As Super Bowl XLVII draws closer and closer, so does the time of the year when NFL teams begin to search for answers on how to patch up their roster for the next season. Some teams do it move through free agency while others, like the Packers, tend to go to the draft for roster building. Either way, every team is heading to the drawing board, or the war room and are looking for ways to improve their roster.
Over the past two days, Tex and Devin have made some pretty solid cases on what actually is the Packers' biggest re-up this offseason. Monday, Devin argued that the D-Line was the position most needing of an upgrade. Tex took a stance on how the Packers should improve at linebacker. While those two positions could use some upgrading, I believe that the Packers' best move is bring in some guys at to bolster that offensive line.
Since Aaron Rodgers took over as starting quarterback in 2008, the Packers have had a bit of an issue with protection. One of the most deflating things that can happen in any productive offensive drive is getting sacked, and there were a lot of those drive-killing sacks in Green Bay this past season. Rodgers was taken down 51 times in 2012, a new career-high, or low, depending on how you look at life.
As I mentioned before, this year, the Packers offensive line has 51 sacks credited to their name, that's only second-worst in the NFL behind Arizona's 58. In addition to that, this group has allowed 85 QB hits which was good for seventh-worst. Philadelphia led that category with 118 QB hits. I kind of hate going here but I'm going to anyway; Brett Favre, in a different era, was never sacked more than 40 times in a season (1997-98), which was surprising because Rodgers is known for his athleticism and speed. Interesting...however, that probably was due to the fact that Favre had a great O-Line and running backs throughout his Packers career.
Again, the issues at offensive line have been prevalent in Green Bay for quite some time. In the 2009-10 season, Rodgers' second year as starting quarterback, he was sacked 50 times and all I can remember was how big this issue played out in the media. The Packers then made some quick, patch-up changes with the O-Line and all was well again. In the two following season, this issue has silently snuck up on us once again and it is time to address this issue completely.
To the defensive of this group, it is not all their fault. There have been times this season where you would see Rodgers hold the ball way to long here or a running back or fullback miss a block. Either way, the sacks have accumulated. Even with all of that however, this causes primarily for change at the line of scrimmage.
Sacks, sacks and more sacks. This isn't all about sacks. Remember, for the past few years, there is this thing called a RUNNING GAME that has suffered as well. Packers fans may have forgotten what that is due to it being virtually nonexistent over the last couple of years. I would say the last really productive year rushing for the Packers was back in 2004 when they were tenth in the league rushing behind Ahman Green's 1,163 yards rushing. Clearing the way for Green that season were the likes players such as Marco Rivera, Scott Wells, Mike Wahle and Mike Flanagan. Unfortunately, following that season, those guys began to depart Green Bay.
This season saw the Packers produce another mediocre season on the ground, ranking 20th in total yards rushing. Granted, the Packers are a primarily passing team but without that sound rushing attack, the Packers will never get over the San Franciscos, or even the Atlantas of the world. The key to the Packers XLV success was the rushing game. Oftentimes, the key to having a solid ground attack is having guys that can clear the path for the ball carrier. The Packers haven't had that in a while. It is evident when looking at runs of 20 yards or more. In 2012, the Packer had eight runs of 20+ which landed them right between the mediocre Oakland (8) and Arizona (9).
The Packers have made efforts to enhance that line in recent years by drafting Brian Bulaga in 2010 and adding players like Jeff Saturday this past offseason. The problem was that this season the injuries piled up. T.J. Lang, a solid member of this group, dealt with a concussion. Saturday put up with nagging shoulder and neck injuries and would eventually not start towards the end of the year. Right Tackle Bulaga was placed on injured reserved and since then guys have been shuffling as the Packers tried to find the right fit. Saturday played his last game Sunday and the Packers will need to replace him.
I feel if the Packers wan to reach their full potential as a team, they need to shed that reputation as that one-dimensional team that only can throw the ball. As time goes on, more and more teams are learning that Aaron Rodgers: 1. Holds the ball a bit too long and 2. Doesn't necessarily have the best bodyguards in his entourage. This equals a lot of sacks and a stagnant rushing attack. Building upon the offensive linemen group they currently have can make a lot of people happy. Everything stems here. Build the O-Line should be trending in Wisconsin this offseason on Twitter or something.
The Packers need to continue to build upon this offensive line this offseason. Preferably through the draft with some higher-round picks It would be a great investment for the long-term future of this team.