After a disappointing loss in the divisional round of the playoffs, the Green Bay Packers have a lot of questions heading into this offseason. Last season, Green Bay focused on the just the defense and there were improvements made. However, the defense isn’t quite there yet with their pass rush and they don’t have the ability to stop the run. On offense, the Packers took a step down from 2011 and weren’t as explosive. The offensive line allowed quarterback Aaron Rodgers to get sacked over 50 times and the running game was still obsolete.
Last season, the Packers drafted linebacker Nick Perry with their first pick, but Perry was hurt halfway through the season and was placed on injured reserved. This really hurt the team’s defense as linebacker Eric Walden was placed back in the starting lineup and just like in 2011 he did not do a good job. Walden especially underperformed during last weekend’s loss to the San Francisco 49ers where he failed to cover the back side on multiple occasions allowing quarterback Colin Capernick to run for huge gains.
However, the outside linebacker position seems to be set for the Packers. Where the team struggles the most is in the interior of the defense. There is not enough speed and strength at the defensive tackle, inside linebacker and safety positions. All of these positions are areas of needs for the Packers and this is just on the defensive side of the ball.
On offense the Packers may be in a little more trouble than people realize. Wide receiver Greg Jennings is all but gone as a free agent this summer. Jennings’ comments in the past few weeks makes it seem like he is ready to move on from Green Bay and continue his career somewhere else. Wide receiver is the position where the Packers have the most depth, so the damage might not be too much with Jennings gone, but they will lose some of that depth.
The main concern Green Bay has on offense has to be their offensive line. Rodgers was sacked more than any other quarterback last season, which is putting the franchise quarterback in too much danger. Part of the reason for the sacks is that Rodgers holds onto the ball too long and tries everything he can to make a play instead of throwing the ball away, but most of the sacks were at the fault of the offensive line. The line would just collapse up the middle in Rodgers’ face and there would also be constant pressure coming off the edge. Marshall Newhouse had his first full season as left tackle and he struggled early in the season, but started to improve as the season progressed. The Packers might be willing to let Newhouse grow as a left tackle and give him more opportunities, but don’t be surprised to see a tackle taken in the draft.
So who should the Packers take in the first round?
Johnathan Hankins from Ohio State would be the perfect first-round pick for the Packers. Hankins played defensive tackle in college and is someone who can play defensive end in the Packers 3-4 scheme or play some nose tackle in 4-3 formations alongside B.J. Raji. Hankins is not a particularly good pass rusher, but he is very efficient at stopping the run. Now, Green Bay did draft defensive tackle Jerel Worthy in the second-round last season and Worthy did a decent job until he got hurt late in the season. However, the Packers still need depth with their interior and Hankins is a player who can transition well from tackle to defensive end. He has a quick first step and is very athletic for the position he plays.
Other possibilities would be offensive tackle Justin Pugh or safety Eric Reid. One thing for sure this offseason is that the Packers have more than one glaring need like last season so their first-round pick isn’t as cut and dry as it was last season.
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