With the NFL Draft only three days away, Packer fans everywhere have visions of new linebackers and defensive backs being added to the roster and making a not-inconsiderable difference right away, most hopefully in the area of pass defense, what with the much-publicized problems Dom Capers' unit had against "veteran quarterbacks" that spread the team out and threw all over the yard last year.
Some new players will help, it's true. But more importantly, Capers having a full offseaon to evaluate the talent on hand and match their talents to what he asks them to do will have just as much, if not more of an impact.
As indicated above, Packer fans can recite by rote the phrase that appears in almost every season recap of the 2009 Green Bay Packers - "they had trouble against teams with savvy veteran quarterbacks that spread the field". This is true of course, but going back and rewatching the season (as I am prone to do) something jumped out at me.
First of all, the problems to come were foreshadowed in the 49er game especially after Al Harris went down. And as far as I know, Alex Smith has never been confused with a "savvy veteran". Now, yes, it's hard to blame Capers for what guys like Jarrett Bush and Brandon Underwood do or don't do well when thrown into the middle of a game and where he is forced to gameplan on the fly knowing what he does about their capabilities. But watching that game again, I was reminded how Capers, at times, could really struggle to find a playcalling rhythm once Harris went out. And it may have affected his ability to recognize what the 49ers were doing.
Mike McCarthy commented on his teams atrocious tackling in last years Wild Card playoff loss to the Arizona Cardinals. We've long commented that the Packers need vast improvement in this area of the game. Is McCarthy finally coming around?
Let it be known - I agree with Mike Vandermause. (I may as well give up now)
In light of the fact that I completely contradicted myself earlier this week, I went back and watched the three games that McCarthy and Capers are no doubt going to pay the most attention to when reviewing tape this offseason - the second Vikings game, the Steelers game, and the Cardinal playoff game.
And despite the secondary being torched repeatedly in those contests, especially in the playoff game, I'm pretty sure my first take was the correct one - an improved pass rush, namely a compliment to Matthews who can win a one-on-one at the line of scrimmage, will solve a lot of problems the Packers had against Favre, Roethlisberger and Warner.
In looking at the secondary, I fell victim to what I call looking through the "offseason-lens" - where you remember every big play, both good and bad, but forget that there are hundreds of other plays that happened inbetween. Going back and watching the three games in question, you can see the potential in Brandon Underwood. Josh Bell is not nearly the liability that that final pass against Pittsburgh makes you remember him as. Improvement from those two players alone will go a long way in shoring things up on the back end of the defense. And this is even before counting on anything from Al Harris, Will Blackmon or Pat Lee.
Ryan Pickett: B
Quieted doubts about his ability to fit the scheme. Was a first-rate run stuffer and more than held his own against constant double teams. Set to be a free agent, the team is currently in discussions with his agent to bring him back. A big (no pun intended) positive in the locker room.
B.J. Raji C+
Hampered by injury earlier in the year, Raji was never the difference maker the team was hoping it was getting. Extremely versatile, Raji did everything he was asked, including playing downfield in coverage. The problem was he didn’t do any one thing extremely well. It will be very interesting to see what an offseason spent in Dave Redding’s program will do for his conditioning.
Cullen Jenkins B -
Feasted on inferior competition while disappearing against the better offensive lines the team faced. Allayed most fears about his ability to stand up to the down-after-down pounding the 3-4 end position requires. Supplied pressure on the quarterback, which is always a luxury from a 3-4 end.
Johnny Jolly B
By almost any measure, Jolly had an excellent season. The worry, of course, is how much of what was on display was the dreaded ‘contract year’ doing the motivation. Given his perceived attitude both on and off the field, it’s impossible not to color all examination of his play this year with that brush. That said, his play was superb across the board.
Jarius Wynn D +
Wynn (friend of the show, though maybe not after he sees his grade…) was pushed around in the run game and offered next to nothing on passing downs. Needs an offseason to define the mass he has. The bigger problem? Doesn’t seem to have a motor at all.
Michael Montogomery D –
Barely played. For a reason.
Justin Harrell I
The man fans love to hate who’s name isn’t Jarrett Bush.
"I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle – victorious."