Training camp and the preseason are history, Packer management has selected its football players for the 2013 season and the opener against the San Francisco 49ers is set to kick off at 3:15 Sunday. Here are some Packer Partisan observations as the professional football season is about to begin.
There are serious concerns regarding the quality of the Packers’ offensive line. The injury bug has already bitten as Bryan Bulaga, projected starter at the critical left offensive tackle position, is done for the season with a knee injury. With their best lineman gone, rookie fourth-round draft pick David Bakhtiari has assumed the left tackle position and Don Barclay, an undrafted second-year player, will handle the right tackle position. That means very little experience at the offensive tackle positions. Starting center Evan Dietrich-Smith has been a career backup player, and the guards have switched sides from last year. The backups are all marginal players.
Additional concerns arise regarding kicker Mason Crosby. Crosby was by far the worst kicker in the NFL last year, and I don’t understand why that position hasn’t been upgraded. The situation is equally ugly with the backup quarterback position. Graham Harrell, Vince Young and now B.J. Coleman were thankfully cut, but that leaves recently signed journeyman Seneca Wallace as the backup. If Aaron Rodgers goes down with an injury, the Pack is in serious trouble. Ted Thompson has not adequately addressed these positions and that may come back to bite.
On a more positive note, it appears that the Packers pulled off a steal with their second-round draft pick from Alabama, running back Eddie Lacy. I initially had some reservations about Lacy’s injury history and focus, but this guy is a beast of a runner. If the Packers’ offensive line can overcome all the changes and challenges, a couple decent blocks could spring Lacy into a very productive NFL back.
Also positive is the young talent surfacing in the Packers’ defensive backfield. The pass-happy NFL requires defenses to have numerous talented defensive backs and the 2013 Packers appear to have all of that. Sam Shields, Davon House, Casey Hayward, Morgan Burnett and rookies Micah Hyde and Chris Banjo give the Packers a very nice blend of youthful talent.
Tight end Jermichael Finley got big money to play out the final year of his contract. He has been very impressive in camp and it will be interesting to see if he finally plays up to his potential or continues to drop passes and be a bonehead. Another interesting wildcard to watch is defensive lineman Johnny Jolly. Out of football three years for drug convictions and even imprisoned for a while, Jolly seems to have straightened his life out and can still contribute in the defensive line rotation. Everyone can cheer for a redemption story like Jolly’s.
The 49ers overwhelmed the Packers last year in a 45 – 31 post-season rout. Can the 2013 Packers avenge last year’s loss, and have they enriched their talent level to that of the powerful 49ers? We shall soon find out. The Packer defense needs to improve from last year’s performance and I think that will happen, but the key to the season may be in how effective the offensive line will perform. If the line does its part, Lacy might just have a big rookie year and if that happens, opposing defenses will have to change their schemes. That will free up Aaron Rodgers to light up the skies with even more touchdown passes. Sounds like a great plan to me!