As free agency withers toward it final stage, the Green Bay Packers appear to be headed into a promising 2014 season. Not only did they manage to keep a majority of their talent around, but also bolstered a deprived defense that ranked 24th in 2013.
To stop the pass, a team must stop the run first. Otherwise they have to bring the safeties in the box to help with the run. This exposed the Packers to the deep ball. They gave up 61 receptions that were more than 20 yards while still yielding 133 rushing yards per game.
To patch up their wounds, Ted Thompson dug into his pocket and re-signed Sam Shields, B.J. Raji, and Mike Neal to keep developing talent around. Shields had a remarkable season and should only get better as he reaches his prime. Raji and Neal should add depth up front to help stop the run.
Thompson also signed defensive linemen Julius Peppers and Letroy Guion. These veterans should provide a shield against the injury bug that bit the Packers hard last season. Look for Peppers to be a perfect complement to Clay Matthews. Opposing teams won’t be able to double team them both.
Most importantly though, the Packers should expect to see two of their top playmakers come in at full health. Clay Matthews and Casey Hayward had an injury-riddled season and stayed off the field for a majority of the season. Their absence showed in the bitter cold defeat to the 49ers in the playoffs, where the Packers failed to contain Colin Kaepernick once again.
With the depth added to the defensive line and a plethora of healthy talent returning, expect the Packers to finish ranked among the top 10 in overall defense.