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10 Reasons for Concern as the Packers Open Training Camp

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10 Reasons for Concern as the Packers Open Training Camp

Green Bay Packers linebacker Brad Jones by Jeff Hanisch—USA TODAY Sports.

Green Bay Packers linebacker Brad Jones by Jeff Hanisch—USA TODAY Sports.

Call this playing devil's advocate to our "10 Reasons for Optimism" post that ran Wednesday night. 

If the Green Bay Packers have any concerns as they report to training camp, these are the most important 10:


1. Learning Curve for New Safeties

Nick Collins and Darren Sharper needed three or four years to become consistent, impact players at safety, an increasingly demanding position. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is a rookie and Micah Hyde is learning to play the position for the first time in the NFL. What if the safety group doesn't improve right away in 2014?


2. Smaller Defensive Line

Green Bay's defense gave up 4.6 yards per carry and allowed 125 rushing yards per game in 2013. So what did the Packers do? They got smaller along the defensive line. Gone are Johnny Jolly, Ryan Pickett and C.J. Wilson. That's a lot of beef to replace. Maybe the smaller but quicker linemen will shoot gaps and play more in attack mode. Or maybe a line that got pushed around last season will get pushed around again. 


3. No Additions at ILB

The Packers didn't make any notable moves at inside linebacker. The club might have high expectations for Jamari Lattimore and Sam Barrington, but this position feels like it could—by the end of 2014—share some similarities with the safety group in 2013. The Packers are banking on internal improvement and Brad Jones staying healthy. It didn't help that the defensive line got smaller, either. The inside 'backers might need to shed even more blocks this season. 


4. Rodgers' Collarbone

After years of fortune, the Packers finally got stung by a significant quarterback injury. Here's to another two decades of health at the position. Injuries are mostly unpredictable, but there's now at least some realization that Packers quarterbacks aren't invincible. Aaron Rodgers still gets hit more than your average quarterback, whether it's from a breakdown up front or his tendency to extend plays as long as possible. Another unlucky break (no pun intended) and another Packers season could spiral (again, no pun intended) out of control. Phalanges crossed. 


5. Uncertainty along the OL

Packers quarterbacks were sacked 45 times and hit another 24 times in 2013. The hope is that the development of David Bahktiari and return of Bryan Bulaga improves the unit. But what if Bahktiari doesn't show the expected progression? He gave up eight sacks and committed 11 penalties last season. And it's probably fair to consider Bulaga a question mark. He wasn't great in 2012 and then missed all of last season. Throw in a center position that will be manned by a player with zero NFL experience, and there's still reason to worry along the offensive line. 


6. Question Marks at TE

Not having Jermichael Finley back means the Packers will go to camp with a group of tight ends that have caught exactly 71 career passes and four total touchdowns. Andrew Quarless is the elder statesman, but all he could muster was two years and $3 million on the open market. The Packers need Brandon Bostick to develop, and for either Richard Rodgers or Colt Lyerla to make an immediate impact. This position group is probably the biggest unknown on the Packers roster as camp opens. Losing Finley stings. 


7. Peppers is 34

The Packers are paying Julius Peppers over $8 million this season because they believe he still has something left in the tank. What if he doesn't? Or what if he can't handle a new position at 34? Not many at his age are productive rushing the passer. Also, Clay Matthews, Mike Neal and Nick Perry have combined to miss 29 games over the last two seasons. The Packers will more than likely need something out of Peppers.


8. Brutal Opening Act

What a brutal month September figures to be for the Packers. It begins in Seattle for the NFL's kickoff event against the Seahawks, the defending champs. Seattle is 15-1 at home since 2012. The Packers then return home to play the Jets before hitting the road for stops in Detroit and Chicago. October begins with a short week and a Thursday night game in Green Bay against Minnesota. That's a stressful first five games. 


9. NFC North is Better

The division looks like it could be a dogfight next season. Laugh it up, but the Bears are loaded on offense, and general manager Phil Emery upgraded the defense. If Charles Tillman and Lance Briggs stay healthy, and Jared Allen and Lamaar Houston jumpstart the pass rush, Chicago will be very good. In Detroit, the Lions replaced Jim Schwartz with his exact opposite in Jim Caldwell. If the new staff can get Matthew Stafford back to 2011 levels, the Lions can win the division. And don't sleep on the Vikings. Mike Zimmer was a perfect fit, the defense added a few pieces and Teddy Bridgewater has the tools to be a franchise quarterback. Minnesota's arrow is pointing up. The North embarrassed itself at times last season; 2014 will be a rebound year. The Packers still have the best quarterback, and that makes them the favorite. But it might take 11 or 12 wins to take the crown this season.


10. Count on Injuries

At this point, it'd be silly not to. The Packers are going to lose a handful of key contributors to injury somewhere along the way this season. But where will those injuries come? At premium positions, like quarterback, tackle, pass rusher and cornerback? Or at more manageable positions, like in 2010? Injuries happen in the NFL. You can only hope they don't impact the game's biggest positions. This should be a very good team if healthy. If recent bites from the injury bug continue, the Packers could be very vulnerable in a division that is catching up. 


Zach Kruse contributes to Cheesehead TV. He is also the Lead Writer for the NFC North at Bleacher Report. You can reach him on Twitter @zachkruse2 or by email at [email protected].

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (23) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

4thand1's picture

It'll come down to December. Its a long season and they could start slow. The schedule is brutal to start.

Zach Kruse's picture

Only you could add a pessimist's spin on a post based in pessimism. ;)

Idiot Fan's picture

I agree that Rodgers' window is finite, but seriously, closed after age 30? Peyton Manning just produced possibly the greatest (statistical) season by a QB ever, at age 85 or so.

