2013 preview: Green Bay Packers
The 2013 NFL regular season is right around the corner. With that being said, it's time to launch our team previews. FOXSports.com contributor Taylor Jones will answer important questions for every franchise.
Green Bay Packers
2012 Record: 11-5. Eliminated in divisional round by San Francisco
Which player is under the most pressure?
This may not be the obvious choice, but the Packers have been looking for someone to provide a pass rush opposite Clay Matthews for the last two seasons. Green Bay drafted Nick Perry with the 28th overall pick in the 2012 draft but after just six games was placed on the season-ending injured reserve list with a wrist injury. Matthews, who was battling his own injuries, only played in 12 games, but still accounted for 13 sacks. The Packers desperately need someone not named Matthews to step up and rush the quarterback and that’s exactly what Perry was drafted to do.
What is the position battle to watch?
The running back position in Green Bay has been anything but steady during the last three seasons. The Packers haven’t had back-to-back seasons with the same leading rusher since Ryan Grant did it in 2008 and 2009. Since then, Brandon Jackson led the team with 703 rushing yards in 2010. James Starks ran for 578 yards in 2011. And Alex Green led all rushers with just 464 yards last season. For now, Green and Starks are still on the roster, but neither look to have a big impact after Green Bay selected two running backs in April’s NFL Draft. Eddie Lacy, the bigger name of the two, was the 61st overall pick, and the lesser known but highly skilled Johnathan Franklin was taken in the fourth round. UCLA head coach Jim Mora was pounding the table for Franklin all throughout the evaluation period and rightly so. Franklin is a triple-threat back who can run between the tackles, catch the ball out of the backfield and protect the quarterback. So just because he was drafted 64 spots after Lacy, don’t expect Franklin to just roll over and play dead.
What must the team accomplish to consider the season a success?
Aaron Rodgers is currently the best player in the NFL and when you have the best player at the most important position, anything less than the Super Bowl is a disappointment.
What is the team's biggest obstacle?
The offensive line was among the league'ss worst at protecting the quarterback last season. Despite only passing the ball 58.4 percent of the time, or 15th most in the NFL, Rodgers was still sacked 51 times — more than any other quarterback in the entire league. Let’s not forget, Rodgers is far from a lead foot quarterback and is more than capable of eluding a couple of would be tacklers in the pocket, so that sack total could have been even higher. There are problems all over this line, most importantly with Derek Sherrod, who has yet to show any potential at left tackle. Therefore, Bryan Bulaga, a much more natural right tackle, is forced to play out of position protecting Rodgers’ blind side.
What is the team's biggest asset?
This one is not even close. It’s Rodgers by a long shot. Not only is he playing behind a below average, if not atrocious offensive line, he is doing it better than almost every other quarterback in the history of the NFL. Since taking over the starting job in 2008, Rodgers has thrown for 21,332 and 170 touchdowns. Wondering who the only other quarterbacks are to throw for more than 20,000 yards and 170 touchdowns during a five-year span? Hall of Famer Dan Marino and future Hall of Famers Brett Favre and Drew Brees.
With the retirement of Donald Driver and loss of Greg Jennings to free agency, there will be a few less familiar faces in the huddle, but still plenty of weapons to choose from. Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson are no slouches in their own right. And although Jermichael Finley has struggled with untimely drops throughout his career, he is still one of the most feared tight ends in all the league. But quite frankly, with Rodgers’ pinpoint accuracy, it doesn’t matter who they have running routes because he is going to throw them open — all they have to do is catch it.