Ever since 2010 and 2011 I’ve thought that every season that the Packers had Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews and both were healthy at the end of it, it was a waste if the team didn’t make a deep playoff run. By deep playoff run I mean win the Super Bowl. I fully understand that the Green Bay Packers are the most injured team in all of football and have been for the last 5 years. It may be bad luck, it might be a bad strength and conditioning staff, it might be our penance as fans for receiving the 2010 Super Bowl victory, I don’t know. What I do know is that it doesn’t appear to be changing any time soon.
Aaron Rodgers is the great eraser of problems. Regardless of the fact that the team was missing all of its outside pass rush, all of its interior passing game and various other starters and key contributors, the Packers were beating up on lesser teams. The second half schedule this season was full of lesser teams. It really looked like the Packers were going to roll over the Bears, and finish at 13-3 or 12-4. Rodgers went out and so did the air out of the team. The defense, who looked so competent in wins over Detroit, Baltimore, and Cleveland has all of a sudden given up 31, 27, and 27 to three pretty bad teams, Minnesota, Chicago and Philadelphia. No matter who went down, the team always had a chance with Rodgers, and now they don’t seem like they do.
1. Datone Jones- Jones had two sacks on Sunday and is starting to show flashes as an inside pass rusher. I’ve said from the beginning that patience needed to be preached with Jones. Defensive linemen are one of the slowest positions in the NFL to develop into meaningful contributors. There was a huge jump in BJ Raji’s second season and it’s going to be the same with Datone, but it’s nice to see him flash the potential now.
2. Scott Tolzien- He had two throws that can’t happen, but for a guy who wasn’t in the offseason program and hadn’t really had a lot of experience running anything but the scout team that was pretty damn impressive. Tolzien’s performance against the Eagles has earned him a start against the Giants, regardless of the presence of Matt Flynn.
3. Jarret Boykin- I wrote that I didn’t think Boykin was going to be a viable fantasy option without Rodgers. I was wrong, but more importantly it looks like, when healthy, the Packers are four deep at wide receiver again. Jarret is a very good player with phenomenal hands, and despite a lack of speed, understands how to get open and make plays.
1. Packers safeties- There isn’t anyone on the roster at safety that gets out of this one. Morgan Burnett continues to be a solid player, but needs to be more than that if the team is going to make him the leader of the secondary. Jerron McMillian has played himself completely out of defensive snaps. MD Jennings is soft against the run and continues to make errors in the passing game that make him ineffective there as well. I don’t know if Chris Banjo is the answer or just another part of the problem, but the Packers need to figure something out.
2. Injuries- I don’t know what’s going to happen on this front. It really seems like something needs to be done organizationally. It’s gotten to the point where I honestly refuse to believe that this is a coincidence. TJ Lang, Evan Dietrich-Smith, Johnny Jolly, Nick Perry, Seneca Wallace and Casey Hayward all went down with an injury against Philadelphia and no one returned. When you couple that with Rodgers already being out and Matthews being extremely limited playing with a club, the team is really at a loss.
3. Run defense- the calling card of the first half of the season was the ability to stop good running teams from running the football. That has seemingly disappeared with Rodgers gone. The Bears and Eagles ran all over the Packers and the run D has dropped from 3rd to 12th in the league rankings in just two weeks.
Maybe Matt Flynn can save the season. Maybe Rodgers can come back for the Thanksgiving day game and save the season. The real problem for me is that I keep having to write the phrase “save the season” when it seemed like it was going to be such a cakewalk in to the playoffs. The honus is on the rest of the battered Packers to get a win before Rodgers comes back against 2 pretty bad football teams. If they can’t, and Green Bay loses on Thanksgiving to fall to 5-7 there won’t be a season to save. There cannot be more than 6 games in the loss column when QB1 comes back or this will be just another lost season in the Aaron Rodgers era.