>\n\nWorst to First: 9. Green Bay Packers \n\n\n\n

Worst to First: 9. Green Bay Packers

Written by Ben Morgan on 04/21/2009

Yet another team moving with the trend and attempting to emulate the success of the Steelers and Ravens 3-4 Defense. Yet another team making a mistake in my opinion. There is simply not the correct playing staff to make the transition and win immediately. Maybe Green Bay don't feel they need to win immediately though. They have a lot of youth on their offense so this could be a long term proposition. Whatever they feel clearly Defense is going to be the main focus of this draft. It does seem a little crazy. A little over 12 months ago the Favre led Packers were not far off being in the Superbowl. Last year the Rodgers led Packers lost 7 games by 4 points or less. This is a much better team than it's record suggests. You have to figure with a year under his belt at starter Rodgers probably wins at least half those close games. Ryan Grant was hampered by niggling injuries most of the season yet still ran for 1200 yards. Clearly their run offense wasn't as good in 2008 as 2007 but again, a healthier team should fix that for the most part. Shifting a defensive front seems a pretty drastic move. It leaves a ton of question marks for them as far as personnel goes. Though they do have more players that look like they might be able to do the job than some of the other teams switching. It's still a risk and frankly I don't think this team are too far away from being a strong playoff team even without the change. In other words I think ther 2007 record is closer to where this team is than it's 2008 record. What I would seek to improve on is the run defense from last year. They do need to stuff the run and generate some more pass rush. It's obvious why they think shifting to the 3-4 might prompt this. The 2 best run Ds in the league are 3-4 Defenses after all. Of course the thing people seem to be overlooking is a 3-4 run badly is just as bad as a 4-3 run badly. See Browns, Cleveland.

2009 Free Agent Losses
2009 Free Agent additions
Colin Cole DT (Seahawks, UFA), J.J. Jansen LS (Panthers, trade)
Duke Preston C (Bills), Anthony Smith FS (Steelers)
2009 Unsigned Free Agents
2010 Potential Free Agents
Mark Tauscher OT (UFA), Kenneth Pettway LB (cut), Shaun Bodiford WR (UFA)
John Kuhn FB (2009 RFA), Jason Hunter DE (2009 RFA), Atari Bigby S (2009 RFA), Greg Jennings WR, Ruvell Martin WR (2009 RFA), Donald Driver WR (possible void year), Darryn Colledge OG, Tony Moll OT, Jason Spitz OG/C, Ryan Pickett NT, Brandon Chillar LB, Will Blackmon CB, Nick Collins S, T

Roster Breakdown
Quarterbacks Minimal Need

Aaron Rodgers looked superb at times in 2008 with the only question about him being his ability to win a game when it's on the line. an 0-7 record in games decided by 4 points or less points to a potential problem there. A defense on a down year and a sputtering running game didn't help though so we'll give him the benefit of the doubt. He certainly looks a legit NFL starter, even if he's not going to make most Packers fans forget the F Word right away. They picked Brian Brohm early last year as insurance, he should become a good backup type but for the moment unheralded Matt Flynn is ahead of him. The one problem with the Packers QBs is a total lack of starting experience there. This is not a draft need and if the 2 younger guys can bring each other's level up via competition they'll be sweet for years..

Runningbacks Minor Need

Ryan Grant suffered a sophomore slump at the beginning of the season. However, he held out through training camp and went into the season carrying some niggling injuries. This will actually be his first Training Camp with the Packers as he was with the Giants in 2007 and holding out last year. If fully healthy and with a full camp behind him he could go off again like 2007. Brandon Jackson seemed to click in the scheme last year too when called upon. Things look fairly healthy A true 3rd down back certainly wouldn't go amiss though. Brandon Jackson isn't bad out of the backfield, Ryan Grant is so-so, it's an area they could look for in mid draft.

Wide Receivers
Minimal Need

Provided they can extend Greg Jennings this offseason (which seems likely judging by the mumblings out of both camps) their WR situation looks great. Donald Driver may be in his last season as a Packer, his contract has a potentially voidable year as teams typically don't pay $3m roster bonuses to players his age. Last year's first rounder Jordy Nelson flashed but didn't dominate but that's not at all uncommon for rookie WRs. Coming back this year though should be James Jones who showed so much promise in 2007 but played through a torn PCL most of last year. He is a talent and would be my tip to replace Donald Driver next year. In Nelson, Jennings and Jones they have 3 young guys on roster for a few years yet (assuming that Jennings extension). There are many many teams that would envy this position. In addition Ruvell Martin isn't a dominant force but he has great size and can be counted on for some nice first down catches. If Jennings can't be extended this could be something they look at for insurance purposes, otherwise I doubt they look WR at all.

Tight Ends
Minimal Need

Donald Lee dropped away some last year. He became something of a favourite target for Favre. He wasn't quite such a favourite for Rodgers. The coaches are very high on Jermichael Finley, a 2007 3rd round draft pick. He's a real athlete and he could end up being the primary pass catcher this year. The TE situation looks pretty healthy though.

Offensive Line
Major Need

Green Bay's had a good Offensive Line for a few years now and the middle is still very good. At the Tackle positions though Mark Tauscher is coming off January ACL surgery and is a free agent. I doubt he signs elsewhere this season and I expect the Packers to re-sign him and probably make use of the PUP list if they can, meaning they won't have to activate him til mid season. Ted Thompson's done a pretty good job of stockpiling mid round OL picks over the past few years and even though a couple of guys are up for free agency next year, on the interior at least they probably already have replacements on roster. They run a zone blocking scheme and most of these guys seem to slot in pretty nicely to it. Their one concern is RT and long term, possible LT where Chad Clifton enters his 10th year in the league. They could seriously look at a guy like Michael Oher at their first round pick. He could start immediately at RT and could ultimately shift to LT. I think concentrating on finding personnel for that 3-4 Defense may take precendence.

