It's too early for '09 season previews, and too late for '08 season reviews. What's an NFL blog to do in the never-ending quest to overcover the bejeezus out of the NFL? Offseason progress reports. Let's go in alphabetical order. Today, the Green Bay Packers.
Lost via trade: LS J.J. Jansen
Drafted: DT B.J. Raji(notes), OLB Clay Matthews(notes), OT T.J. Lang(notes), FB Quinn Johnson(notes), OT Jamon Meredith(notes), DE Jarius Wynn(notes), CB Brandon Underwood(notes), OLB Brad Jones(notes)
The biggest changes you're going to see from the Packers in 2009 will be on defense. Mainly, they plan to have one in '09.
As you can see from the paucity of players listed above, the Pack didn't make a ton changes in terms of player personnel. There was significant turnover in the coaching personnel, though, as Dom Capers will take over as defensive coordinator, and he's bringing his big, bad quarterback-killing 3-4 defense with him. A lot of guys will have to make adjustments from the previous 4-3 scheme, but the previous 4-3 scheme provided all the resistance of wet tissue paper, so why not?
If it's even an average defense this year, the Packers should do considerably better than the 6-10 record they posted last year. The offense certainly pulled their weight, averaging 26.2 points per game, and Aaron Rodgers(notes) and Greg Jennings(notes) should only get better with another year of experience. The rushing game could stand to catch up a bit with the passing game, but it's not so bad that I'd call it a weakness.
And if you had to pick one side of the ball to fix, a defense is easier to retool than an offense. So Green Bay's got that going for them.
The progress everyone else in the division made, though, puts more pressure on them to do just that. Think about the offenses they faced twice each last year: Chicago, Detroit, and Minnesota. Not exactly an explosive bunch, is it? But they all figure to be at least marginally better this year, and they could be looking at three new quarterbacks there, so the Dom Capers hire has to work. It has to.
The Packers gave up 4.6 yards per carry on the ground last year. Only six teams were worse, including the Lions, Broncos, Chiefs, Rams and Raiders. That's not a list you want to be on. And when you give up 4.6 yards per carry, it makes your stats against the pass impossible to judge, because no one's going to throw against you when they can just pound the ball down your throat.
Progress: The progress will have to come from Capers and new draft picks B.J. Raji and Clay Matthews. I don't have any major concern about the ability of Aaron Rodgers to guide the offense, but you don't want him in a position where he has to get in a shootout every week. It's all up to Capers and how he deals with the hand he's been dealt.
Plus 2 wins. 6-10 last year, 8-8 this year.