The 2012-13 for the Green Bay Packers may go down as one of the most frustrating season in Packers’ history.
Pre-season talk about winning the Super Bowl, paired with most experts picking the Packers and Patriots to face off in a 1996 Super Bowl rematch have all come and gone. The Packers finished the season at a mediocre 11-5 compared with expectations of 13 wins or more, especially coming off a 15 win season in 2011.
The team was humiliated in San Francisco, which included a historically poor performance by a defense that claimed to be much better than the atrocious season they had in 2011. They had me fooled. When the smoke cleared and the game was all said and done Saturday in San Francisco the Packers “improved” defense had given up nearly 600 total yards to the NFL’s eleventh-ranked offense during the regular season.
The Packers also allowed 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to go wild on them. Kaepernick totaled 444 yards; including a quarterback NFL single game record 181 yards rushing. Time after time the Packers forced the 49ers into third and long situations, but would allow Kaepernick to escape the pocket and scramble for first downs.
On the night the 49ers were eight of 13 on third downs; all eight conversions were either via Kaepernick scrambling or throwing for the first down. The Packers seemed unprepared on defense at times and unwilling to make changes during the game; something Packers defensive tackle B.J Raji and cornerback/safety Charles Woodson were quick to point out in the post game interviews.
The Packers finished the season eleventh in total defense which was a significant improvement from a season ago when they finished dead last in total defense.
Unlike last season it was the Packers offense that struggled for the majority of the season. The 2011 Packers’ offense was a once in a lifetime type of year. They broke numerous NFL records and team records; most expected to see the same in 2012 from the high-powered offense. However, having a season like they did in 2011 was just out of the question. At times the offense looked lost, slow and not in any sort of rhythm. Yes, injuries to Gregg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Cedric Benson, James Starks, Bryan Bulaga and nagging injuries to Aaron Rodgers didn’t help, but they were not that effective when completely healthy either.
So what’s next for the Packers after a disappointing 11-5 season that saw them get bounced in the second round of the playoffs?
Let’s start on the defensive side of the ball and play a game called cut or keep.
Erik Walden/Frank Zombo/Charles Woodson: Let Walk
Honestly this one is an easy decision, Walden has not been the most consistent player for the Packers and at times was downright awful. It was evident against the 49ers when he made an awful read a “read option” play between Frank Gore and Colin Kaepernick. On the play Walden crashed down so hard on the line that he completely took himself out of the play. The result of the play: a 56-yard touchdown run by the quarterback. It has been play like this from Walden that has frustrated Packers’ fans all season; he has played his last down in Green Bay.
Frank Zombo has been a thorn in the side much like Erik Walden. Zombo has been constantly nagged by injuries and inconsistent play during his time as a Packer. He hasn’t played an entire season since joining the Packers; that includes playing just seven games this year totaling eight tackles and five games last season. Zombo had a bright future in Green Bay especially after how effective he was during the 2010 Super Bowl run for the Packers, but the truth is he has worn out his welcome.
Finally Charles Woodson. Woodson is due somewhere around $10 million next season, which is way too much for a guy who has clearly lost a step and at times hurts the defense via penalties more than he helps. I would love to see Charles stay in Green Bay, but to do so he would have to take a severe pay cut and it is yet to be seen if he would be willing to do that.
Robert Francois/ Brad Jones: Keep
Francois has been great on special teams for the Packers the last two seasons. Next season Francois could get his shot at making the defensive depth chart especially after the Packers hopefully release Walden and Zombo.
Brad Jones was very inconsistent filling in for the injure D.J Smith, who was filling in for the injured Desmond Bishop. Both Bishop and Smith will be healthy for the start of the 2013 season, which will slide Jones down to third on the depth chart. I think Jones is a very good linebacker and gives the Packers great depth, which is always needed in the NFL.
Sam Shields: Re-sign/Match any offer
Shields is a restricted free agent meaning that teams can offer Shields a contract and the Packers can either decide to let him go and receive compensation draft choices or they can sign him to a qualifying offer sheet matching another team’s offer. Shields is a promising young player who has had a great season for the Packers. He has gotten better every season since joining the Packers and will continue to get better as time goes on. Letting Shields slip away would be a very foolish mistake that I don’t see the Packers making.
