The Green Bay Packers are undefeated at 7-0, but they still have question marks as they finish up their bye in Week 8. Let’s breakdown some of the most-asked questions I’ve seen about the Packers during the bye. You know you need your fix on this Packers-less Sunday, anyway.
Is there reason to think the defense can improve during the last 9 games?
One thing we know is that any improvement from the Packers defense will have to come from within. Guys like Chris Harris have been released in recent weeks, but Ted Thompson doesn’t typically bite on those kind of re-treads from other teams. So, the question becomes: Can this defense, as it looks now, improve over the next couple of months?
There’s definitely reason to think so. Tramon Williams is finally getting healthy, and we finally saw him bumping at the line against the Vikings and being more physical. That’s a big part of his game that was lost when he hurt his shoulder. A week off can only help that injury. Same goes for Clay Matthews, Charles Woodson, Sam Shields and Morgan Burnett, each of which have dealt with dings early on. Frank Zombo should return. Mike Neal, who we’ll address next, could be back. Healthy ammunition is always dangerous for a defensive gunner like Dom Capers.
But to reach their 2010 level, the Packers are going to need a player or two to step up that isn’t one of the stars. Last season, it was Shields. Someone along the defensive line, like Jarius Wynn or C.J. Wilson might be a candidate. Possibly Neal if he returns soon. Vic So’oto could potentially provide something in the pass rush. Either way, someone needs to emerge as a standout playing next to the established stars.
What’s the deal with DE Mike Neal? Will he play in 2011?
The first week after the bye was always the target date for Neal, but that looks highly unlikely now. His rehab is behind schedule, and you get the feeling that Neal might not make a big contribution this season. Regardless of when he can start practicing again, the Packers are going to take his comeback slow. It’s going to take him awhile to work his way back into the rotation.