Takeaways From The 2013 Green Bay Packers
The 2013 Green Bay Packers season is unfortunately in the books. I have already read a bevy of Packers-related news, tweets, Facebook posts, you name it. There is much speculation as to what the Packers are going to do in preparation for the 2014 season.
If it is not already posted, our own Adam Czech has an upcoming piece on the Packers’ free agents heading into this offseason. It is sure to be a good read so stay tuned!
Obviously and any time a season ends with a playoff loss, there is a degree of disappointment. While it’s impossible for a team to win a Super Bowl every season, that doesn’t stop avid fans from hoping that their team can get hot and make a run through the postseason. For Packers fans, 2010 was all that it took to recalibrate their hope-o-meters and create a “never say never” mentality.
So now for all intents and purposes, it’s the 2014 season. There will undoubtedly be changes via free agency departures and (dare I say?) gains, the draft in May and possible coaching changes. Below are some of my biggest takeaways from this season with some thoughts heading into next.
- Aaron Rodgers is one of the best quarterbacks in football right now. He’s worth every penny that the Packers are paying him and for the next six years, the Packers will be contenders because of it. That is assuming that Rodgers is healthy, of course. Every bit of excitement that you felt during yesterday’s game is thanks to Rodgers. His timely return in week 17 against the Bears probably single-handedly catapulted the Packers into another division title and postseason.
- The Packers need to re-sign Matt Flynn. Scott Tolzien might be a nice project that Mike McCarthy can work with, but we all saw what happened when Rodgers and backup Seneca Wallace went down. Green Bay needs a proven backup. Flynn led comeback efforts in four of his five starts and which led to two wins and one tie. They were within a single better decision on a last play of beating the Pittsburgh Steelers.
- The safety position was near putrid this season. That the Packers won eight games and made a playoff appearance was no thanks to this group of guys. Most disappointing was Morgan Burnett, who was re-signed during the offseason and who underwhelmed time and time again. It’s only fitting that he had one last near miss on an interception that led to a 49ers touchdown on Sunday. M.D. Jennings surely needs to clear out his locker. While Chris Banjo was a great story, I’m not sure we will see him back next season. I like what I saw in Sean Richardson if he can improve his cover skills. He cannot remain stagnant in that area, however. If he sees significant playing time and doesn’t improve, the Packers will have more issues on the back end of their defense in 2014. Lastly, this position needs to be addressed sooner than later in this upcoming draft or in free agency. Don’t expect too much from Ted but for those looking for some popular names in free agency at safety, there’s the ever-popular Jairus Byrd of the Buffalo Bills and Malcolm Jenkins of the New Orleans Saints. Some mock drafts in 2009 had Jenkins going to Green Bay, although that doesn’t necessarily translate to the team’s interest level in him at the time.
- Packers general manager Ted Thompson needs to use free agency this offseason, and I don’t just mean bringing back his own free agents. I’m not suggesting that he make a splash or over pay for a guy on day one, but I’m inclined to think that this team would benefit from some more experience on the field. I keep going back to the New York Giants acquiring Jon Beason mid season. It’s that type of player that this team needs. Smart, veteran and plays hard every snap. Hopefully healthier than Beason, too.
- Speaking of free agency, the following players have a decent chance of needing to be replaced next season, either because of an expiring contract or because they are released: Ryan Pickett, BJ Raji, James Jones, Marshall Newhouse, MD Jennings, CJ Wilson, John Kuhn, Robert Francois, James Starks, and Jermichael Finley. Not all are listed and not all will be gone, but those are my top picks to be elsewhere in 2014.
- The Packers need to study up on and seriously look into their injury trend. There is nothing that can be done about helmets crashing into shin bones or collarbones breaking on a tackle. The events that cause these injuries are unpreventable. But there has to be more to the story than just “dumb luck”. Is it the team’s ultraconservative approach to getting players back on the field? Does the strength/conditioning program need another look? All possibilities should be exhausted.
- The Player Personnel department is under the microscope. The Packers lost nearly 60 years worth of scouting experience with Reggie McKenzie, John Dorsey and John Schneider all departed to their current roles as general managers. Eliot Wolf needs to channel his best impression of his Dad in this upcoming draft. No one is perfect, but the Packers can ill-afford another draft like 2012.
- I’m still on the fence with Dom Capers as defensive coordinator, and I’m sure most of you just threw something across the room in disgust and are shouting profanities in my name. I’m just not convinced that Capers is at fault when Burnett can’t reel in a single pick all year or is constantly in the wrong spot in coverage. It’s also not his fault when defensive backs are dropping interceptions all year long. Micah Hyde’s drop yesterday kept a 49ers drive alive that eventually led to their scoring and taking the lead, a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Many have been calling for Capers to get the axe for the last two years. Fine, but keep in mind that even another coordinator well-versed in the 3-4 scheme is going to bring his own staff and changes with him. Will it really make things better? Remains to be seen. Let’s not forget what Capers did get from fill-in’s such as Andy Mulumba and Jamari Lattimore while dealing with the absences of Clay Matthews and Brad Jones.
- Johnny Jolly needs to be back in green and gold next season. He may get a look from a few other teams who are willing to throw some more money at him, but Jolly just sounds like a man who is truly reformed and happy to be a Packer. If the team is interested in him, I would bet that he’s back for at least another season. Not only did Jolly improve greatly and contribute much to the team’s run defense but he became one of the emotional and spiritual leaders off the field. You can’t find that in just any guy.
- Shawn Slocum should have the hottest seat of any assistant coach on the current staff and that includes Capers. Green Bay’s kick return unit was horrific this season. I don’t need stats to throw at you here, the eyeball test said enough and my eyes hurt. A zebra never changes his stripes and so there’s no reason to think that if Slocum is back that this area will improve at all next season. As good as Mason Crosby and Tim Masthay were in the kicking game, it wasn’t enough to overcome and redeem Slocum for the the field position problems the coverage team gave up time and time again. When John Kuhn, one of your most seasoned and wise veterans, muffs a blocked punt and gives the opposition the ball back, you know special teams are jinxed.
There are more takeaways and thoughts on each of these areas but these immediately came to mind. Chime in with yours and your thoughts, of course. Stay tuned for more offseason coverage at allgbp.com as always.——————
Jason Perone is an independent sports blogger writing about the Packers on "AllGreenBayPackers.comFollow Jason at: Jason Perone
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