Last week The Packer Partisan concentrated on the Green Bay Packers’ defensive issues. As this column winds down for the season, the offense gets the attention. The Packers’ awesome aerial juggernaut slipped back a peg or two from their record-setting 2011 performance, but the 2012 version was still one of the most feared in the league. However, there are some problems that need to be addressed as Packer management gears up personnel for next season.
The Packers need a center. Last year’s experiment with Jeff Saturday did not turn out well and he has now retired. Evan Dietrich-Smith took over late in the season and it will be interesting to see if the coaching staff thinks enough of his abilities to pencil him in as next year’s starter. At the very least, Ted Thompson will have to find backup help at the interior line positions in the draft or free agency.
The tackle situation is not settled for next year either. Having taken an offensive tackle with their first draft picks in both 2010 and 2011, Cheeseheads would hope that offensive tackle talent would not be a problem. But it is. Derek Sherrod sustained a serious leg injury and produced next to nothing in two years. The other high pick, Bryan Bulaga, also has injury issues. Unlike Sherrod, Bulaga has shown that he is a considerable NFL talent, and his injury doesn’t seem nearly as serious as Sherrod’s. The starter on the left side, Marshall Newhouse, is an OK player but he plays “soft,” and the Packers need something more from the most important position protecting Aaron Rodgers. I would not be surprised to see the Packers ask Bulaga to slide over to the left side next year and have Newhouse/Sherrod or undrafted 2012 rookie Don Barclay battle it out for the right tackle position.
There was talk during the season that the Packers might pull the plug on inconsistent tight end Jermichael Finley, but I think he showed enough late in the year to bring him back again next season. There will be changes with the wide-receiving corps though as Donald Driver will likely retire and Greg Jennings will likely be allowed to walk in free agency. Amazingly, even without Jennings and Driver, the Packers still have one of the most formidable receiver groups in the NFL. Undrafted rookies Jarrett Boykin and Jeremy Ross showed potential too. Nonetheless, Ted Thompson likes to provide Rodgers with lots of weapons. Look for a mid-round “speed” receiver to get drafted this April.
The Packers’ running back group is nothing special, but the Packers are a pass-first oriented team and will remain so as long as Aaron Rodgers is at the helm. There were lots of injuries to the running back corps last year. A return of the injured troops will likely produce a workmanlike running back rotation similar to what they deployed this past year.
The backup quarterback needs replacement as scatter-armed Graham Harrell will never be able to adequately run the Packer high-powered offense with his limited abilities. The same goes for the often- errant place kicker, Mason Crosby.
Offensive needs exist but the Packers need to concentrate on defensive players as they stock up new recruits for the 2013 season. I don’t see any top picks going for offensive players. More likely the Pack will draft an offensive lineman or two and maybe a receiver or two in the mid-to-late rounds and hopefully can land a place kicker with a late-round draft pick. I can also see Ted Thompson possibly dipping into free agency this year as the window closes a bit on Aaron Rodgers’ opportunity to punch another ticket to the Super Bowl.
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