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Getting Defensive (01/23/2013)
By Dave DeLano

In the aftermath of the thumping the Green Bay Packers suffered last week in San Francisco, Cheeseheads have now had a week to reflect on where the team is and what steps will be necessary to get our boys back to Super Bowl contenders. The Packers’ defense was shredded in Frisco Bay and it is on defense where we need to focus our revamp as we look towards the 2013 season.

It sounds simple, but the Packer defense has to become much more physical to compete. There may be an argument for defensive coaching changes and scheme strategy, but bigger and faster players who won’t allow a Colin Kaepernick or an Adrian Peterson to run over and around them would be a good start.

“It all starts up front” is an often used cliché, and how true it is. The Packers need talent infusion on their defensive line. Ryan Pickett had a great year but is 33 years old and nearing the end of the line. B.J. Raji had a pretty good year but does not always play up to his potential. C.J. Wilson is a pretty good defensive end but is not a playmaker. The backup linemen all have issues. Rookie Mike Daniels plays hard but doesn’t have the body size to become a starter. Mike Neal shows flashes of brilliance as a rusher, but he has liabilities setting the edge and has an ugly history with injuries. Jerel Worthy, a second-round pick last year, didn’t show much when healthy and then had a serious knee injury late in the year.

The linebacking corps is led by one of the best football players in the league, Clay Matthews III. That is the good news; the bad news is that CM III was the Packers’ only playmaking linebacker this season. Desmond Bishop was badly injured in the first game and his loss really hurt the Packers. A.J. Hawk had an OK year but is grossly overpaid and may not be back next year. Brad Jones is not the answer at the other inside linebacker position. On the outside opposite CM III, last year’s first-round draft pick, Nick Perry, didn’t really convince many that he could handle the position and then got hurt. Eric Walden is inconsistent. Other than CM III, the entire linebacking unit needs an upgrade.

The defensive secondary has some budding stars, but there, too, Packer management needs to be looking at a major change and that will involve Charles Woodson. The venerable warrior is 36 years old and well past his prime. His contract is also entirely out of whack so the time has come for the Packers to move on without Sir Charles. Fortunately, Ted Thompson selected Casey Hayward in the draft last year and he had a very nice rookie campaign. Hayward should fill Woodson’s slot position well for the foreseeable future and possibly become starting cornerback. Sam Shields and Davon House also bring nice young talent into the Packer backfield and will challenge Tramon Williams, whose play deteriorated in 2012. Morgan Burnett had a fine year at safety. The Packers hope for the continued development of Jerron McMillian at the other safety spot.

To summarize, the Packers need to devote most of their 2013 draft choices to defensive players, much like they did last year, concentrating on getting physical, hard-tackling types to reinvigorate a defense that has unfortunately become too soft to play competitively. Hopefully, the return of a healthy Desmond Bishop, the development of the six defensive players drafted last year, and some new hard-nosed draftees will help right the ship.

D H D 


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