Walter Football: 2013 Green Bay Packers Preview
By Walter Cherepinsky, Walter Football
~ Green Bay Packers (Last Year: 11-5)
2013 NFL Season Preview:
TE Matthew Mulligan.
Early Draft Picks:
DE/DT Datone Jones, RB Eddie Lacy, OT/G David Bakhtiari, G/OT J.C. Tretter, RB Johnathan Franklin, CB/S Micah Hyde. Packers Rookie Forecast
RB Cedric Benson, RB Ryan Grant, WR Greg Jennings, WR Donald Driver, TE Tom Crabtree, C Jeff Saturday, DE/OLB Erik Walden, DE/OLB Frank Zombo, ILB Desmond Bishop, S Charles Woodson.
2013 Green Bay Packers Offense:
The Packers lost a player who has been viewed as their top receiver for several years this offseason. Will this derail one of the top offenses in the NFL? Not by a long shot.
Greg Jennings took the money and ran to Minnesota, but Green Bay’s offense won’t skip a beat. Aaron Rodgers is still the best quarterback in the NFL. He didn’t have his greatest season in 2012, yet still compiled 4,295 passing yards, 41 touchdowns (39 passing, two on the ground), 259 rushing yards and just eight interceptions. He was aptly rewarded with a 7-year, $130.75 million contract in April.
Despite losing Jennings, Rodgers still has a very dynamic supporting cast. The most intriguing weapon is slot receiver Randall Cobb, who caught 80 balls for 954 yards and eight touchdowns in his second NFL campaign. He also rushed for 132 more yards. He’s a dynamic player who will see an even greater role in 2013; there’s some talk that he could catch 100 passes this year.
Jordy Nelson and James Jones will be the starting outside receivers. The second half of Nelson’s 2012 season was derailed by injuries, but he figures to be back to full strength. Jones, meanwhile, had always been a disappointment because he was prone to so many dropped passes. He got his act together last year, however, as he hauled in a ridiculous 14 touchdowns. Perhaps Jones’ improvement can rub off on the sluggish tight end Jermichael Finley, who was brought back for 2013 despite never coming close to meeting expectations.
Rodgers could be even more dangerous this season because the Packers have a new offensive element that they haven’t possessed since the Ahman Green days. Green Bay now has a potent running back who can move the chains efficiently on the ground and another who poses as a threat as a receiver out of the backfield. Green Bay spent a second-round pick on Eddie Lacy, a tough runner who would have been selected much earlier if it weren’t for injuries. Two rounds later, the Packers chose Johnathan Franklin, who fell inexplicably. Franklin, perceived by some to be the top back in the 2013 class, caught 33 balls for UCLA last season. He’s been compared by some to Warrick Dunn.
The only concern regarding the Green Bay offense is the front line. Rodgers took 51 sacks this past season, which would explain why he had slightly downgraded numbers in 2012. That figure is way too high, especially for a mobile quarterback. To help remedy this situation, the Packers spent two relatively early selections on linemen David Bakhtiari and J.C. Tretter. The former will compete for the right tackle job with Marshall Newhouse, who surrendered nine sacks as Rodgers’ inept blind-side protector last year. Bryan Bulaga, who was knocked out for the season in November with a fractured hip, will take over at left tackle.
Unfortunately, Tretter is out for six months after fracturing his fibula 11 days after signing his rookie contract. He was supposed to compete with the pedestrian Evan Dietrich-Smith at center. That will once again be a position of weakness for Green Bay – Jeff Saturday was miserable there in 2012 – but the Packers at least have two talented guards flanking him. T.J. Lang is solid, while Josh Sitton is easily the best blocker in the entire group.
2013 Green Bay Packers Defense:
Defensive coordinator Dom Capers better have spent the entire offseason figuring out how to contain the read option. His stop unit looked completely inept against it when the 49ers demolished them in the playoffs. Green Bay will battle San Francisco in the opener, so we’ll see how much Capers has learned from his abysmal game plan in the divisional playoff battle.
The Packers spent a first-round pick on a player who can apply lots of pressure on the quarterback, which will help their efforts against Kaepernick and other read-option signal-callers. Datone Jones will give Green Bay a consistent pass-rushing presence on the defensive line, which is something it did not have this past season outside of Mike Neal, who was just a situational player. Jones will start along with stud B.J. Raji and run-stuffer Ryan Pickett.
Of course, Green Bay’s top pass-rusher will once again be Clay Matthews, who registered 13 sacks in 2012 and was subsequently rewarded with a 5-year, $66 million contract. He’ll continue to dominate at one of the rush linebacker spots, so the main concern here is Nick Perry’s progression. Perry, a first-round pick in 2012, started a few games across from Matthews, but did nothing. He was ultimately knocked out for the year in Week 6 because of a wrist injury. He’ll need to improve for Green Bay’s stop unit to look at least functional against the better quarterbacks.
Getting Desmond Bishop back looked to be a big boost for the Packers as well, but he was released in June after missing all of 2012 with a torn hamstring. Brad Jones performed well in his absence next to A.J. Hawk, so there won’t be too much of a drop-off. Hawk, meanwhile, was pretty mediocre. He’s just an average starter who neither really helps nor hurts the team.
Bishop wasn’t the only defensive veteran to leave this offseason. Charles Woodson walked away from the team after six-and-a-half highly productive seasons in Green Bay. The half year was in 2012, as Woodson played in just seven games. He was clearly declining, but still happened to be the heart and soul of the secondary. His absence created a big hole at safety next to the talented Morgan Burnett. M.D. Jennings, currently projected to start next to Burnett, is just mediocre. Green Bay was expected to find help in this area during the offseason, but failed to do so.
The Jennings spot is the one hole in Green Bay’s secondary, as the team has three outstanding cornerbacks. Tramon Williams, Sam Shields and Casey Hayward are all exceptional.
The Packers are in a great spot here, as both Shields and Hayward are both very young; Hayward snagged six interceptions as a mere rookie in 2012 – and he played about two-thirds of the snaps.
2013 Green Bay Packers Schedule and Intangibles:
Green Bay is 115-38 at home since 1992 – the year Brett Favre first became a Green Bay Packer. Aaron Rodgers is continuing the tradition; he’s 28-5 as a host the past four years.
Mason Crosby is as unreliable as they get.
He was just 21-of-33 last year, including a dreadful 2-of-9 from 50-plus. He’ll once again be Green Bay’s kicker.
Punter Tim Masthay was just 21st in net average, but he did tie for seventh in terms of attempts placed inside the 20.
Green Bay’s special teams were awful prior to 2011, but Randall Cobb has changed that. Cobb scored on a punt and a kickoff return in 2011, and then added another touchdown last year. The Packers didn’t surrender any special-teams scores.
The Packers have a brutal schedule. Their first three opponents (and five of their initial seven foes) all made the playoffs last year. They barely have any easy games.
2013 Green Bay Packers Rookies:
Go here for the Packers Rookie Forecast, a page with predictions like which rookie will bust and which rookie will become a solid starter.
2013 Green Bay Packers Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line **
Running Backs ***
Defensive Line ****
Special Teams ***
2013 Green Bay Packers Analysis: Despite having a ridiculously taxing schedule, the Packers are expected to win the NFC North and compete for homefield advantage. As long as they have Aaron Rodgers, they’ll always be in contention for the Lombardi Trophy.
Projection: 12-4 (1st in NFC North)
Original article here, including Walter’s Packer Draft Profiles