Pigskin Paul’s Power Rankings: Packers are only #…

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NFL Power Rankings: Packers at #4

PACKERS RANK:  #4         So here’s the skinny… I still am not sure how the PACKERS went 15-1 last year. No matter how great we all think AARON RODGERS is, it is almost incomprehensible that a team whose Defense allowed an NFL record 299.8 ypg in passing lost only one game? How does a team that averages 97.4 ypg rushing at a clip of 3.9 ypc win 15 games? How do you stop NFL passing attacks when your D can muster only 29 Sacks for the League’s 32nd ranking in Sack Pct?

There are a litany of improbabilities for rationalizing the PACKERS 2011 successes, but conversely they did a lot right. They scored the most points in the League with 560, while ranking a respectable 19th in points allowed. They managed a total of 38 defensive turnovers, tied for first in the League, while only turning it over themselves 14 times. Their +24 Turnover Differential was second only to the 49‘ers. They also had one of the best teaching Coaching Staffs in football, which allowed them to once again find success with one of the youngest rosters in the League.

But enough of last year and second guessing what happened. The real question right now is how will they fare in 2012. My PACKERS readers will probably crucify me for only ranking them 4th overall, but until I see some of the promised defensive improvement I have to be somewhat skeptical. And their lack of a real running game clearly showed up in their Play-Off loss to the GIANTS, resulting in that very disappointing one and done post season.

I am also a bit concerned about the affects of the biggest coaching staff  and front office turnover since WHITEY and COACH MAC started their collaboration in Green Bay. But most of that change is in the Front Office not within the actual coaching staff. The Coaching Staff merely went through some internal shuffling and promotions. I am sure MIKE McCARTHY will have his coaching troops organized and in sync with his wishes this year, as usual.

It was said recently that the PACKERS won’t be the youngest team in the League this season. If that is true they still should rank in the top 10 with ease. The team is without 8 vets who were on their roster last January. THOMPSON went out and actually brought in 5 VFA, which is a serious haul for him. The roster is also currently featuring 27 Rookies. There are only 4 players over 30-years of age on the team as of the opening of Training Camp. Even if all 4 make the team the roster should be chock full of players in their first 3-4 years in the NFL and 25 or younger.

This will still be a very young roster. It is the TED THOMPSON way. It will also be predominantly home grown with players who one way or another started their NFL careers as PACKERS. My roster dated Friday, July 27th shows that 72 of 88 players on the team were Drafted or originally signed by the PACK. Go check some other rosters, and prepare to be awed at that “home-grown” number.

Under the direction of MIKE McCARTHY and in the capable hands of AARON RODGERS expect the PACKERS Offense to be highly productive once again in 2012. A-RODGE has his top 6 receivers all back, with another half dozen talented guys trying to move up the pecking order and/or make the team for the first time. Just as a tidbit for non-PACKERS die-hards… did you realize that JORDY NELSON finished the 2011 regular season as the leading receiver with 68 catches for 1263 yards? He did edge out GREG JENNINGS who had 67 catches for 949 yards.

The only reason this team doesn’t have a 100-catch receiver is that RODGERS has too many targets to keep happy to throw that many to any one guy. I would expect more catches from the TE group this season if JERMICHAEL FINLEY (55/767) stays healthy and D.J. WILLIAMS gets more playing time in his second season. Also expect the team to find even more ways to get the ball into the hands of RANDALL COBB, though not necessarily through the air. Could this be the year that some semblance of a Wildcat Package becomes a regular feature, under the direction of COBB? Perhaps, but I am going to present to you that COBB gave the PACKERS their best Return stats in over a decade as a Rookie.

That aspect of Special Teams is way too valuable to ignore when it comes to field position. Any effort to involve COBB more in the Offense cannot come at the cost of his return duty touches, unless someone else shines in those areas. To say that the PACKERS running attack was pedestrian at best would be more than just a pithy pun. The running game could not be counted on in key spots to take the pressure off of RODGERS to pass less than his 502 attempts. JAMES STARKS was their main man, but he showed little burst or quickness in averaging 4.3 ypc. JOHN KUHN is a FB. A good one, but a FB not a RB.

The key this year will be a “healthy” ALEX GREEN last year’s Rookie hope who lost the season to a knee injury. If his knee is 100% recovered he has much more speed and elusiveness than STARKS and better hands and instincts as a receiver. A better running game would allow the Offense to improve upon their 11th ranked Time of Possession and take one or two possessions away from the opposing Offense per game. That too would help their Defense.

