Where did we go wrong?

Does Mike McCarthy have a clue at this point?

The Green Bay Packers season started with optimism all over the place, as is the case with most teams going into an NFL Season. That optimism was met with a 5-2 start with a balanced offense, and a defense that appeared to be improving.

Since that time everything that has been possible to go wrong for the Packers, has, and now they sit at 5-6-1 and look to be a long shot to get to the playoffs.

So where have things gone wrong? What changes need to be made?

We will start with the offense

First of all, the biggest loss, by far was the loss of Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers broke his collarbone on the first possession of a Nov. 4 matchup against the Chicago Bears. The Packers would go on to lose that game, and the from that moment forward looked bleak. The Packers have long employed the philosophy and mindset of “next man up” under Mike McCarthy. It has been met with success as they have overcome so many injuries each of the last two seasons, but as I wrote a few weeks ago, next man up does not apply when it is the franchise quarterback. That has definitely been the case in the Packers season. Rodgers went down, and they have not won a game since. They were embarrassed by the Philadelphia Eagles and Detroit Lions. Combined with another loss to the New York Giants, and a tie with the Minnesota Vikings, the promising season has now turned sour. The Packers have scored a total of 76 points in the last four games, an average of under 20 points per game.

The blame does not solely belong to the quarterback as the offensive line has struggled without Rodgers, and play calling has been overly conservative at times, however, none of this would be the case if Aaron Rodgers was healthy. The Packers problems on offense are fixed if and when Rodgers returns to the lineup.

The problem does lie, however with the defense led by defensive coordinator Dom Capers.

I have been on record in the past saying that Capers has not deserved to be fired until this year. Recently I argued that the results do not represent the investment made in the defense, and that has caused me to jump ship on Capers. The problems with the Packers defense extend beyond Capers.

Morgan Burnett was signed to a new extension in the offseason. At the time it looked like a good investment, as Burnett was a player who looked to be on the rise, and could be an anchor on the back end of the Packers defense. After the first three games, it looked as if the Packers would need Burnett even more to be the guy they thought they signed in the offseason. Unfortunately, he has not lived up to the billing thus far. According to Pro Football Focus, Burnett ranks 53 out of 85 possible safeties in terms of overall production. That is unacceptable for someone that has just received an extension.

Burnett is not alone, however, making him a scapegoat for this defense would be irresponsible and irrational. The Packers, after being near the top of the league in turnovers, most notably interceptions in Capers’ tenure here, have hit rock bottom. They are near the bottom of the league in interceptions. Currently, Tramon Williams leads the Packers in interceptions with two. Two. That is embarrassing for a secondary with as much talent as the Packers. Sam Shields has been solid most of the season, but aside from him there have been a lot of inconsistencies. Despite his detractors, an argument could be made that Tramon Williams has been the Packers best corner throughout the season. Davon House has had some really good games, like his game against the Baltimore Ravens, accompanied by some equally bad games, such as Thursday’s nightmarish performance against Detroit. Micah Hyde, as good as he is near the line of scrimmage, has been a liability in coverage down the field, and Casey Hayward was unable to play most of the season with various hamstring injuries. All of this has added up to a leaky pass defense, that doesn’t create near the turnovers that it has expected too.

Perhaps the most alarming trend in recent weeks is the run defense. Coming into the season the Packers were on a mission to shed the soft label given to them by various media outlets and other teams around the NFL They got off to a good start to doing just that. They went into a game against the Chicago Bears boasting the NFL’s number one rush defense. Following an 18 play drive that bled most of the clock, the wheels have fallen off. The Packers defense has fallen from the peak of the league, to the basement in rush defense, currently ranking 29th in rush yards allowed.

One man to look squarely at is one who is also in line for an extension. Former Packers first round pick B.J. Raji. Raji, reportedly has left a contract worth about $8 million dollars per season on the table, and this year has not done himself any favors. He currently has 13 total tackles, and still has not registered a sack since late 2011.  Even worse, he currently ranks 43 of 44 3-4 defensive ends on Pro Football Focus.  Raji’s poor play has highlighted the struggles on what was recently thought of as a deep, talented Packers defensive line. They have gotten shredded up front since Rodgers left the lineup, and it has been embarrassing on a weekly basis.

So if you look at the information that has been presented, what you have is a defense that struggles to stop the pass, the run, and fails to create turnovers. That is the recipe for disaster, regardless of if Rodgers is in the lineup.

The struggles on the defensive side of the ball are nothing new, but more alarming this year than any previous year is the rapid decline. Two seasons ago, we knew all year the Packers defense was not very good, last season it was pretty clear most of the time as well. This year, the defense showed spark, flash, and ability to control games in the early part of the year. Since that time it has rapidly declined to sieve-like levels.

Some of the blame does not belong on the field either. Ted Thompson deserves blame as well. Earlier I highlighted how Morgan Burnett has not lived up to his extension. Eventually I still think that could turn out to be a good deal as Burnett has flashed ability in the past. The problem is Thompson completely ignored the spot opposite Burnett. That spot has been manned by M.D. Jennings, Jeron McMillan, and Chris Banjo. None of these players are NFL starters, and at times have been embarrassed all over the field. Thompson had chances to address the position both in the draft, and in free agency, but failed to do so.
The other glaring weakness on the defense is the lack of depth at outside linebacker. Coming into the season the Packers had two first round picks in Nick Perry, and Clay Matthews. That seems like a good start, unfortunately they are combined with with Nate Palmer, a sixth-round pick. Andy Mulumba, an undrafted free agent, and Mike Neal, a converted outside linebacker who is in his first year of playing the position. The Packers lost both Matthews, and Perry to injuries for significant periods of time forcing the other three players to play significant snaps.

In a 3-4 defense the most important part of that defense is the outside linebackers, they are the play makers. It is borderline embarrassing that when Perry and Matthews are not in the game that there are not viable options to make some sort of impact. This offseason, Thompson has to address both the safety position and the depth at outside linebacker, as the current men behind Matthews and Perry have failed to do much of anything. Mike Neal is also in a contract year, so there is a decision to be made on him as well.

The Packers season appears to be in shambles, yet amazingly they only need a little bit of help with their December schedule. If Rodgers returns the schedule in December has four winnable games on it, and the Lions are as inconsistent as any team in the NFL. There is reason for optimism, but for now the gloom and doom that has been the theme appears to be what we will talk about for the majority of the offseason, that looks to be coming early for the first time since 2008.

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Jacob Westendorf is a writer at PackersTalk.com. You can follow Jacob on twitter at

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