Following the 2013 season, one thing was certain as far as the Green Bay Packers were concerned.
Changes needed to take place.
After a third consecutive season of post season disappointment, it had become painfully obvious that the Packers had been passed in the NFC by Seattle and San Francisco. They were no longer the favorites, no longer the team everyone was chasing. Instead, they had become one of the teams doing the chasing.
As long as Aaron Rodgers was on the field, the offense was in more than capable hands. This was never more apparent than during the 7 games he missed during the 2013 season. If Rodgers is on the field, the Packers are never truly out of a game. Having Eddie Lacy around to literally carry the load on offense just makes the offense that much more dangerous. Loaded with skill at WR and a RB depth chart that was the envy of most teams, the Packers were one of if not the most talented offensive teams in the league at the end of last season.
The main problem was obvious for anyone who had seen the Packers play even one snap in 2013. The defense was in dire need of a makeover. Problems at safety (and that is putting it mildly) were just the beginning of what was wrong with this much maligned unit. Issues up front getting to the QB meant too much time was spent trying to cover opposing receivers running downfield, while almost simultaneously the middle of the field was far too often left wide open (again). Dom Capers’ scheme was broken, and it needed fixing-fast.
Changes were definitely needed in order for the Packers to catch up to the rest of the conference. That was what was in store for this off season-changes. Ted Thompson knew it. Mike McCarthy knew it. The fans most definitely knew it.
The scary thing is it almost seems as though the Packers are in equal or perhaps even worse shape now than they were when last season ended.
James Jones’ defection to the Raiders via free agency and Jermichael Finley’s uncertain future have left some major question marks on offense as it stands right now. Granted they were able to retain the services of Andrew Quarless to help fill the void at TE, but Finley is a far superior threat at this position than Quarless. Jarrett Boykin is expected to continue to develop into his role as the number 3 receiver, but there is also a chance that he stalls in this development. The upcoming draft will most likely add a player at each of these positions, but if it does not, the Packers could be in more trouble than they would want to admit on offense.
As far as the defense goes, changes were needed, and they most certainly have taken place during the past three months.
The signing of Julius Peppers added the playmaker Dom Capers so desperately needed on defense. His mere presence should allow for more playmaking from his teammates. Adding him to the likes of Clay Matthews, Mike Neal, Datone Jones, and Mike Daniels gives the Packers a pleathora of players who can get after the quarterback. The ways in which Capers will mix these players remains to be seen. But one thing is certain-the Packers have the capability to be one scary team rushing the quarterback next season.
Solving the issues at safety still have not been resolved though, at least as far as we know. That is even more scary than the Packers’ potential pass rush. All indications are that Micah Hyde will get first crack to take his playmaking ability and start alongside Morgan Burnett. This could be a great every down addition to the defense. However, it is also filled with question marks as it remains to be seen whether this will work out or not. Odds are that Ted Thompson will add a Safety through the draft to act as a backup plan for Hyde, but the possibility that he does not also exists, and that is also scary.
Remember how frightening it was when we saw Jarrett Bush as a starting cornerback in Week 1 of the 2012 season? Think that level of scary by rolling the dice with Hyde as a starter with no backup plan. No matter how good the pass rush could be, not having the right players in the secondary could be disastrous.
This off season has been one of hope for the 2014 season. The signing of Julius Peppers was the high point, and offered extreme enthusiasm for what next season could be. But there have also been events which have taken place which have raised a few eyebrows. How the team responds to them remain to be seen.
Optimism is high heading into 2014. It’s what the off season is for.
John Rehor is a writer at PackersTalk.com.
He can also be heard as one of the Co-Hosts of Cheesehead Radio. ---------------------
He can also be heard as one of the Co-Hosts of Cheesehead Radio.You can follow John on twitter at jrehor or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.