass defense has not been the same. Two years ago they set an NFL record for the most passing yards allowed in a season. While they were noticeably improved last season, they still faltered again in the playoffs.
The Packers have some good young players at cornerback with Casey Heyward, Sam Shields and Davon House so there is little need there. Safety is a different story though. Morgan Burnett is a solid starter but he has failed to develop into a difference-maker ,and with a draft that is very deep at the safety position the time is now to address that deficiency.
As much as the secondary has struggled in recent years, the defensive front has had its own issues. Since Cullen Jenkins’ departure via free agency, the Packers have gotten little production from any defensive lineman not named B.J. Raji or Ryan Pickett. Mike Neal has under-performed, Jerel Worthy blew out his knee, and Pickett and Raji are both in the final year of their contracts. Help is needed along the defensive front. Defensive line is another strength of this year’s draft, so now is the time to add a couple of players to the mix.
The linebacking corps is the heart and soul of any 3-4 defense but other than Clay Matthews the rest of Green Bay’s ‘backers are either coming off of a major injury or are average at best. Nick Perry is still a bit of an unknown quantity at outside linebacker and could provide the pass rushing complement Matthews needs. But adding another pass rusher to spell either one and as insurance against injury would be prudent.
On the inside the Packers have a lot of bodies but not a lot of talent. Desmond Bishop is the only player who has shown to be more than average, and an upgrade inside to complement him is needed for the defense to take the next step.
While defense should be the priority for the Packers, the offense still has a few needs as well. An upgrade at left tackle over Marshall Newhouse should be chief among them. Adding some depth the the interior of the offensive line is needed as well.
While many draft pundits think the Packers will select Alabama running back Eddie Lacy in the first round, I believe that would be a mistake. A running back in the first would be a luxury pick the Packers cannot afford. Especially when they could get guys like Montee Ball, Stepfan Taylor or Le’Veon Bell in the middle rounds to compliment incumbent starter DeJuan Harris.
Last year general manager Ted Thompson spent six of the team’s draft picks on defensive players. If the Packers’ defense is to return to a championship level, the bulk of this year’s eight picks need to be spent on the defensive side of the ball as well.