The OL looks solid if they are healthy. DEREK SHERROD’s broken leg is the biggest issue here. It is also important that JEFF SATURDAY, brought in to replace the VFA loss of WELLS, still has something in the tank at age 37. It would also be nice if JOSH SITTON could bounce back from his weakest season since his Rookie year. In essence JAMES CAMPEN, OL has some major work to do in coaching this unit up so that RODGERS has time to throw & stays healthy, and the RB corps has some decent holes to run through.

DOM CAPERS went from the penthouse to the outhouse in short order last season as far as most fans were concerned. PACKERS faithful were enamored with the blitzing, stunting aggressive PACKERS D in 2010. But the 2011 unit just couldn’t stop opponents with any consistency. Their passing D was absolutely embarrassing at times last season. And their lack of pocket pressure was appalling. A lot of emphasis this off-season went to bolstering the DL unit. JERELA WORTHY & MIKE DANIELS were Drafted to help out. ANTHONY HARGROVE & DANIEL MUIR were signed as VFA.

Anther big source of help could come from 2011 Draftee LAWRENCE GUY, who sat out last season injured. MIKE NEAL continued to spend more time in the hot tub than on the field in 2011, and is starting to remind some of JUSTIN HARRELL. He is also scheduled to spend the first 4 games of 2012 on the suspended list under the guise of PED use. Methinks his days in the Green & Gold are numbered. The PACK spent too much time with only 2 DL on the field, primarily because of a lack of viable DL available to play most Sundays. It’s time to go back to more 3, and even 4 DL formations. There needs to be enough depth that players like RAJI & PICKETT get more downs off and are fresh when on the field.

By the way HARGROVE, whose specialty is pass pressure may miss half of the season because of the SAINTS Bounty Gate fiasco. The PACKERS LB group is a bit underrated when/if everyone is healthy. BISHOP &  MATTHEWS are elite at their spots. NICK PERRY, this year’s First Rounder, is converting from DE to OLB, but is more than athletic enough to handle it. A.J. HAWK had a mediocre 2011 season and will be under severe pressure for playing time from second year man D.J. SMITH.

The surprise prospect of OTAs was URFA/DEZMAN MOSES from TULANE/IOWA. Even though MATTHEWS Sacks were down his overall pressure total of 53.5 (sacks, knockdowns, hurries) still led the team, and was only down by 1.5 from his stellar 2010 campaign. The equation seems elementary my dear PACKERS fans;  get someone like PERRY to ramp up some consistent  pressure from the side opposite CLAY and his Sack total will rise again. The secondary took the brunt of the abuse last season and quite frankly deserved more than its share. The team got a whopping 25 INT from its secondary.

But by the same token they were scorched deep over and over again. I think it was due in large part to gambling for the Pick all too often, and shoddy tackling, especially on the Corners. Some miscommunication in the secondary did indeed come into play with the absence of NICK COLLINS, but I think that excuse was overused before the season was done. Watch for CASEY HAYWARD/R to apply the heat to what use to be SAM SHIELDS CB slot. SHIELDS needs to wake up and improve this Camp or the darling of 2010 could be off the roster completely by September.

With the surprise cutting of CHARLIE PEPRAH it appears that CHARLES WOODSON may be spending more time as a true S this year. His biggest plus back there should be his ability to read the offense and relay info to his teammates, thus taking some mental pressure off young S/MORGAN BURNETT. This  move will also allow youngsters like HAYWARD & DEVIN HOUSE to battle for more playing time on the Corner.

Special teams should be solid, if not spectacular. There are plenty of young athletic players to man key spots and a few vets who earn their keep primarily with their ST play. The kicking trio of CROSBY/K, MASHTAY/P & GOODE/LS are all capable if not spectacular. And they all are used to dealing with the nasty Winter weather in Lambeau late in the season. One of the reasons some of their stats are not as gaudy as others around the League are those weather conditions and rock-hard frozen footballs they have to work with the latter part of the season.

There is no reason that a healthy PACKERS team cannot repeat as NFC North champs this season again. I would expect a 12-Win season to be more realistic, but still get the job done. But that Defense has to get off the field after 3rd Down stops and the offense needs to control the clock with a better running attack. They open the year with two tough home games. We’ll know a lot more about their 2012 prospects after those two games.
Note: You can see more of Paul’s Power rankings here, and read more from Paul on the Packers and the NFL Draft on his website, Pigskin Paul’s Place.

