Every blogger writes stupid top 10 lists, I don’t think I ever have.Â So I’m attempting one on my favorite subject, the Pack.Â The team was better than expected last year and this year is a potential NFC champ.Â However, if that’s going to happen, I’ve got some guys who will need to step it up.
9. BJ Raji
The Johnny Jolly legal situation is looming and it looks like Pickett will at least toy around at LDE.Â That puts Raji at the nose and setting the table for the run defense.Â A lot of people didn’t project him to be a prototypical 3-4 nose, but the Packers need him to eat up 2-3 blockers every snap so the fairly undersized linebackers can be effective.
8. Tramon Williams
Williams had to fill in for injuries to Al Harris the past two seasons.Â Each year when his playing time increased, he was beaten up early before settling in.Â Last year, however, he was part of a secondary that got torched by Pittsburgh late and Arizona in the playoff loss.Â Harris probably won’t be 100% at the start of the season, and may not be all year.Â Williams will need to be ready to start from day 1 and work toward being a full-time starter soon.
7. Mason Crosby
I hate to mention kickers as impact players, but when they perform as poorly as Crosby has during his career with the Packers, you have to take note.Â Seeing our offense stall out on the opponent’s end of the field is disappointing, seeing Crosby consistently shanking 35 yard field goals is worse.Â If he can kick somewhere close to 85% this year, he won’t be a liability, which would be huge.
5/6. James Jones, Jordy Nelson
With neither guy being really promising, they’ll probably alternate as the #3 option this year.Â One of them has to elevate their game to be a potential 3rd down threat.Â The Packers will give up sacks, like every year, and face 3rd and long situations regularly.Â Finley often has to at least chip pass rushers and Driver/Jennings can’t make every play.Â Someone has to help move the chains once in a while.
4. Morgan Burnett
A theme here, the pass defense was shaky last year.Â Atari Bigby is terrible in coverage and gets hurt consistently.Â Burnett has the potential to replace him and be a playmaker in center field next to Collins.Â If he can help add stability on the back end, the team could compete against good QBs.
3. Brad Jones
Asking a lot from a guy who almost wasn’t drafted last year.Â Clay Matthews has the potential for double-digit sacks.Â However, the pressure can’t come from just one side.Â Jones has talent in coverage and even in run support.Â However, he can get pushed around easily in the passing game and will need to develop some consistent rush skills.
2. Bryan Bulaga
Maybe too much pressure for the rookie, but with both of the projected starters at OT being in their 30’s and with a big injury history, Bulaga will likely have to step in at some point.Â The team cannot suffer the shakeup they went through last year when the line played musical chairs to cover for injuries and poor play.
1. Dom Capers
Most people expected the Packers defense to struggle in their first year in the 3-4.Â Over-committing to the run and playing some extremely weak teams helped them boost their stats to a top ranking.Â However, it was clear they were outclassed against good quarterbacks.Â In fact, the defense was a joke against Favre (twice), Roethlisberger and Warner.Â Capers seemed to be either lacking the personnel or the guts to call a good game against a tough passing offense.Â They often played soft, offering no pass rush and putting anywhere from seven to nine guys in coverage (and still getting beat).Â Stopping the run is important, but the Packers are expected to put up 24+ points a game and will see a lot of teams throwing on them.Â They also have potentially more quality QBs on the schedule compared to last year (Favre 2x [assumed], a more aggressive/comfortable Stafford and Cutler, Eli, Brady, McNabb, Romo, Kolb [maybe]).Â Miami, the Jets and Atlanta even have very capable signal callers.Â The only dud QBs on the schedule are likely to come from the San Fran and Buffalo games.