Preview: 2013 NFL Season Preview

Green Bay Packers

Overview

General Manager Ted Thompson, his staff, and the Packers organization just keeps doing what they normally do. There is a clear process here (that obviously works) and they continue to follow that blueprint for success – draft talented and smart players, develop that talent, retain those players, and continue to grow while stocking up on depth. The continuity plays in their favor as the players and the staff knows exactly what is expected of them.

As usual, there were minimal free agent signings but there were some familiar names that left via free agency or weren’t retained. While the names you might recognize – Cedric Benson, Ryan Grant, Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, Tom Crabtree, Jeff Saturday, Erik Walden, Frank Zombo, Desmond Bishop, and Charles Woodson – the actual 2012 production from that collective group of players was relatively small. There isn’t much reason to think that any of those players are a significant loss as the Packers have plenty of young talent to step up in the vacated positions.

The Packers look poised to be strong again in 2013. Green Bay finished 2012 at 11-5. With Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers still leading the way, the Packers appear ready to meet that same record or even improve because of a division that contains teams that each have glaring issues.

Strengths

Obviously, the Packers strengths start at coaching and starting quarterback. Rodgers is another year experienced and in the prime of his career. The receiving corps brings back many of the playmakers that led it in production last year, notably Cobb, Nelson, and James Jones. On defense, the Packers boast strong cover cornerbacks Sam Shields and Tramon Williams. Young phenom Casey Hayward, is good enough to be the number two cornerback, and is possibly the best cornerback on the roster. Depending on the offensive line, the output from the rookie running back duo of Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin could prove to be an added element that the Packers were missing last year.

Weaknesses

Green Bay lacks any semblance of a backup quarterback. GM Ted Thompson said he had wished he brought in Vince Young sooner so he could learn the offense, and then promptly goes out and signs Seneca Wallace who is as inexperienced in the system as Young. This leads me to believe that Young may be back sooner rather than later. Left Tackle David Bakthiari should hold up fine, even as a rookie, but the offensive line is a bit of a concern should there be some injuries along the unit. OT Marshall Newhouse can play either side but isn’t someone Green Bay wants starting a ton of games. While Clay Matthews is tremendous at getting to the QB, the Packers’ LB corps as a whole isn’t anything special. The Packers will rely on two rookies to provide support on the outside while the inside linebacker position lacks speed.

Name to Know

Datone Jones – The first round pick of the Packers in the 2013 draft will provide some punch from the defensive end position. He’s a tough guy who is smart and tremendous at shedding blocks when he keeps his leverage.

Prediction

Green Bay starts out of the gate tough: at San Francisco, vs. Washington, and at Cincinnati. The bye week comes early in week 4, so this could be a long grueling end to the season when the Packers face Pittsburgh at home and in Chicago the last two weeks of the season. I think the Packers are better than the 11-5 record they posted last year but the schedule won’t let them show that. I expect the Packers to be somewhere around 10-6, even if I think they’re much better than that. If Aaron Rodgers goes down, all bets are off.

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