  • Roadbiscuit

    I don’t care what your ranking is, but at least get some facts right. The run game in the playoff loss went for 147 yards and 6.4 YPC.

    • http://PigskinPaul.com Pigskin Paul

      STARKS saved his best for last, but the tale of the entire season still says they couldn’t gain 100 yards on the groung per game. A healthy GREEN & better blocking inside will help that.
      Pigskin Paul

      • CSS

        “….but the tale of the entire season still says they couldn’t gain 100 yards on the ground per game…”

        I’m indifferent to rankings in general, but good article. That being said, the above is misleading. The inability to gain 100 yards per game on the ground has everything to do with a lack of commitment from McCarthy and Rodgers to even establish the ground game, not the talent. I doubt any QB audibled away from run to pass more than Aaron Rodgers in the entire league.

        Lang, Sitton and Bulaga could very well be three of the more dominant linemen in the conference, let alone the division. It’s more a matter of what the offense wants to do.

      • Oppy

        To be fair to Roadbiscuit, you did write in your article:

        “And their lack of a real running game clearly showed up in their Play-Off loss to the GIANTS, resulting in that very disappointing one and done post season.”

        I’m pretty sure that is what Roadbiscuit is taking offense to, and he’s right- you botched your facts on that statement.

    • tlvincent4

      I don’t know about Green being faster and more athletic than Starks, I think Starks ran a sub 4.5 40 predraft, anyways I don’t think Starks speed is the problem, its his staying healthy, if you give Starks a crease he can hit it and he does have the speed to stretch it out and get the corner. Furthermore, Starks runs hard and is always trying to fall forward. Don’t get me wrong, I like Green too but I envision Green being more of the true 3rd down RB this year. I would say Green looks more shifty to me than Starks. If both guys stay healthy, I’m not worried about the talent level of GB’s running backs, throw in Kuhn and Saine, thats more than enough guys capable of making a play when you have the best QB and passing game in the league!

      • Oppy

        I can’t comment on what Green looks like this year after his knee injury, but I can tell you with all certainty that Green was heads and shoulders faster, more explosive, and more athletic in general than Starks last year during training camp.

        Green looks like he’s shot out of a cannon the second the ball touches his hands.

  • zac5

    Paul, ranking the Packers 4th at this time of the year doesn’t upset me at all. No one knows who will be the eventual champions this time of the year. All I know is TT has built a roster that is deep and talented in most positions. This team is primed to compete for the SB for the next 5 to 10 years. Come playoff time if this team has a hot streak, watch out. It can even carry a few injuries, as long as one name is not Rodgers. Of cause I would love to see the Packers ranked number 1 now, but in ten years time the Packers lead by Rodgers, could have 3 or 4 more SB titles. In that period of time, who cares how many times the Packers are ranked number 1, titles are the only tings that count.
    By the way, Eagles? really?

    • zac5

      My bad, things not tings. I don’t have a lisp.

    • http://PigskinPaul.com Pigskin Paul

      Yep the EAGLES, although they seem to be off to a bad start with injuries already. Coach Andy is due, and as oposed to HOLMGREN I wish REID nothing but good things. Thye have more talent than many people realize, and much of it is young.

      Pigskin Paul

      • tlvincent4

        Eagles are really loaded, they clearly have one of the most talented rosters in the league. They could be a really scary team this year if they can keep Vick from getting killed!

        • CSS

          Sure they’re talented, but the difference in talent on their roster compared to the other playoff contenders is marginal.

          Also, Vick gets himself killed with his indecision. Not to mention his career 56% completion rate when he is healthy. For all his god-given athletic ability his actual QB performance is underwhelming.

      • zac5

        Sure, as individuals, the Eagles are very talented, but will they gell together as a team? I don’t see chemistry when I look at the Eagles.

    • http://httm bill from jersey

      EAGLES IN A NUTSHELL……to many ME guys,not enough WE guys,plus vick is the most overrated qb in league history….talk talk talk talk,blah blah blah…..GO PACK

  • Dan

    I have a gut feeling that the D will be much improved.

    • zac5

      Top 16 will be enough.

