The Pack made the playoffs for the 18th time in the past 23 seasons, tying both the Giants and Cowboys for having the most post-season appearances in playoff history. Since 2008, only the New England Patriots have more wins than the Packers. Spoiled, you say? Most fans would probably agree. However, with all this winning, 4 total Super Bowl wins just do not do this team justice – considering their playoff run, and with the best QB in the league (Sorry Cam!) you would think they could win more than 1 SB in that stretch. Thus, the two heartbreaking losses in the past two NFL seasons have really been a letdown for a team that won the Super Bowl just 4 seasons ago. At this point, reaching the Super Bowl is the only way the Cheeseheads can consider their season a success.
Which brings us to the offseason. The draft will come quickly, just months after the final seconds of the SB tick away, and a new champion is crowned. In the NFC, the Pack are going to have to step up their game to keep pace with not only the 2 powerhouse teams (Panthers, Cardinals), but they are also going to need all the help they can get just to win against their division rivals, the Vikings, who are poised to have a breakout season.
There really is only one way that they punch their ticket to the Super Bowl, and that is to build the best pass defense ever created. We all know the old adage, and keep in mind that both SB teams this year feature massively powerful defensive capabilities.
Green Bay already has the offensive tools in place to win. They have Aaron Rodgers, a walking legend in the world of football. Even if you have every reason to hate the Pack (Lions fans!) – you have to admit he is the best at his position. With Rodgers in the game, they always have a chance to win. He just makes everyone (offensively) around him better, just ask Jared Abbrederis, Jeff Janis, and the rest of the 2016 team. Short of discount double checking 50 pounds off of Eddie Lacy, the guy can do anything. Jordy Nelson will also be back next year, and their offensive line is in, well, pretty decent shape.
To move on to the next level, they have to stop these (seemingly) unstoppable offenses that dominate week in and week out. Carolina this year is the total package – and if the Pack want to be at that level, they have to find a way to beat them.
The Packers ranked 21st in the league in run defense. To start, they need some guys who can stuff the front line, as well as generate containment around the line. The Pack are currently slated to pick 27th overall, and have to really maximize this pick, being so late in the first round. Four of the analysts on NFL.com have selected Jarran Reed (DT, Alabama), Andrew Billings (NT, Baylor), Kenny Clark (NT, UCLA), or Kevin Dodd (DE, Clemson). If they are fortunate, and Jarran Reed were to be available, it would be a solid pick from a college championship team. Billings, Clark, and Dodd could also make a bit impact – all 4 could potentially fill a big need.
The second round of the NFL draft is much trickier when it comes to the draft. Several second round projected players on the defensive side have character issues/arrests/suspensions. A few others have glaring weaknesses, such as missed seasons due to injuries or low-end production in college. Their 2nd pick might be better spent on a cornerback or offensive tackle (they can try to get more defensive line talent from free agency). Their best bet would be Joshua Garnett (OG, Stanford) who could help them beef up their protection and open up the passing attack even more (they were ranked 26th in passing yards in 2016).
Obviously, the Pack still have a solid team foundation and will continue to contend for the playoffs for the upcoming seasons (short of any devastating injury). Still, this draft certainly does not appear likely to be dynamic for the Pack and they should still look to pick up a good free agent or two. If they could steal Josh Norman away from the Panthers, for example, or grab Muhammad Wilkerson from the Jets, they could add a high impact player who can make an immediate difference. With at least one free-agent pick up, and a first round defensive rookie, they could potentially advance deeper in the playoffs next year.
Whatever the case, the Packers should not be content with only one Super Bowl in the Aaron Rodgers era. They simply have too much talent to only get one ring. In order to avoid the ‘what might have been’ type of commentary that accompanies over-talented players without championships, the Green Bay staff must come up with a solid game plan this offseason to take Green Bay back to Title-town.