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Packer Partisan (01/20/2010)

Reflections on the Week After

Cheeseheads have had only a week to think about the heart-wrenching loss to the Arizona Cardinals but perhaps enough time has passed to reflect on what was accomplished and what wasn’t during the Packers’ 2009 season.

A year ago the Packers were coming off a very disappointing season finishing 6 – 10 and having a defense that was one of the worst in the league.  Coach Mike McCarthy had no choice but to clean house with his defensive coaching staff and Dom Capers was brought in as the new defensive coordinator.  Capers installed his innovative 3 – 4 defensive scheme and the Packers’ defense improved dramatically.  Despite lofty numbers which had the Pack finishing amongst the elite defenses in the NFL, giving up huge chunks of yardage to the Cardinals and also earlier against the Pittsburgh Steelers revealed that there are issues to be addressed.

Two rookies ended up starting in 2009 (Clay Matthews and Brad Jones) and another one that likely will be very productive in the future (B. J. Raji).  But season-ending injuries to Aaron Kampman and Al Harris (arguably two the of Packers’ ten best players) hurt the defense down the stretch.  Capers’ scheme is sound but Ted Thompson needs to bring in more talent that fit into the scheme.  Veteran quarterbacks cannot be allowed to scoot up and down the field as they did in the Arizona and Pittsburgh games.

The Packers’ offense is one of the most explosive in the league and they have a host of young skilled-position players who should get even better in the future.  The offensive line is another story as Thompson desperately needs to find new talent to replace the Packers’ battle-worn and aging tackles.  Offensive line talent has to be a top priority this off-season either via the draft or free agency.  Before the return of right tackle Mark Tauscher at mid-season, the offensive line was absolutely horrible and it is very fortunate that Aaron Rodgers was able to complete the season with the pounding he took as a result of poor protection.

I suspect the most scrutinized area that Thompson and McCarthy will evaluate is the special teams.  Last year McCarthy retired the previous special teams coordinator and replaced him with Steve Slocum.  That didn’t work.  All facets of the Packers’ special teams units were just plain bad in 2009 and worst of all, things got worse instead of better as the season progressed.  I would think Slocum’s position would be tenuous and certainly Thompson will bring in new talent to compete for the punter and kicker positions.  Look for Thompson to also draft a quick-twitch guy who can excel in punt and kick-off returns.

The 2009 Packers probably have top-ten talent right now and they certainly were able to compete with play-off teams like the Cowboys, Cardinals and Ravens, but they need more talent to take it to the elite level.  Thompson and McCarthy will be addressing that in the upcoming months.

Regarding the conference championships next week, I like the hometown teams to advance to the Super Bowl.



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