      • http://PigskinPaul.com Pigskin Paul

        Actually Top 12 is what you mean. That gets them a Play-Off spot and then the fun really begins.
        Pigskin Paul

        • zac5

          No. What I meant if the offence is ranked close to 1. an average defence would be enough.

    • http://PigskinPaul.com Pigskin Paul

      They certainly have tried to bring in more talent on D. Now if CAPERS will just put the DL out there instead of so many 2-man DL sets I’ll feel a whole lot better. I do worry about the secondary if BUSH & SHIELDS get too much playing time. C’mon HOUSE & HAYWARD.

      Pigskin Paul

  • RSS Unsubscriber

    Ignoring the stupidity of doing a preseason ranking, this has to be one of the most poorly written things I’ve seen in my newsreader in a month.

    P.S. What’s up with CAPSLOCK, PigskinTard?

    • http://None Bearmeat

      Stop being such a tool RSS. We’re all Packer fans here. I don’t agree with everything I read either – but if you want to troll, go to PFT.

    • http://PigskinPaul.com Pigskin Paul

      If you are such a football expert & a great journalist as well, please post something somewhere so I can read it to see how a “real writer” does his thing.

      Pigskin Paul

      PS Crawl back under your rock… hater.

  • Tarynfor12

    The Eagles at 1,Patriots at 2 and the Niners at 3….did you get a discounted rate for a seat on the ‘Media Darling Express’?

    Eagles need Vick to play lights out and not have his lights out which he fails to do every year.Personally,his style of play is more detrimental to success than a benefit to achieving it.

    The Patriots are always ranked top 3 simply for the conference ineptitude over-all.After Pitt and Balt and a still questionable Hou for consistency,everyone else gets in by picking up the crumbs.Their D was as bad if not worse than ours..at least we go up against QBs than are QBs,who the heck do they go against for 6 games just in the division alone?

    The Niners needed a tweaking on Offense but are restructuring it so Harbaugh can claim a QB guru status via Alex Smith becoming what he never was or will be…deserving of a 1st rd pick.I can’t wait for Smith to start lobbing the ball downfield..less runs and more Ints.Their TO ratio changes dramtically this season.

    • http://PigskinPaul.com Pigskin Paul

      Wow beat me up Taryn. So if i’m so stupid who are your top 3. PACKERS, LIONS, BEARS?

      Pigskin Paul

      • Tarynfor12

        Never called you stupid.

        However,doing power rankings at this time can really only be based on what a team has guaranteed to an extent of who will be back and it all starts with the QBs.

        As long as Rodgers,Brady,Brees,Eli,Roethlisberger are at the helm,those teams are the top spot holders in no particular order.

        It doesn’t matter if the Niners got Moss or the defense is still very good…Smith can’t carry the team,Vick can’t carry the team,Flacco can’t carry the team etc,etc,etc.

        There is no top ten Elite QBs..there are 5 and after that the rest need to excel to keep their job while the team accepts mediocrity via the QB and the overall play of the team yearly.

        Therefore,ranking any team in the top three who doesn’t have the deserved to be afraid of QB and the offensive weapons…just isn’t and that applies to Vick moreso as he has a team of weapons and still can’t get it done.Until he does,he’s just part of the Media Darling Express with Romo,Ryan,Sanchez…..

  • http://None Bearmeat

    A tad pessimistic Paul. IMO the D will do nothing but get better this year. The O probably won’t break records again, but they’ll at least be very, very, good.

    I’d guess a top 3 offense. Again. And a top 15 D, that get better as the year goes on.

    That’ll be enough to win the NFCN, and who knows what happens in the playoffs? It’s been proven for years that the only thing that matters in the playoffs is who is the ‘hottest’ going in.

  • http://grizzlymitch@bresnan.net montanacheezhead

    Hey, rank the Pack at #32. If we are under the radar, awesome. It’s clear that we do not have players with incredible stats. Heck, for many teams, this is an individual sport. I think it is great that we are under rated.

  • FireMMNow

    I have no problem with the ranking. When the packers ran into high pressure defenses they did not fair very well last year. Could the defense improve? Sure. But they were 19th in points allowed, they could get worse in that area as well. The Packers were a very good team last year, but the 15-1 record did feel like a bit of a mirage as the season was going on.

    Saying that the Packers are the number 4 team in the league is not a bad thing at all. I would put them ahead of the eagles, but that is nit picking.

