Aaron Rodgers congratulates Colin Kaepernick after the NFC divisional round playoff game at Candlestick Park. Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports photograph

Packers Versus 49ers – Who Had The Best Offseason and Preseason?

 

With one meaningless preseason game left, let’s look at who had the best offseason and preseason – the Packers or the 49ers.

We’re getting closer to the much-anticipated Sept. 8 rematch of last January’s divisional playoff game. No one wins a trophy for the best offseason and preseason, but this is a good preview of some of the new faces we will see in the game.

49ers Major Injuries
Wide Receiver Michael Crabtree Loses the Rose. Crabtree became Colin Kaepernick’s favorite target in 2012. This love connection ended when Crabtree injured his Achilles tendon in May and was declared out for most of the 2013 season.  Newly-acquired Anquan Boldin, older and slower than Crabtree, gets the rose from Kaepernick this season as he assumes the number 1 receiver role.

Culliver’s Travels Take Him to the Inactive List. Cornerback Chris Culliver was coming into his own on a 49ers unit that gave up the fourth fewest passing yards in the league in 2012. Culliver reportedly played 63 percent of the snaps in 2012, allowed a completion percentage of just 49, and a 77 passer rating when targeted. Then Culliver tore an ACL in preseason and is out for the year. The 49ers have depth in the secondary, but it’s less deep. We’ll likely see more of 5-10 Tarell BrownAaron Rodgers will take note when Brown goes one-on-one with 6-3 Jordy Nelson.

Packers Major Injuries
Bulaga Means “Surprise” in Tagalog. The Packers flipped their offensive line around during the offseason to place their best lineman, Bryan Bulaga, at left tackle to protect Aaron Rodger’s blind side. Then Bulaga, surprise, injured his knee during a scrimmage and is lost for the season. Rookie David Bakhtiari is now protecting Rodger’s blind side and he performed respectably in preseason. Aaron will need to check his mirrors a lot more in the 49ers game.

Injury analysis: As of this writing, the Packers had one less key injury since January than the 49ers. But it was a huge one. Still, point for Green Bay. Judge’s decision is final. Score: GB 1, SF 0

49ers Draft
Several of the 49ers top picks made a measurable impact on the playing field in preseason, including safety Eric Reid and outside linebacker Corey Lemonier. It’s possible Reid may break into the starting lineup. However, due to the 49ers deep roster on defense, none of the other rookies may find themselves at the top of the depth chart for their position. The 49ers also drafted three players who will probably start on the physically unable to perform list: top defensive end prospect Tank Carradine, defensive tackle Quinton Dial, and running back Marcus Lattimore.

Packers Draft
Three of the Packers’ first four selections, defensive end Datone Jones, running back Eddie Lacy, and offensive tackle Bakhtiari, all appear headed for major roles in the 49ers game. Rookie Micah Hyde also may return punts for Green Bay in the 49ers game.

Draft analysis: Which team’s draft picks will see more playing time in Week 1? The answer is Green Bay. From that perspective, the Packers’ draft had more value. Score: GB 2, SF 0

49ers Free Agent Moves
49ers Boot David Akers. Packer fans remember when Akers “doinked” it over the crossbar to connect on an NFL record tying 63-yard field goal in the regular season. However, no kicker missed more field goals last year than Akers. He missed 13. Not far behind was Green Bay’s Mason Crosby. He missed 12. Free agent pickup Phil Dawson hit 29 of 31 field goals last season with the Browns, including seven from 50 yards or beyond.

Safety Dashon Goldson Dashes for Gold. The 49ers two-time Pro Bowl safety received a $41 million contract to play for Tampa. Backup defensive back and special teams ace C.J. Spillman and rookie Eric Reid are competing to replace Goldson.

Big Men Depart for Fat Contracts. The 49ers lost some depth in the defensive line when Jean Francois and Isaac Sopoaga left in free agency. The team attempted to recover the void by signing free agent Glenn Dorsey from the Chiefs. Reports out of San Francisco indicate Dorsey is in danger of losing the battle for a starting position to a relatively unknown Ian Williams.

Delanie Walker Escapes Shadow of Vernon Davis. Walker was known more for delivering crushing blocks and great special teams play. This may not be a huge loss for the 49ers because of the preseason play of rookie tight end Vance McDonald.

Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha Seeks to Remove Chip From Shoulder. He is a former All-Pro who fell out of favor with Philadelphia after two poor seasons. The 49ers picked him up for a can of beans at the dollar store. Reports suggest he has an outside chance of becoming the team’s number 3 cornerback.

Packers Free Agent Moves
Tom Crabtree Takes Root in Tampa. Packer fans won’t soon forget his touchdown on the fake field goal against the Bears in 2012. A nice special teams player. The Packers were too deep at tight end to keep him for what he was offered.

