Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Green Bay Packers season wrap-up
By Rob Demovsky
Arrow indicates direction team is trending.
Final Power Ranking: 13
Preseason Power Ranking: 5
Biggest surprise: How many people would have believed the Packers could win the NFC North without the services of Aaron Rodgers for seven-plus games? Maybe it was an indictment on the rest of the division but the fact that the Packers used four different starting quarterbacks this season and went 2-5-1 after Rodgers broke his collarbone on Nov. 4, and they still won the division by beating the Chicago Bears in Week 17, when Rodgers returned, could not have been expected. The saga of when Rodgers would return from his injury dominated the second half of the season.
Biggest disappointment: When general manager Ted Thompson drafted Datone Jones with the 26th overall pick in April, he thought he was getting a defensive lineman who could play on all three downs and would be equally effective against the run and rushing the quarterback. In training camp, Jones looked the part. He stood out in practices, but when it came time to produce, he couldn't deliver. By the end of the season, Jones' playing time was reduced to almost nothing. Fifth-round pick Josh Boyd was playing more snaps than Jones late in the year. Jones finished with 3.5 sacks but two came in one game.
Biggest need: The Packers have many, and they're most on the defensive side of the ball. Their entire starting defensive line -- B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett and Johnny Jolly -- will be unrestricted free agents. Other than A.J. Hawk, they are weak at inside linebacker. And their safety play was atrocious at times. They don't just need contributors; they need playmakers on that side of the ball. Other than outside linebacker Clay Matthews and perhaps cornerbacks Sam Shields and Tramon Williams, they didn't have many big-play players on defense. Their needs are so great that Thompson, the free-agent averse GM, might not be able to rely solely on the draft to fill them all.
Team MVP: Rodgers is clearly the Packers' most important player, but this honor should go to someone who played the majority of the season. In that case, it has to be running back Eddie Lacy. It has to be rare for a rookie to be a team's MVP, but then again the second-round draft pick from Alabama proved to be a rare talent. Despite missing nearly two full games because of a concussion and half of another game because a sprained ankle, Lacy finished eighth in the league in rushing with 1,178 yards (a Packers' rookie record) and had the second-most rushing touchdowns with 11.