Jan 15, 2012; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews (52) gestures to the crowd during the game against the New York Giants at the Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

What Changes The Packers Should and Should not Expect this Off-Season


One of the major needs the Packers need to address this offseason is finding a complement to Clay Matthews on the defensive side of the football. Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

The Super Bowl on Sunday was a tremendous game that will definitely take its place as one of the more memorable games – ever. Watching the game as a Packers fan, however, got me to thinking about what we should expect for the Packers future and how we will get back to the big game next year.

Unlike last year, where we really did not need to make any immediate changes to the starting line-up, we will need to make changes on all sides of the ball. Of course, the main focus will be on the defensive side, but there will be some changes on the offensive side as well.

Let’s start on the easier side – the offense.

The Packers offensively last year was one of the most efficient offenses in NFL history. Aaron Rodgers won MVP and the Packers receiving corps was on top of its game. The running game was subpar but it could have been worse. Then finally, the o-line, despite the many injuries, was fairly consistent throughout the season giving Rodgers enough time to find the open receivers.

So what changes do we need?

The running game could be improved so adding another running back in the draft would never be a bad thing. Ryan Grant’s contract is expired and will most likely be gone, so adding depth could be a benefit to the Pack when considering James Starks’ injury history.

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The receiving group is deeper than ever but this could result in a departure of Packer’s all-time leading receiver in Donald Driver. Randall Cobb showed his potential this year in many different games and now it seems more likely than ever that Driver could be heading out.

Matt Flynn showed tremendous potential in his one game vs. the Detroit Lions where he broke single-game records in yards and touchdowns. With his contract up this year, it guarantees his departure to a team like Miami or Washington – teams in desperate need of a franchise quarterback. This could mean the Packers going after another late round quarterback or even an undrafted one like they did with Graham Harrell. If the Packers do add another quarterback, it will probably just be a practice squad addition until the Packers groom him to where they feel comfortable to add him to the active roster.

The tight end situation is a little iffy as to what the Packers may do with Jermichael Finley. Finley was expected to be thrown the franchise tag during this offseason because of how big of an asset he is to the Packers organization. The thing is though, this year was quite disappointing. This was supposed to be the year Finley broke out and had a season over a thousand yards and became one of the NFL’s elite player at the position. Finley could have done this but he had a major case of the drops this season and put the Packers into a much tougher situation than they were in before. Should they pay a player that has the potential to be great the money of a great? Or should they just do the unthinkable and let him walk?

Then finally, the o-line for the Pack. Scott Wells is a free agent and needs to be a primary target for the Packer organization to get this guy back on the roster as he probably outperformed everyone else on the Packer o-line this season. Chad Clifton seems to be nearing the end of his career and could be another axe by the Packers this off-season. This would put T.J.Lang and Derek Sherrod in a position to battle for the left tackle position this training camp. Adding o-linemen in the draft is never a bad pick-up but I would not expect the Pack to use an early pick on one as they have much bigger issues to worry about…

Like the defense.

When the NFL Draft comes around in April, the Packers will surely be looking at prospects to help fill needs on the defense. I expect the Pack to use their first round pick on a linebacker to play opposite of Clay Matthews. With the end of Erik Walden’s time in Green Bay nearing, this issue becomes an even more of a priority. This will solve some problems but surely not all of them.

When we look at AJ Hawk and Desmond Bishop commanding the middle, we think we are pretty set at that position. Some would think so, but others would argue that one of the big reasons why the Packer’s defense took a turn for the worse this year was because of the lack of a true leader like we once had in Nick Barnett. Desmond Bishop had a great year but AJ Hawk seemed, almost at times, non-existent. What I mean by that is how it seemed he just did not make enough plays this year. I give him credit for being a sure tackler but it just seemed he was not around the ball-carrier to make the tackles. I don’t expect the Packers to make any significant changes at this position but I think something has to be at least considered involving this position. Maybe give the next guy up some more playing time in DJ Smith who actually played very well when he filled in at times this year.

Besides the Packers #1 priority in the linebacker unit, the Packers will surely be focused on the defensive line as well. It became well known early in the season, that the Packers were greatly missing Cullen Jenkins and his ability to not only stop the run but get some needed pressure on the quarterback. Many players tried to fill this role but none were truly successful in doing so and, therefore, should be a position the Packers will look to upgrade on in the coming off-season.

When the draft and free agency rolls around this year, if there was one position the Packers should try and stock up on it would be the defensive back unit. There is no immediate need for an upgrade in this unit except for the issue with Nick Collins and the possibility of his career actually being over. Hopefully the Packers will be able to know the status of Collins before the beginning of the off-season so they can plan accordingly.

Regardless, we still have Morgan Burnett and Charlie Peprah that can help preserve the depth at safety. Woodson is getting up in age so adding depth at cornerback is always a smart pick for the Packers. The future seems to be Tramon Williams and Sam Shields but there really is no third guy that can be counted on. Although it may not be the first round or two, the Packers will surely be looking to adding depth at the defensive back position to prepare for the future.

Many changes are expected this off-season but Ted Thompson can surely be counted on to help bring the Packers back to where they should have been on Sunday.

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Tags: A.J. Hawk Aaron Rodgers Chad Clifton Charlie Peprah Clay Matthews Cullen Jenkins Desmond Bishop DJ Smith Donald Driver Graham Harrell Green Bay Packers James Starks Jermichael Finley Matt Flynn Miami Dolphins Morgan Burnett NFL Nick Barnett Nick Collins Randall Cobb Ryan Grant Sam Shields Scott Wells Super Bowl Ted Thompson Tramon Williams Washington Redskins