Safety Charles Woodson Takes Salmon Run. Woodson signed with Oakland in May where he first started in the league and where his Hall of Fame career will likely end. Woodson’s replacement in 2013 may become rookie Micah Hyde. The Packers can expect a drop in leadership and some rookie mistakes from Hyde in his first year.

Linebacker Erik Walden Loots Indy. Walden signed with the Colts for what some observers call an obscene amount for his skill level –$16 million. The Packers are counting on the healthy return of linebacker Nick Perry to be a significant upgrade from Walden in 2013.

Linebacker Desmond Bishop Turns Purple. He once was considered the Packer’s top enforcer on defense, but a serious hamstring injury created concerns about whether he could play at the level called for in his contract. His departure cemented Brad Jones as a starter at inside linebacker as the Packers signed Jones to a multi-year deal in the offseason.

Greg Jennings Ponders a New Future. Packers offered him big bucks. Jennings wanted bigger bucks. The Vikings gave it to him. The grass is always greener in Minnesota, but it’s artificial.  The Packers are still not lacking for depth at wide receiver, but Jennings was always a threat for a big play.

Packers Take a Mulligan in Free Agency. The signing of former Rams tight end Matthew Mulligan, known for his blocking, signals a stronger emphasis on developing the run game for Green Bay. However, an elbow injury makes it unclear if Mulligan is on the roster for the 49er game.

Packers Sign a Guy Named Vince. The Packers may anoint Vince Young the number 2 quarterback after his 130 passer rating performance against Seattle in preseason.  He may not get much playing time this season, but he is about to enter an elite group: Packer players throughout history named Vince. He joins Vince Workman, Vince Ferragamo, Vince Rafferty, and Vince Villanucci.

Free agency analysis: Let’s face it. Packer GM Ted Thompson is never going to win a contest involving free agency. He likes to develop from within. The 49ers signing of kicker Phil Dawson rates as the most impactful for the rematch Sept. 8. Advantage San Francisco. Score: GB 2, SF 1

49er Trade Activity
Quarterback Alex Smith Leaves for KC and the Sunshine . With Smith, the 49ers owned the best backup in the league last season, but one they couldn’t afford to keep.

Wide Receiver Anquan Boldin is a Raven Nevermore. Boldin, acquired in a trade with the Ravens, now assumes the number 1 wide receiver role since Crabtree is out with an injury.

Bust A.J. Jenkins Traded for Chiefs Bust Jonathon Baldwin. This may turn out to be a great thing for the 49ers in the future. However, the disappointment was large in 49er Nation as they witnessed Jenkins, the team’s number 1 pick last year, fail to make any impact in his first year.

No Packer Trade Activity

Trade analysis: The 49ers and Coach Jim Harbaugh earn a point here by acquiring Boldin for a mere sixth round draft choice. Did brother John give him a family discount? Boldin could be a factor in the Packer game.  Score: GB 2, SF 2

49er Retirements
Randy Moss Joins the Media. The 49ers chose not to re-sign Moss after his one-year contract expired. With Moss joining Fox Sports and getting raves for his initial on-air performance, Packer fans can rest assured, they will not see this long-time nemesis lining up against them any time soon, if ever.

Packer Retirements
Nothing of much consequence will occur in the upcoming rematch as a result of wide receiver Donald Driver and center Jeff Saturday retiring. Neither played much of a role in the playoff game since they did not start.

Retirement analysis: The Packers lost two players who had little impact in the 49er playoff game. The 49ers lost a starting receiver and they are still working on finding a solid replacement. Advantage Packers. GB 3, SF 2

49er Re-Activations
The Last Time I Saw Parys. Linebacker Parys Haralson was out last season with a torn biceps. This season he will back up Aldon Smith. He has been turning heads in the preseason.

Packer Re-Activations
The Return of the Jolly Green and Gold Giant.  Johnny Jolly sort of came out of retirement … from prison. Green Bay invited him to try out after he served time on drug charges related to his addiction to codeine. Jolly hadn’t played a game since the 2009 season. Then he went wild in the preseason game against the Rams. Batted balls. Tackles for loss. An interception with a spin move. Some question whether Jolly will make the final roster. Many observers say he has already earned a spot.

Analysis: Jolly’s story is more impressive, but the real question is, which player will have a bigger impact in the game Sept. 8. It’s a point for 49ers because Haralson’s preseason has been more productive. Score: SF 3, GB 3

Key 49er Contract Extensions
Defensive end Justin Smith. Three years, $17 million.
Offensive right tackle Anthony Davis. Five years, $37 million.

Key Packer Contract Extensions
Aaron Rodgers. Five years, $110 million.
Clay Matthews. Five years, $65 million.

Analysis: The Packers locked up their offensive and defensive leaders for years to come. Players who are considered by most analysts to be the best at their position in the league. The 49er signings pale in comparison. Tie-breaking point for Packers. Final Score: GB 4, SF 3

Which offseason moves do you think will make the biggest difference in the Packer-49er game Sept. 8?

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