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Closing The Book On 2008

Mike McCarthy had his season ending press conference on Wednesday. It was long, but not very interesting. He hasn't made up his mind about his coaches. He said the main reason they were 0-7 in games decided by 4 points or fewer was "execution". He praised all his rookies, QB Aaron Rodgers, and a few other players. He did bring up a few interesting points:

Shorter McCarthy - Don't expect a big splash in free agency this offseason:

(Charles Woodson said after the game Sunday this team needs to add more playmakers on defense via free agency. Do you agree with that assessment?)
I think that's a convenient opinion. I talked to Charles and all the other veterans about a number of different things. There's not just one thing we need to do, and we'll look at all those things. Like I said, everybody has a right to their opinion. I think it's convenient to attack the youth of our team. I'm fine with our football team. I like our football team.

We'll have to see how RT Mark Tauscher and C Scott Wells recover from their surgeries, but expect the rest of the recently injured players to return healthy in 2009:

(Can you run down the end-of-season injury report, and any surgeries?)
Yes. We have ... Nick Barnett's doing very well with his rehab on his knee. Atari Bigby's surgery went very well, and he's back in Miami, rehabbing. Breno had the ankle sprain. He's probably three or four weeks away. Korey Hall had the knee sprain, but he should be fine in a couple weeks. Justin Harrell, they're re-doing the studies on his lower back, and we'll continue to evaluate that as we move forward. Kenny Pettway is doing very well with his rehab on his knee. Mark Tauscher will probably have surgery in probably 10 to 14 days. Scott Wells will have postseason shoulder surgery, and Chad Clifton will have a couple surgeries. That's our medical report.

If the season turned on a single play, it probably was when DE Cullen Jenkins tore his pectoral muscle while trying to sack QB Brian Griese at Tampa in week 4:

(Losing Cullen Jenkins affected the pass rush, but I don't know if that was as big a factor in the run defense ...)
Oh, I think Cullen Jenkins is clearly a major player on both sides of the spectrum. I think he is a force in the run defense. He is a defensive lineman that creates penetration, whether it is in the run game or the passing game. He is a problem on first and second down, particularly at defensive end for a tight end. He can go inside and rush on third down. You're able to create different matchup problems with him. I felt Cullen would definitely factor in both the run and the pass. Now, once again, we already talked about it, you need to overcome injuries regardless of who it is. But I mean Cullen Jenkins is one of the best football players on our team.

(So would you say that was a huge factor in where you ranked?)
We didn't overcome his injury is what I am saying.

I'm in complete agreement with McCarthy; Jenkins was irreplaceable as a pass rusher and run stopper from the defensive end spot. Looking back at 2008 vs. 2007, the biggest difference was his absence. Unfortunately they have to plan ahead as if he will not return, due to the severity of the injury. The Sports Injury Blog says "When surgery is called for the surgeon will reconnect the muscle, but in most cases the muscle will never be as strong or as flexible prior to the injury. Rehabilitation with this injury is long and painful." The player he was discussing was Arizona's DE Bertrand Berry. He tore his pectoral muscle during the 2005 season. Berry put up huge sack numbers in 2003 (11.5) and 2004 (14.5). He was playing well in 2005 too, 6 sacks in 8 games, when he tore it. He returned for the start of the 2006 season, and he's recorded 13.5 sacks in the last three seasons combined. He came back and he was still productive, but he hasn't been the same.

They'll have their choice of a lot of quality defensive end/tackle prospects with the 9th pick overall, but maybe GM Ted Thompson isn't enamored with any of them. It won't be a sin if he drafts for another position in the 1st round. But he has to find someone, somewhere in the draft, that can play the run and rush the passer from the right defensive end spot in place of Jenkins.