How does the Green Bay Packers sluggish 1-2 start affect the remainder of the season?
The answer might surprise you.
The NFL season is long and a September team is very different from a December team and most certainly a January team. Injuries occur; players perform better than expected, while others fail to meet expectations. Super Bowl teams are those that peak going into the playoffs, not necessarily the team that peaks coming out of training camp.
As astute Packers fans know, Ted Thompson keeps Green Bay’s roster stocked with young players and light on veterans. The 2013 Packers appear to be a team that has not yet discovered its identity and is still in the process of flushing out how it can exploit the weaknesses of its opponents. The advantages a youthful roster provides can also be a detriment in terms of cohesiveness of the team when beginning a new season.
Since April when running back Eddie Lacy landed in the lap of Ted Thompson in the second round of the 2013 NFL draft the discussion has been centered on how a running game would complement the surgeon-like skills of Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Going into the Packers fourth game of the season the running game is well outpacing the 2012 season. In fact, weeks two and three the Packers had two different running backs break the ever-elusive 100-yard mark. And neither one of them were named Eddie Lacy.
I have not been shy in stating that a running game would make the Packers offense very difficult to stop. Prior to arguably Aaron Rodgers’ worst game in recent history as the Packers quarterback I said a positive running game by the Packers backs Eddie Lacy and James Starks could position Rodgers to re-write the record books.
And then of course Eddie Lacy is inactive with a concussion, James Starks, after gaining 50 yards in the first half against the Bengals is sidelined for the second half with a knee injury. Enter Johnathan Franklin. He comes in the game after playing sparingly the first two games and gains 100-plus yards on the ground. And the offense sputtered.
The youth of the Packers and the ever-changing parts are making it difficult for the Packers to have the overall cohesion necessary to get off to a quick start.
Even if the Packers would have squeaked out a win against the Bengals the challenges that face the team would still be the same. Those challenges are that Coach Mike McCarthy is still trying to understand how more offensive weapons – a ground game – can accompany the team’s bread and butter, the passing game. As well as a defensive backfield that is short two of its bigger playmakers, Morgan Burnett and Casey Hayward, and limited talent at safety.
By default or by design the Packers are a team that is destined to start slow, mature over the course of the season and finish strong … provided they remain relatively healthy.
The young players will progress and McCarthy will get a handle on his assets on the offensive side of the ball. Every game is important, but it’s to the Packers benefit for the team to lose and struggle early in the season rather than later.
I maintain that a 1-2 start has a positive affect on the overall outcome of the season.
Because by struggling early, the team’s flaws are brought to light with plenty of time to – as McCarthy would say, “Get things cleaned up.” Early struggles will position the Packers to be a high-functioning January football team.