Tuesday, August 26, 2014

2014 NFL PREVIEW - Green Bay Packers

GREEN BAY PACKERS                                       


2013 Record: 8-7-1

Key Additions: LB-DL Julius Peppers; DL Letroy Guion; RB Michael Hill.

Key Losses: WR James Jones; TE Jermichael Finley; OL Evan Dietrich-Smith; DL Johnny Jolly; S M.D. Jennings; DL Ryan Pickett; DL C.J. Wilson; OL Marshall Newhouse.

HEAD COACH: Mike McCarthy

Offense: The Packers have quarterback Aaron Rodgers (2,536 passing yards in just nine games with 17 touchdowns and only six interceptions) back healthy again and that is huge. The backup will be either Matt Flynn (1,146 yards with seven TD and four INT) or Scott Tolzien, who had 717 passing yards with one touchdown and five interceptions.
Eddie Lacy helped to solve the Packers' rushing dilemma in his rookie season, going for1,178 yards (4.1 ypc average) and scored eleven touchdowns. James Starks is a good backup, who went for 493 rushing yards (5.5 ypc) and scored three times.
The wide receiving troops will have a slight shakeup this season as James Jones left for Oakland via free agency and tight end Jermichael Finley was not re-signed in the off-season. However, Jordy Nelson, the team's leading receiver in 2013, is coming off a big time year, as he had 85 receptions for 1,314 yards and eight touchdowns.
Along with Nelson is Randall Cobb, who made 31 catches for 433 yards with four touchdowns. Jarrett Boykin (49, 681, three TD) is the third receiver. Rookies Davante Adams (Fresno State) and Jared Abbrederis (Wisconsin) are also looking to get on the field. The tight end is Andrew Quarless, who has overcome injury plagued seasons to become the starter. Quarless made 32 receptions for 312 yards and two scores a year ago. He will likely have rookie Richard Rodgers (California) as the backup.
The offensive line will have J.C. Tretter at center while Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang will play the guard positions. The tackles are David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga.

STATS - The Packers ranked third in the NFL in total offense (400 yards per game) last year. The running game was seventh overall with 133 yards per game while the passing game hummed along with 267 yards per game, which ranked sixth. Green Bay averaged 26 points per game to finish eighth in scoring last season. They turned the football over 25 times (16 INT and nine fumbles) while giving up 45 quarterback sacks.

Defense: Datone Jones and Julius Peppers (7.5 QB sacks with Chicago last season) are the likely starting defensive ends this season in the 3-4 set while either Josh Boyd or Letroy Guion will be the nose tackle following the season ending injury to B.J. Raji (torn biceps) in the pre-season. Mike Daniels (6.5 sacks) will rotate up front between end and tackle. Rookie Khyri Thornton (Southern Miss) will also get a look on the defensive front.
The Packers linebackers will be Clay Matthews (7.5 sacks) and Nick Perry (four sacks) on the outside while A.J. Hawk (five sacks) and either Brad Jones or Jamari Lattimore will be on the inside.
The secondary showed significant improvement from 2012 and will have Morgan Burnett and rookie Ha Ha Clinton-Dix at the safety positions while the corners are Tramon Williams (three interceptions) and Sam Shields, who led the team with four interceptions.
Backing up in the defensive backfield will be Casey Hayward, Davon House, Micah Hyde, Chris Banjo and Sean Richardson.

STATS - Giving up 372 yards per game ranked Green Bay 25th in total defense last year. The Packers gave up 125 yards rushing per game (25th) while the pass defense yielded 247 yards, which was 24th overall. The scoring defense also ranked 24th in the NFL, allowing just under 27 points per game. Green Bay registered 44 quarterback sacks and made eleven interceptions while recovering eleven fumbles.

OUTLOOK: With quarterback Aaron Rodgers back at full strength headed into the 2014 season, the Green Bay Packers are one of the top picks in the NFC to possibly reach the Super Bowl.
The former league MVP and Super Bowl champion QB came back in the final regular season game last year to lead the Packers into the playoffs. Head Coach Mike McCarthy will have plenty of weapons surrounding his quarterback and that makes life easier for the Packers in the rugged NFC North division.
The running game looks to be solid once again with the one-two punch of Eddie Lacy and James Starks. The receivers always play well enough (thanks to Rodgers) for the Packers to be among the top offenses in the NFL.
On defense, the Packers will have to go at it without massive B.J. Raji up front at nose tackle, but they do have two adequate backups and the "next man up" mentality in Green Bay will be put to the test once again this year. The addition of pass rush specialist Julius Peppers should help ease the burden on linebacker Clay Matthews, whose sack numbers were down last season as he had some nagging injuries.
The secondary has to get back to the ball hawking ways of a few seasons ago when the Packers led the league in the turnover category in addition to not giving up so many big plays.
All in all, the Packers seem to be in good shape heading into the 2014 season as they and Chicago seem to be the favorites to win the NFC North. A 10-6 record (or possibly better record) is likely and how far Green Bay goes in the post-season will depend on their ability to win on the road in the playoffs. 

2014 SCHEDULE:
Week 1- at Seattle
Week 2- vs. NY Jets
Week 3- at Detroit
Week 4- at Chicago
Week 5- vs. Minnesota
Week 6- at Miami
Week 7- vs. Carolina
Week 8- at New Orleans
Week 9- BYE WEEK
Week 10- vs. Chicago
Week 11- vs. Philadelphia
Week 12- at Minnesota
Week 13- vs. New England
Week 14- vs. Atlanta
Week 15- at Buffalo
Week 16- at Tampa Bay
Week 17- vs. Detroit

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