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Green Bay Packers 2014 Preview

The Packers got into the playoffs last year for two reasons : a tie with the Vikings and head coach Mike McCarthy.  The Packers were ravaged by injuries last year – the most notable being to Clay Matthews, Randall Cobb and of course, Aaron Rodgers.  Rodgers missed half of the season after being taken down by the Chicago Bears’ Shea McClellin week 9, which forced McCarthy to get really creative in keeping his team alive till the very end.  McCarthy realized with his main weapon out he needed to go another route offensively with the Packers.  Lucky for McCarthy, general manager Ted Thompson did him a huge favor by drafting running back Eddie Lacy in the second round of last year’s draft.

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Lacy became the type of back who could get at least 20 carries a game and help control their possessions.  Lacy averaged a little over four yards a carry and because of an inept passing attack (with Rodgers out) teams weren’t afraid to put a safey or two up by the line of scrimmage.  This season Lacy helps the offense as a whole because he adds a balance to this attack that they’ve lacked in recent history.  Lacy has also worked on his pass catching and blocking abilities in the off-season which is great news for the Packers who like to run a fast paced offense, and being able to keep Lacy on the field for any situation helps open up their playbook on 3rd and long opportunities.

Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb combine as a dangerous receiver duo.  Rodgers co-signed on Cobb being a starting receiver last year and now that they are both healthy, look for them to hook up often.  Cobb is tough speedster with big play ability, while Nelson is a smart route runner, with under-rated strength – the only thing that keeps Nelson above Cobb as the number one receiver is because there is no denying the chemistry between he and his quarterback.  Rodgers lost his tight end Jermichael Finley and this year it may be a new face who wins the starting job.  Third round selection Richard Rodgers (University of California) has been impressing the coaching staff of Green Bay but second year man Brandon Bostick has also been getting snaps with the first team offense and already displayed his hands and athleticism in the team’s first pre-season game.  It was already a crowded tight end group, but the troubled   Colt Lyrerla was one most were keeping their eye on.  Lyerla is an amazing athlete who couldn’t get out of his own way in Oregon but Green Bay took a flyer on him anyway. Unfortunately for Lyerla he will most likely be on the injured reserve list this season due to a torn MCL and PCL in his right knee.

The Packers offensive line will be going through it’s third center in the same amount of years, while relying on second year man David Bakhtiari to protect Rodgers’ blind side.  The guard combo of Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang did work for the running game last year as most of the holes that were opened up for Lacy were up the gut.  The outside blocking game is a cause for concern but Rodgers has a quick enough release and instincts to deal with most pressure situations.

On the defensive side, the Packers took somewhat of a gamble in the off-season.  The Packers decided to retain the services of nose tackle B.J. Raji who hasn’t been the same since starring in a State Farm commercials. The Packers also signed former Chicago Bear Julius Peppers.  It was clear Peppers lost a step (or two) last season and he wasn’t the same pass rusher off the end that he has been in the past.  The Packers are hoping that after the Bears seemingly quit on Peppers it would give him some motivation to possibly resemble what he once was.  Peppers will be placed on either side of the line during the season, hopefully finding a mismatch along the way.  Clay Matthews is the star of this defense and is the lone athlete of this linebacker group.  Matthews’ speed, technique and intensity puts him in the upper echelon of linebackers in the NFL and there is no reason to think he won’t turn out another pro-bowl caliber season.

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The secondary of the Packers is it’s strong point.  Sam Shields signed back with the Packers to join with Tramon Williams as a nice one-two corner-punch in the division.   Shields is the speedy cover guy while Williams is the more aggressive corner.  In the first round of the draft, the Packers figured they struck gold last year with an Alabama kid, so why not try again? – the Packers selected Ha-Ha Clinton Dix who was on top of most people’s list as the best free safety in the draft.  Dix provides a big frame with pretty good ball instincts and even impressed folks at the combine – but the combine doesn’t get you a starting job automatically.  It seems Micah Hyde has been the one outplaying Dix so far in practices and has gotten more snaps with the number one defense as well.  Even if Micah wins the job, don’t expect defensive coordinator Dom Capers to just keep the young and talented Clinton-Dix on the bench.

The Packers offense is a well oiled machine and the addition of Lacy potentially becoming a more well rounded back is the equivalent of adding Batman to the X-Men (which is actually impossible because Batman is not a mutant).  Can the defensive front hold up for Green Bay though? Or will they rely on Clay Matthews being every where at once all the time?

2014 Prediction: 10-6

Pro Bowl Selections: Clay Matthews, Randall Cobb, Aaron Rodgers, Eddie Lacy, T.J. Lang

 

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