Another day, and another team previewed. (I’m not sure I can keep this up for 32 straight days, but I will certainly try.) This time we venture to Wisconsin to take a look at the Green Bay Packers. The Seahawks and Packers have a fun history, first with the Holmgren era, and now with John Schneider coming to Seattle from Green Bay. And who can forget the “We want the ball and we’re gonna score” playoff game.
Helping me out with the preview is Ray Rivard from Lombardi Ave.
Biggest Team Need Heading Into Offseason: Defense, defense, and more defense
Key Free Agents Retained: Donald Driver, Jared Bush
Key Player Additions: Jeff Saturday, Anthony Hargrove (despite suspension)Key Players Leaving: Chad Clifton, Nick Collins
Quick Thoughts on Draft: It was an awesome draft for the Packers. Picking up Nick Perry to complement Clay Matthews was brilliant, but the fact that GM Ted Thompson traded up so much to get defensive players from front to back was a stroke of genius and is going to help the team immensely.
Quick Thoughts on 2012 schedule: The start of the season is brutal with tough competition and a quirky schedule for the first month. Starting on national television with a 3 p.m. game opening weekend at home against the 49ers will be tough. But then the team has to turn around and play the Bears on Thursday night. That’s simply brutal. Overall, however, the Packers’ schedule does settle down later in the year when the games really start to count. While the division schedule is always tough, playing teams from the AFC South should play to their advantage.
Most Interesting Roster Battle: The defensive line, wide receiver and inside linebacker. Thompson went out and picked up some tough players to help improve the defensive line. The competition at those positions will be heated and the cuts that come from there will be interesting. As for inside linebacker, most would say that A.J. Hawk and Desmond Bishop are locks. I don’t thing so – especially for Hawk who had a so-so 2011. He will really have to battle D.J. Smith for that position, as well as others to be deemed the starter. Though most will see the first four positions at wide receiver as locks for Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Randall Cobb, the fifth position will be up for grabs between Donald Driver and second-year players Diondre Borel and Tori Gurley. The young guys are up and coming and could result in an interesting cut or even the possibility of a trade. Many feel that Jones is potential trade bait.
Biggest Strength Heading Into 2012: Clearly, the offense should again be the team’s biggest strength. Aaron Rodgers should lead the well-oiled machine to an even higher level in 2012. Is there any defense out there that can slow them down or even stop them? Maybe on a good day. The only way the offense was slowed last year was when the Packers shot themselves in the foot (versus Kansas City and in the playoffs against the Giants).
Biggest Weakness Heading Into 2012: The defense. Finishing dead last in defense last year was an embarrassment.
Biggest Question Still To Be Answered: See above … the defense will have the infusion of many new and young players. How they perform will be crucial to an improved defense. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers has got to come up with more creative schemes to allow the Packers the flexibility to surprise offenses. Will the defense show enough improvement to put this team back into contention for another title? That’s the question.
2012 Prediction: Packers record: 13-3; NFC North Division Title; Super Bowl championship.
The Packers defense was exposed last season. The needed players at all 3 levels of the defense, and I’m not sure they did enough in the offseason to make drastic improvement on the stat sheets this year. They’ll be young in some key areas, but should improve as the year goes on. Luckily for the Pack, it wont matter that much. Aaron Rogers and the offense are good enough win their division even without much of a defense.
Expect the Packers to be pre-season favorites to win the Super Bowl.