Dom Capers: Keep on staff
I know just as well as every other Packers fan how frustrating Dom Capers can be at times, with that said he is a great defensive coordinator and I can’t see the Packers firing him just yet, although he should be on thin ice going forward. As I previously stated, Capers brought a defense that ranked thirty-second-ranked (dead last) in 2011 to the eleventh-ranked defense in 2012. In 2009 the Packers ranked second overall in total defense in Capers’ first year. In 2010, the Packers were fifth in total defense. Capers has obviously done the job here in Green Bay and deserves another chance to turn the defense around. I will, however, say that if Capers’ defense gives up another offensive explosion in the playoffs next season, or if for some devastating reason the Packers don’t make the playoffs next season, Capers should and would be fired.
Look for the Packers to go heavy defense again in the draft in 2013 as they continue to get younger and hopefully stronger on that side of the ball.
Now, let’s move on to the offensive side of the ball with the cut/keep game.
Donald Driver/ Gregg Jennings/ Tom Crabtree/ Ryan Grant: Say Goodbye
Although Donald Driver is one of my favorite Packers of all-time the truth is the Packers should have released him last season instead of subjecting him to the humiliation he suffered throughout this season. No. 80 should be retired in the near future at Lambeau Field.
If Gregg Jennings still thinks he is worth Vincent Jackson 5 years/$55 million he is mistaken. The last few seasons Jennings has been injury prone and the offense has suffered because of it. Along with his injury problems his attitude this season was down right disrespectful. When he was asked throughout the year if he would be back with Green Bay he would basically say no without the slightest sense of sadness. In fact, a reporter asked him the other day after the loss to the 49ers what he would miss most about Green Bay, his response: “honestly nothing.” If that’s the way you feel about your teammates and this origination I have no problem letting Jennings walk.
Ryan Grant was a classic example of rental players brought in after numerous injuries to the running back corps, I have no doubt he will be cut, again by the Packers. Tom Crabtree will also be cut; he really doesn’t do one thing on the field particularly great. Tight ends like Crabtree come a dime a dozen and I’m sure Ted Thompson will be able to replace him through the draft.
Jermichael Finley/Cedric Benson/Jarrett Boykin/ Jeremy Ross: Keep
I know Packer nation is split on whether to keep Finley or not based on his off-field antics in the locker room. However, the fact of the matter is that Finley has a ton of potential and let’s keep in mind that he is only 25 years old (26 in March). With the loss of Gregg Jennings, the Packers could once again make Finley the focal point of the offense like they did in 2009-10 when he dominated the NFL before getting hurt at Washington early in 2010. I’ve always been a fan of Finley and the Packers are much better with him than without.
I know it sounds like a foregone conclusion that Benson is done in Green Bay; however, I think that may be a mistake. Benson was cheap for the Packers (under $1 million in salary) and played very well before he was hurt. A backfield of Alex Green, DuJuan Harris and Cedric Benson would be very successful. That would of course means that James Starks may have played his last down in Green Bay.
Jarrett Boykin and Jeremy Ross could be the next in line of Packers great receivers that Ted Thompson always seems to find. I know Jeremy Ross’s last play wasn’t the greatest moment of his career. However, I think he has a great body at six foot, 220 pounds. He mixes that frame with great speed as seen on some of his punt returns this season. Under the radar for the Packers is Jarrett Boykin. Boykin is a very good athlete and will be a great slot receiver for the Packers much like Randall Cobb. I see a lot of similarities in Cobb and Boykin and the future is bright for both players.
With the 26th pick of the 2013 NFL Draft the Green Bay Packer select…
Barrett Jones, Center, University of Alabama
I’m a huge fan of Jones, he has all the tools that a great center needs to be successful in the NFL and the Packers would be lucky to snatch him up. He was the recipient of the Rimington Trophy (nation’s top center) and a member of the 2013 Crimson Tide National Championship team. At six foot, five inches, 302 pounds, Jones is an absolute rock which anchors one of the best offensive lines ever assembled in college football history. Jeff Saturday and Evan Dietrich-Smith were both mediocre for the Packers offensive line, which struggled the majority of the season. Adding Barrett Jones to the roster will begin to solidify one of the weaker aspects of the Packers roster: offensive line.
The 2013 Green Bay Packers will hopefully be full of new faces and new approaches. This team has all the talent to win another Super Bowl in 2014 and will be right in the hunt to do so again. Until August my friends, and as always Go Pack Go!
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