The Packers 2012 season started off like none before it. I will not dig up too many ugly memories, but the Packers record at this point should not be 6-3.
Be that as it may, the team and some of it’s key players have gotten flak that’s just not deserved. Not that everything is perfect; far from it, for many in my opinion it is fans being unrealistic. But we see it every year no matter what the record; fans calling for players to be traded, coaches fired, this player or that player is nothing, has not impressed me and you hear things like I KNOW what is going to be called. It goes with the game and being a fan for many.
Right now I think that the team is in a very good position, even better when most of the currently injured player do come back. The depth of the team has been shown to us all these last 3 weeks. With a full roster this coaching staff, one I think is the best in the NFL, is going to have options they did not have at the start of the season simply because of the younger players and players changing positions gaining experience.
Lets start with the CB’s and Safeties. One of the players getting flak is Woodson. Now hurt, but him not being on the field hurts the defense. There is just so much he can do that is lost on many fans. No other DB can play CB, Safety, LB like he can.
His coming back to the defense will be a big thing down the stretch. With that I have been impressed with the young DB’s.
The only DB with time that can fill that Woodson role is House. None of the other DB’s have his combination of size, speed and controlled aggression. Hayward does not have the physical ability of some of the others but he has the thing that can make a player great, instincts. Some have said that Shields will not get his job back, what a great position to be in. To have your starting CB returning and having had the younger players step up and play as well as they have. But I have little doubt that Shields will return as the starter.
Both Jennings and McMillian have played well. McMillian to me is another Collins type find. He will be a top player in the NFL. The combination of both Jennings and McMillian in different situations with Burnett has been a good thing for the team. When Woodson returns this might be the best defensive back field in the NFL overall. That in itself will make a huge difference down the stretch.
Linebackers; when Bishop went down and then Smith it could have got ugly. But Hawk’s play this year has been very good. I was never in the “cut Hawk” or Hawk being a disappointment crowd to start with but I think he has given that crowd a nice big shit sandwich to eat this year.
Jones as I have posted before, I wanted to see at ILB for a while. He has made some mistakes, but he has also made plays that Bishop and Smith would never be able to make simply because of his size,speed and agility advantage over them both. The best thing about it is that Jones will just get better as he gains more game experience there.
Perry is one of the players I have heard the Hawk-type talk. Now is this just him being a first round pick and the fans think he has to be a another Matthews out of the box or just ignorance on the part of fans of what Perry actually did bring to the field?
Because to me, he brought more to the field then Walden or Moses bring to it.
For those that have not been impressed, neither Walden or Moses hold the point against the run even close to what Perry did.
Neither of them create pressure as in getting push from the other side of the defense as Perry did when he was playing.
Have any of the not impressed noticed that Matthews sacks have fallen way off since Perry has not being playing, or that the defense overall against the run has fallen off? From the comments I have read all over I think not.
The only good thing in all this is that Zombo will be back, He can hold the point like Perry did and get push like neither Walden and or Moses can. We all need to hope like hell that Zombo is healthy and stays that way, or those talented DB’s will have their hands full. Walden might be playing his best football but his best is not good enough.
The Dline without a doubt is better this year. Worthy and Daniels have been good additions, Neal brings quickness that none of the others have. Pickett and Raji play best at NT. Hopefully the entire group will be healthy for the last half of the season and beyond.
The defense overall has been, even with the injuries, better overall and in fact I think can be much better yet. #12 overall, #1 in sacks, #4 in takeaways, #10 against the run and #20 against the pass and #19 in points allowed. The points allowed has to get better and the against the pass has to also. With Shields and Woodson back, and the younger players having gotten more and more experience, those numbers should improve as long as the sacks stay up there with the against the run ratings.
The offense; anyone that thought the offense would be like last year our of the box was living in dream land, but even with that, Rodgers was getting killed by fans and in the media. Even with his starting WR’s missing games and his starting TE banged up he leads the NFL in TD’s and is second in QB rating. All that with only 5 INTs. Five too many for me but that is still amazing.
The Packers have the best WR group in the NFL, of that there is no doubt. I could go on and on about each them. But no QB has more weapons from this position than Rodgers. With both Jennings and Nelson back and adding the experience Cobb has gotten and Jones playing like he has, it is just scary how good the passing game can be.
TE’s have been getting hammered, Finley for sure. Some of it is deserved but Finley has been injured for most of the season. He drops WAY to many balls but he does things that most fans don’t get and that is making the WR’s job easier. I like Quarless being back, who will be a nice lift to the group. He is the best blocking TE and has speed that is better then all the rest, I wonder about that now with his knee injury, but he and Finley on the field in two TE sets is a bad thing for the other teams defense. Quarless can help the running game that is starting to get going.
Green and Starks are both showing up and getting better. Green has done what I expected out of him coming back from a knee. Starks problem is staying healthy, but he played well this last week. You add Benson back into that mix for the cold months and and into the post season the options the offense has just make the team that much more dangerous when it will be needed most. And don’t think for one minute that Kuhn has not been missed. He brings short yardage, receiving, pass protection and special teams play that NONE of the others do.
Last but not least the Oline, this is a scariest part of the whole deal. Saturday has been a serviceable stop gap. And I have to say his play has gotten better as the season has gone on. But he is not a long term answer even for next year. Newhouse has been better then last year and to me thats all you can ask. Lang at LG makes mistakes but has played fairly well.
Sitton is just a good football player, Pro bowl type I don’t think so but very good. And Bulaga has been shaky at times specially the Seattle game. But overall he and Sitton are the best Olinemen. These next few weeks will be interesting. Lang HAS to play his best football yet, moving to RT and EDS has to play as he has filling in. Depth from here is the big question.
Sherrod starting to practice is a very good thing. Another player that got more negative comments then he should have – I thought he played very well filling in. His getting injured was not a good thing but he is talented and if healthy can be a very good thing from here on in. The group overall has given up to many sacks, but half of them I give to Rodgers not just throwing the ball away when he should.
The running game is showing signs of improvement and I think MM has done a better job of getting it going. No group on the team needs to improve more for the season to go as it should.
With the players coming back and younger players gaining experience, the team is in a position much like 2010 with injuries, only much better, with so many of them actually able to come back yet this season.
You get starters like Woodson, Jennings, Benson and others back and the Packers have the opportunity to be the scariest team in the NFL going into the bulk of divison games and the post-season.
This post was brought to you by Don Christensen, NDL Draft workout maven and frequent contributor (Yoop) to one of the best Packers Forums out there, TalkinPackers.
Jersey Al Bracco is the founder and editor of AllGreenBayPackers.com, and the co-founder of Packers Talk Radio Network. He can be heard as one of the Co-Hosts on Cheesehead Radio and is the Green Bay Packers Draft Analyst for Drafttek.com.