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One Year Wiser

One Year Wiser





This year’s Packer team appears to have plenty of veteran leadership.





During the past three seasons, the Packers have either been the youngest team in the NFL or very close to it. That will not be the case in 2009. Ted Thompson has finally done what many of us were hoping he would do last year—he has allowed the roster to begin to mature. The Packers will still be a relatively young team, but they now have a good number of experienced players. And although there is only so much that fans can know about what goes on behind the scenes, there is reason to believe that the 2009 Packers will have plenty of good leaders among their ranks.


On defense, nine out of eleven starters are returning. This is remarkable, considering that the Packers are switching to a radically different defensive scheme. Essentially, Johnny Jolly and Brady Poppinga are being replaced in the starting lineup by B.J. Raji and either Clay Matthews or Jeremy Thompson. All of the other defensive starters are a year older and a year wiser. And Jolly and Poppinga are still here. In recent years, the Packers have not often had experienced players coming off the bench. 


For the most part, the veterans on the defense appear to have bought into the new scheme wholeheartedly. Charles Woodson has been especially welcoming of the switch. Nick Barnett has been itching to get back onto the field, and he will be there soon. Ryan Pickett has embraced his new role as nose tackle. The one exception has been Aaron Kampman, who has been less than enthusiastic about his position change, but he is a high character guy and is working hard to adapt, as everyone knew he would.


It helps that the new defensive coaches have many years of experience between them. Dom Capers has been in the league for about two decades, mostly as a defensive coordinator, and he has even had a couple of stints as a head coach. Defensive line coach Mike Trgovac has filled the same role for some good defenses in Philadelphia and Washington and is coming off a six-year stint as defensive coordinator in Carolina. Capers’ braininess and Trgovac’s passion complement each other well, and it doesn’t hurt to have Kevin Greene around, who himself excelled as a 3-4 OLB for years.


Like the defense, the Packer offense also appears to be in a better position this year in terms of experience. Last year, the departure of Brett Favre left a gaping hole that was impossible for first-year starter Aaron Rodgers to fill. Rodgers did better than expected, but he still needed to prove that he could be a big-time starting QB, and he tended to struggle somewhat late in games. This year, Rodgers appears fully ready for his role, and his maturity is even more apparent when compared to the man he replaced, whose decision-making powers, at least off the field, have left something to be desired.


Elsewhere on the offense, most of last year’s starters have returned. The one big loss is Mark Tauscher, who had held down the right tackle position since 2000. But Chad Clifton is back, and Darryn Colledge and Jason Spitz are each moving into their prime. Good leaders need good followers, and second-year TE Jermichael Finley now looks ready, both physically and mentally, to fit into his role in the offense. He still runs his mouth constantly, but instead of coming across as arrogant, he’s mostly just funny.


All of this optimism is tempered by the fact that the Packers finished 6-10 last year. But the memory of that disappointing season can be turned into a positive. One of the remarkable things about last season was how the team held together through it all. There was virtually no evidence of infighting or finger-pointing. Combine that with the 13-3 season that preceded it, and clearly most of these players have been through some major ups and downs together. This season, we will find out if that experience has made them stronger.  I’m betting that it has. 

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (9) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Asshalo's picture

Slightly, disgaree on Kevin Greene because he has no official coaching experience (yes, you can point to his help in Pitt last year). But I may be more prone to mention Winston Moss, who may be a future Defensive Coordinator. He interviewed for some jobs this last year. Between He, Trgovac and Capers, I think we have a solid defensive coaching staff, and probably the best offensive minds in the division.

Speaking of offensive minds, I think a lot of homers in Chicagoland underestimate how shitty their offensive coaching is. The offense will be improved, but don't expect ProBowl numbers. Then again Favre made the pro bowl last year.

Alex Tallitsch's picture

Good point about returning players, hopefully it translates into communication consistency too.

MrBacon's picture

"Ted Thompson has finally done what many of us were hoping he would do last year—he has allowed the roster to begin to mature. The Packers will still be a relatively young team, but they now have a good number of experienced players."

Correct. You know what that means, we are no longer a team in REBUILD mode.

Thats what the whole process has been about, long term sucess.

PackersRS's picture

EXACTLY! That's what I think. TT thinks this team is ready. Just look at the way he drafted (picking players by position - Raji - instead of board number - Crabtree was 1 -.). But that also means that there're no excuses for another losing season...

MrBacon's picture

Another example.

When your rebuilding, you blow the whole team up, fast or slow but it happens. Thompson destroyed the O-Line. We sold Javon Walker to Denver, and got ride of Ferguson and Ahmad Green. Dump Mike McKenzie to Orleans, and Henderson and Davis retired. Chmura ended his career soon after the spagate. Reggie retired, Butler as well.

So basically the crowd called for Thompsons head, as instead of 7 picks, he would get around 7 to 11 each season. Over 4 seasons that is a maximum of 44 picks, 9 under the 53 man roster.

Sure some didn't pan out, but those picks, except for the 1st rounders, cost little money. Jennings was 500k for 3 seasons I believe.

Sign some good FA, at bargin prices.

So now we have our base set, and Thompson can afford to call the Patriots and give up valuable picks, and draft up to get Clay Matthews.

Because now in Packerland, we have a overflow of so much talent, that many backups can be a starter on a bad team.

Jersey Al's picture

I can do nothing but agree with the above - boring. We need a TT hater in here to break up this lovefest. Where's Jeremiah's Johnson when you need him? You out there JJ?

MrBacon's picture

He abandoned Haterade when 4 jumped to Dancing Queens.

Lace's picture

Well the "TT" and "MM" haters were spoiled by a decade of awesome Packers football when Ron Wolf's players were in their primes. They got old, started sucking, cost too much to keep around for too little returns.

Then Ted Thompson comes in to rebuild the team. It took TT less time to get our team to the NFC championship game than it did Ron Wolf. Some hits, some misses. Sure, he's had some big misses in the higher rounds, but he's had some absolutely gigantic hits, and bargains at that, in the later rounds. Look at how many of our starters and even pro bowlers, came from 4th - 6th rounds, go back and actually look at the drafts. Even that absolutely terrible Vandermeuse(sp?) article on the GB press gazette website is dripping with ignorance. Why does it matter that a 2nd rd pick QB is a miss, if Thompson's 7th rd pick QB is the one beating him out? And Nelson and Jones not cracking the top 2 WR's... because Greg Jennings (another TT pick) is too good? Does Vandermeuse even understand logic?

It's called a trend graph. Make one. Look at it. Then smack your forehead and STFU. 4-12 -> 8-8 -> 13-3. And the one shitty season due to terrible luck, a transition in QB, and tons of injuries at our biggest, key positions. The trend is going upwards, that is, the team is getting better. We had a top 5 offense, without Brett Favre, we were 3 touchdowns in total points away from being a 13-3 team last year. And the one problem - defense - has been duly addressed by radical changes in the staff and philosophy.

TT isn't some brilliant genius, and neither is MM. But both of these guys are way better than the "hating" idiots give them credit for. The stats do not support their opinions. At all.

Alex Tallitsch's picture


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