4thand1's picture

Can't believe it, you suck more every day.

balding_pastor's picture

11. Mason Crosby reverts to 2012 form.

HankScorpio's picture

That's definitely a concern of mine,

Zach Kruse's picture

Wish I would have thought of that one.

HankScorpio's picture

My biggest concerns heading into the season in the middle of the front 7--ILB & NT. I think they'll be fine on the outside of the front 7 and in the secondary. I have zero concerns about 2014 Safety being better than 2013 Safety. Their is no place to go but up. On the edge of the front 7 (OLB & DE), I think they have enough guys to mix in with different looks to be effective.

The offense is loaded. If they stay healthy, they'll put up their share of points.

RCPackerFan's picture

My biggest concerns are 2, 3 and 4.

I am concerned with our DL and that it might be to small to hold up against the run.
Our DL started out really well last year but age caught up to Pickett and Jolly.
I do like our young guys but they are a bit unproven. I really like Boyd, and moving Raji back to NT. Also I expect Jones and Daniels to be better this year. But what if they don't. could be for a long year.

ILB I'm concerned with but not as much as others. Hawk to me is fine. But they have to have a better player next to him. I think Lattimore will be that guy. Coming into his 2nd season as an ILB I expect to see improvement from him.

Lets be honest. The season rides with Rodgers. The biggest thing for him is to stay healthy.

Nerd's picture

Mike could protect this defense by burning more clock on offense. But he's more concerned with "running 75 plays per game," to get Aaron his stats than he is about putting the D in a position to succeed.

L's picture

"And it's probably fair to consider Bulaga a question mark. He wasn't great in 2012 and then missed all of last season." - Zach Kruse

What do you mean B.Bulaga wasn't considered solid in 2012 at RT up until he got hurt? I don't recall that. As I remember it the right side of our line was pretty damn good up until B.Bulaga's injury. The main O-line issues throughout the entire season surrounded the left side and most of all center, but when B.Bulaga went down to a hip injury then it was both Tackle positions too. I recall TJ.Lang was having a down year in 2012 and that it was later chalked up to dealing with several less than major injuries that lingered throughout the season, M.Newhouse clearly wasn't the answer at LT as he got beat around the edge way too often and wasn't much good in the run game, and J.Saturday was horrible at center which is why he got benched in favor of EDS during the season. What D.Barclay was able to provide at RT after B.Bulaga went down was admirable, but he was a clear step down from what B.Bulaga was able to do there. This is how I recall it.

Idiot Fan's picture

I think he improved as the season went on, but many of us have the Seattle game come to mind when remembering Bulaga in 2012. That was the worst I've seen him, or possibly any Packer lineman, play in a long time.

Pack Morris's picture

Aaaand I had to look up "phalanges." :) Good stuff, Zach.

Clay's picture

I always find it interesting when the issue of size comes up regarding either line, to go and look at the lines of the teams that are superior to the Packers, namely 49 rs and Hawks.

In the case of the Hawks (look it up for yourself) there line is almost the exact same as the Pack. The have one 325 pounder (our Raji) about two 310 pounders, and literally everyone else is like scary small (250-270).

Draw what conclusions from this you will...for example Hawks have better linebackers to support their small line. Nonetheless I think it shows size isn't the only thing for line success by ANY stretch.

That Hawks D rivals the Bears of the 80's. Yes I said it.

Clay's picture

*their line! Yes I can spell.

L's picture

The Seahawks D nor the Bears D of the 80s was as good as the Ravens D from 2000. They're all good Ds but the Ravens from 2000 was just stupid good.

Nerd's picture

If you want a Dline like the Niners, then focus on getting players who are "good," not player who are "small."

Clay's picture

Cow you can see in what I wrote that I was expecting that response from you.

In this case you may be right! Let's see ho ends up at middle lb.

I still think they may have different looks than what you are expecting.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Solid article. Safety should be better with the infusion of sheer talent. The position coach Darren Perry is batting 0% in developing safeties, though. If Raji gets blown off the LOS like he did too often last year even with his return to NT, that could be a problem. ILB should be no worse than last year. CB is strong.

Center is a concern but there is talent, and ways to compensate if Tretter and Linsley take time to develop. I suggest there are few ways the OL is worse and many ways it good be average, good or very good. QB, RB and WR are so strong that GB will score even if the TEs don't do much.

One never knows about the strength of schedule - other than that Seattle figures to be very good.

The biggest concern about injury is that they can't happen to Rodgers and CMIII, and otherwise they can't hit one position too hard like Neal and Perry staying on PUP!

Nerd's picture

We start out with some tough games, but Mike never has this team ready to play until at least week 8 anyway, so we might as well get those tough games out of the way early.

Icebowler's picture

We better come out of the gate firing on all cylinders on offense in the first two quarters of games. I think we'll need to force other teams to abandonee the run as soon as possible. We've improved our third down pass rush, but first we've got to get to third down. Raji better be a beast on 1st down or we're in big trouble (I suggest putting Daniels locker right next to Raji's:)). We not going to face many coaching staffs as stupid as the Cowboys, so we need to force the other team into as many passing situations as possible.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

LOL, by all means put Raji's locker next to Daniels' locker. And then make sure it is next to the weight room. The knock on Raji when he came out of college was character and work ethic (5.2 and 5.0 IIRC). This is the reason I would never give Raji a lot of guaranteed money if TT ever contemplates re-signing him, should Raji have a good year.

Icebowler's picture

I'll bet Jerry Jones was the only "thumbs down" that I got on my previous post:)

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