The Packers have reached the halfway point of the season. The moment the 2014 schedule was released on April 23, I expected a 6-2 mark at the bye.
Nobody could’ve predicted that B.J. Raji and Don Barclay would be lost for the season, but a 5-3 record after playing three of the first four games on the road isn’t bad.
However, that doesn’t mean Green Bay doesn’t have its problems.
And as the weather turns throughout much of the nation, the Packers’ inability to stop the run will be its No. 1 issue. Many have said that if Raji were playing, the run defense would be better. I don’t disagree with that, but Raji isn’t a savior by any means.
The issue lies with the decision by general manager Ted Thompson in going small on the defensive line. And then when Raji did get hurt, he refused to bring in reinforcements, because the window to win an NFL title is finite.
On the surface it doesn’t appear that the run defense is all that bad. The unit has only allowed three running backs to crack the century mark.
But it’s how they’ve been able to do it. Marshawn Lynch, Matt Forte and Mark Ingram gutted the Packers between the tackles. There hasn’t been an assortment of twists and jukes that would make unassuming defensive tackles or inside linebackers look silly.
Seven of the Packers’ next eight games could potentially be in cold weather. That includes trips to Minnesota and Buffalo. In order to get off the field and give the ball back to one of the most dangerous offense’s in the league, the defense is going to have to stop the run.
That is generally the rule, but even more so in the final two months of the season.
Packers Run Defense
153.5 yards per game, last in the NFL
Solving the problem has been precarious for defensive coordinator Dom Capers. He made a creative move by installing the NASCAR package in order to jumpstart the pass rush. But I don’t see a Formula 1 or ARCA package lurking up Capers’ sleeve to slow down the run.
And the inside linebackers must be more physical at the point of attack. It’s A.J. Hawk’s job to make running backs think twice about running the ball through the heart of the defense. There’s a line between physical play and things that are suited for the WWE. Having Hawk find a happy medium between the two by doling out punishment would be a welcome sign.
Since the defensive line cannot get a consistent push, maybe it’s time to move them around. Put more space between each player and force the offensive linemen to make a decision, allowing for more space to the playmaking linebackers.
The offense has also has had its heart palpitations with trust issues revolving around the young receiving corps in addition to getting Eddie Lacy running with momentum and confidence.
But the biggest issue with this team is stopping the run. With Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, the Packers are a virtual lock to make the playoffs.
And shutting down the run is the first step to deep postseason action.——————
Cory Jennerjohn is from Wisconsin and has been in sports media for over 10 years. To contact Cory e-mail him at jeobs -at- yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter: Cory Jennerjohn