Concerns Remain The Same

In February, my biggest concerns about the Packers were the cornerbacks, the pass rush and the inside linebackers. Six months later, two of the three remain the same.

GM Ted Thompson added veteran Davon House in free agency and rookie Kevin King in the second round of the draft, so there are more bodies at the cornerback position today. Are the Packers better? The answer is yes, but only because they couldn’t possibly be worse. Whether they’re good enough to make a key stop in the fourth quarter of a close game is the real question, and that’s debatable. It’s hard to be even a mediocre pass defense without a legit No. 1 corner, and there doesn’t appear to be a Sam Shields or even a Tramon Williams on the current roster. It’s even harder without a consistent pass rush – which makes a perfect segway to my second big concern.

After Julius Peppers and Datone Jones departed in March, I would’ve bet a week’s salary that Thompson would use either free agency or more likely a high draft pick to bolster the pass rush. Instead, he added only fourth-round pick Vince Biegel. That wasn’t enough – even if the former Badger was practicing and not on PUP rehabbing from another foot surgery. Unless Clay Matthews and Nick Perry stay on the field all season, it’s hard to see where consistent pressure is going to come from. And to be honest, it’s still hard to see where consistent pressure is going to come from even if they do manage to play in all 16 games. Maybe that’s why Dom Capers brought defensive backs all night in the preseason opener vs. Philly. But that only works if the blitzers get home – something that hasn’t happened very often in recent years.

My third concern is no longer the inside linebackers. With safeties Morgan Burnett and Josh Jones spending more time at the position, and with Joe Thomas continuing to improve, the Packers should be OK. My new big concern is backup offensive tackle. Jason Spriggs is being counted on to step in for either David Bakhtiari or Bryan Bulaga, and right now I’d have more confidence in Marshall Newhouse. That’s how poorly last year’s No. 2 pick played against the Eagles. And while it’s only one pretend game, I saw the exact same issues from a year ago. Fortunately, there’s time for the former Indiana star to improve – and he must because there are no other options on the current roster. The Packers were extremely fortunate that their two stud tackles stayed healthy in 2016. It might be time to pray for more of the same.

Look, all teams have concerns at this time of the year, and truth be told, the Packers have fewer than most. But not being able to protect the QB, rush the QB and/or keep the QB from completing passes are the types of concerns that could sink a team in the postseason – even one led by the best player in the league.

Michael Rodney

Packers Notes is the creation of Michael Rodney, who has been writing about the Green Bay Packers for over 30 years. His first blog, Packer Update, hit the internet in 2004. Before becoming a public educator, Rodney worked as a journalist for a couple of newspapers in his home state of New Jersey and covered the Philadelphia Eagles for WTXF-TV. He's had numerous articles on the Packers published, and he's been featured on both television and radio over the years.

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