Defensive Tackle
Minor Need

Former first round pick Ryan Pickett has never really lived up to his billing, he turns 30 this year and he's a free agent in 2010. That said superficially he does look like he'd be a good fit for NT. He's got the right height, weight and build. If he brings the right attitude he could really kick this switch off in the right direction for Green Bay. Tough to see how Anthony Toribio will backup NT but that's where he's listed. A mid rounder on a NT prospect would be a great idea. Someone to spell Pickett and potentially replace him in 12 months time. Brian Soi was recently signed. At 6'3" and 315lbs he could be a NT backup. I don't know an awful lot about him but they gave him a 3 year deal so clearly they've seen something in him.

Defensive End
Major Need

This could be a real problem position for them. Current listed starters Johnny Jolly and Cullen Jenkins have issues, first who knows how they'll fit in the new scheme? Secondly Jolly has legal issues and Jenkins is coming off an injury. Justin Harrell looks like a good fit for 3-4DE. Good size, he can stuff the run and occupy blockers. Unfortunately he can't stay healthy and back injuries are notoriously difficult for Linemen to overcome. Michael Montgomery will have to bulk up to play 3-4DE, that's probably not going to happen this year. Jason Hunter has been pushed into OLB in this new scheme, he's a guy I liked the look of for a 3-4DE coming out of college, he's the same size as Montgomery, and both are roughly the same size as Aaron Smith was coming out of college. Both are 3 or 4 years older than Smith at that point now though so it's going to be tough for either or both to pile on the lbs now but for next season? I could see these 2 looking something like a poor man's Smith/Kiesel. Basically they have numbers here but no proven quality. This could make Tyson Jackson a dark horse for the #9 pick. Or Jarron Gilbert a good bet for their second rounder if he's still there.

Linebackers Major Need

A.J. Hawk and Nick Barnett are talented enough they'll be able to easily switch between schemes so I don't see any problems on the inside for the Packers. It should, in fact, be something of a strength. On the outside, Aaron Kampmann, one of the best DEs in the league will be asked to play Outside Linebacker. He's slated to start at LOLB, the same position as Lamar Woodley. This could work out pretty well as he shares a lot in common with Woodley. Woodley's not asked to drop into coverage very often and is generally just a pass rusher so Kampmann's duties might not change as much as you think. I still don't think he'll be as good at OLB as he was at 4-3DE but hey. The slated starter on the other side is Brady Poppinga. Kampmann might look like Woodley but Poppinga is no James Harrison. Not even close. 3 Career sacks over years isn't going to win you many friends at OLB in the 3-4. Of the guys currently on the roster I see Jeremy Thompson as the man most likely to get some sacks from the OLB position but he's more physically suited to backing up Kampmann's side. There is a clear major need for a pass rushing OLB type to play in the 3-4 here. Chucking out some possible second round names, Clint Sintim has 3-4 experience, Connor Barwin is raw but talented, Larry English could fall to round 2, he's a productive pass rusher probably quite well suited to that Harrison role. In round 1 don't rule out Everette Brown either.

Cornerback Minor Need

The Packers return one of the better CB combos in the league in Al Harris and Charles Woodson. The downside is both are well into their 30s now. Will Blackmon and Tramon Williams both mad some plays in relief last season so the depth is good but with the age of Harris and Woodson and the length of time CBs typically take to develop, this is a definite need position, if not an immediate one.

Safety   No Need

One of the Pack's precious few free agent signings has been Anthony Smith, a former Steeler. He's a player with a ton of talent who hits like a truck but the mental side of his game has been severely lacking to this point and the Steelers did not make him an RFA tender. If he can get over the mental side he could be a real find. As things stand Nick Collins made the Pro Bowl but is up for free agency next year and demanding an extension. With Atari Bigby, the starting SS, also up for free agency next year this could get messy quick. Aaron Rouse provides some good depth to Collins though and they'll hope Smith can develop finally, possibly playing SS behind Bigby giving them some insurance headed to free agency next year. If Collins can be extended this looks like a position of strength, if not it may need to be addressed in the draft next year. For this year though? Maybe picks would be better spent higher up the field.

Specialists Major Need

The punting situation in Green Bay can best be described as yucky. At one point last year Mike McCarthy was asking for his punter to "just punt in the right direction". Mason Crosby hasn't been great but I doubt they're going to give up on him yet. His career percentage is under 80% but he has put up a lot of points in his first 2 years and he did improve from distance last year, he just had fewer kicks. With a couple of extra picks in this draft and the possibility of gaining more from trading down, I wouldn't at all be surprised to see the Packers add a punter from round 5 onwards.

Return Game
No Need

Will Blackmon was exceptional on punt returns last year, taking 2 back to the house. He is probably not the answer to their kick return duties though. I can see them giving him the duties again this year anyway, he is after all a TD threat.

Dream Day One

1.9 Everette Brown OLB Florida St
2.41 Jarron Gilbert DE San Jose St

Player Visits
Rhyan Anderson DT New Mexico St
Jason Williams OLB Western Illinois

Pierre Walters LB Eastern Illinois
Jason Chery WR Louisiana-Lafayette

Greg Paulus QB Duke

Last Edited: 04/21/2009

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