    The niners had a defense that was so incredibly dominant last year and I do not expect that to change much. The Niners can beat any team in the, just like the Packers can beat any team in the league. But when the playoffs roll around you have to have a defense that can keep you in a game if you start slow or have early turnovers. The packers D could not do that last year.

  • PackersRS

    “and the offense needs to control the clock with a better running attack.”

    I understand the way you feel about most of the article, but why exactly do the Packers need that? Because scoring a lot doesn’t win you games, grinding it out does?

    I believe the 2011 Giants (32nd), 2010 Packers (24th) and 2008 Steelers (23rd) have proven this is a complete fallacy.

    And I disagree with where you rank the Eagles. It could be that you’re dead set on that team, but it certainly seems to be a popular pick amongst the media since the stabilishment of the “dream team”.

    They have this position that seems to be paramount to the success of teams, called quarter back. I’ve been told that in this day and age, you need a great one if you want to go anywhere. If you think a guy with a career comp.% of 56 and a 80.9 QB rating, a guy with a proven inability to properly comprehend progression read is great then we disagree on what’s great.

    Not to mention the OL coach yet calling the defensive plays.

    But it’s not even preseason yet, so nobody is wrong…

    • http://PigskinPaul.com Pigskin Paul

      Time of Posssession is not the panacea it used to be, but it is a very solid way to keep a mediocre Defense off the field. Deciding you can outscore everyone, every week is risky business. The PACK has had an elite QB at the helm for two decades now and only 2 Super Bowl rings. The great QB guarantees you’ll win 10+ most years, which is great, but the total team still dictates the unltimate success.
      PIGSKIN PAUL

      • PackersRS

        One of those QBs being the most bed shitting player in the history of football playoffs…

        Those two teams also just happened to have dominant defenses. But their running games were pedestrian at best.

        The Packers need to improve considerably on defense to win it all? I agree with that. But there’s zero evidence that you need a good running game to win it.

        A good running game cannot hide a mediocre defense, not in the playoffs.

        There is a possibility that the field condition, the opposite team and your defense will force your team to have to win with the 4 minute offense, but those circumstances aren’t common IMO, even in the playoffs.

        The Packers actually had more TOP in the playoffs loss than the Giants, 30:25 to 29:35.

        They lost that game because it takes an historically great defense to overcome 4 turnovers lost. It’s almost impossible to win a game when you turn it over 4 times, let alone a playoff game.

        • Oppy

          RS, I nearly spit out my coffee on your first sentence! lol.

          • http://PigskinPaul.com Pigskin Paul

            Glad you got it. But you know it relly was meant as a back-handed compliment. They weren’t a dominant team overall, but still won 15 out of 16 weeks. Nice job by the entire team, including the Coaches. Too bad they chose the Play_off game to get sloppy on Offense with Turnovers.
            PIGSKIN PAUL

      • Oppy

        I’ve got to get this off my chest.

        I’m so tired of hearing people say “You can’t win (this or that) without (a star QB/ top 5 defense/whatever)”.

        I’m done with hearing about “I told you our defense would end up costing us in the postseason”, and every other argument under the sun.

        TOP is/isn’t an indicator of this/that. Etc. and. so forth.

        Yeah, it’s a great way to kill time and listen to ourselves flap our gums.

        Bottom line- it doesn’t matter if your offense is this good, or your defense is that good.

        The key to winning football games is your offense scoring more points than your team’s defense allows.

        It doesn’t make a lick of difference if you meet that criteria based on superior QB play, clock control, stellar defensive stands…. does. Not. Matter.

        There is more than one way to skin a cat, and not every game is going to present the same situations or match ups.

        (Technically, offenses can give up points to the opponent, and defenses can score points against the opponent..and special teams.. So, um, there’s that, too :) But you get the idea)

        • http://PigskinPaul.com Pigskin Paul

          Everything you mention is valid, but the less things you are able to do week in and week out, the tougher it is to win. The Coaches have to game plan to do all the right things to control the game, and then adjust when “shit happens” and “stuff” doesn’t work out. No team has everything click, every game, but you practice for perfection.
          Pigskin Paul

          • PackersRS

            Exactly, nothing is certain in life, be it football or else, but there are some things that either increase or decrease the chances of winning, and the debate is what are the most important things that a team needs to have to win it.

            And it’s quite an important debate. Teams are built around those theories.

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