Sure, there’s one big thing we’d all like to have gone differently for the Packers. But outside of Anthony Barr rearranging Aaron Rodgers’ collarbone, what would we like to have seen go differently for the Packers? We asked the Acme Packing Company writers to share their opinions.
Paul Noonan - Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (Non-Rodgers division)
The obvious answer is either contracting the Viking franchise or more simply making Aaron Rodgers never get hurt, but one of those is boring, so instead I would either replace Clinton-Dix with a better player or unbreak him. The defense is a terrible mishmash of ill-fitting parts and it needs a complete overhaul in the offseason, but if Clinton-Dix is a more aggressive, more competent player this team gets off the field on 3rd down far more frequently, and that makes the defense oodles better.
Ha Ha is often unnoticed because of the other issues on defense, but he’s secretly one of the biggest problems, and as a young cost-controlled player under contract through next season, one of the hardest to deal with. Many Packer fans still think he’s good based on his picks and his pro bowls, and dealing with this issue will take a courageous, and honest front office.
Matub - Fire Capers into the Sun (with extreme prejudice)
Sometimes stats don’t tell the whole story. Sometimes they do. For example:
#Packers Defense. ☠️— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) December 18, 2017
3rd Down Completion %: 69.0% (32nd)
3rd Down Conversions: 44.8% (30th)
Scoring Efficiency: 40.3% (31st)
TD Efficiency: 23.5% (32nd)
RZ Scoring Efficiency: 100% (32nd)
RZ TD Efficiency: 69.2% (31st)
5 Minute Drives: 26 (T-32nd)
10 Play Drives: 30 (30th)
There are many talented defenders on the Packers’ defense. Regardless of the massive injuries at corner or the terrible regression of Ha Ha, there were way too many quality defenders to allow stats like that.
Dom Capers once spent an offseason working with Chris Ault (author of the Pistol offense) to learn how to stop Ault’s former pupil Colin Kaepernick. The result? Kaepernick looked like Steve Young against Capers’ “new” strategy.
I’m not sure when exactly the proper time to look at a new defensive coordinator would have been, but the end of 2016 would have been as good a time as any.
Shawn Wagner: Injuries and Secondary Depth
Even before Rodgers was injured and the Packers started 4-1, there were serious concerns about the team’s health and depth at safety and cornerback.
There are going to be injuries to every team in the NFL, but it seems the plague is witnessed every season in Green Bay and it’s difficult to make the playoffs, much less win championships, like that. Of course, there was Rodgers. But missed starts among the offensive line, edge rushers, running backs, and rookie defensive draft picks played significant roles in individual games this season.
Perhaps no area of the team is as affected as the secondary. Green Bay figured to improve its cornerback depth with the additions of Kevin King and Davon House, but both starters have missed extensive time this season with injuries. After playing in 16 games both seasons in Jacksonville, House was notably hit with the injury bug once again while in Green Bay. It’s almost a curse. Without House and King, the Packers have been exposed for their lack of depth at cornerback behind Damarious Randall. Josh Hawkins has struggled in his sophomore campaign, while Green Bay has shied away from giving reps to undrafted rookies Donatello Brown and Lenzy Pipkins. Early season injuries to Quinten Rollins and the developmental Herb Waters didn’t help the situation, but it’s apparent that talent and veteran experience is needed in this unit and should’ve been addressed heading into the regular season.
Likewise at safety, the versatile Morgan Burnett has been limited to 10 games and up-and-coming Kentrell Brice was sidelined after just six. Brice’s loss was felt immensely after developing into a reliable third safety that packed a punch. The safety unit made up of Jermaine Whitehead and Marwin Evans just wasn’t the same without him, especially in what was a step back year from Clinton-Dix.
Jon Meerdink - Everything Surrounding Martellus Bennett
I bought the hype when Martellus Bennett signed with the Packers. Maybe it was just the utter surprise of the Packers making a splash in free agency, but I was all-in on Bennett from the word go.
A defensive-back stomping, physical presence at tight end? I’ll have some of that. A loquacious, cheesehead-wearing locker room presence? Sign me up. A guy who sleeps in the locker room before the start of training camp in a transparent “look at how wacky I am!” stunt? A little weird, but you do you, Marty B. I was glad to have him aboard and was happy to chortle at Jared Cook and his agent for overplaying their hand in Green Bay.
How foolish. Bennett ended up making more waves on social media than on the field. When Rodgers went down and the Packers’ entered full-on gut check time, Bennett’s Captain of Fun persona disappeared under an avalanche of salty Instagram posts, and I just felt silly for ever thinking he’d be anything other than that in the first place.
Evan “Tex” Western -- Beat the Ravens at Lambeau
I was tempted to do something hot-takey, like signing Colin Kaepernick to back up Brett Hundley or going with the oft-mentioned “draft T.J. Watt instead of trading back for Kevin King” argument. But alas, we probably would not have seen Kaepernick play anyway, and I still can’t get on board with changing the draft strategy after a bit less than a full season. (Plus, I think a healthy King will be a very good to excellent corner in a year or two anyway.)
The Packers even did something in the offseason that I had been calling for for years: signing a few low-risk veteran free agents to complement the roster. Jahri Evans was a great signing, and the group of Ahmad Brooks, Quinton Dial, and Lance Kendricks have all proved to be useful additions.
Instead, I’m going off-script here and focusing on something personal: the Ravens game. My younger brother and I attended that game, which was his first regular-season contest at Lambeau Field. We had a great weekend, watching Wisconsin beat Michigan the day before at Camp Randall and having a wonderful time tailgating and making new friends in the Lambeau parking lots.
Then the game started.
Brett Hundley’s pick in the end zone on the first drive set the tone for the entire game, and the offense never crossed the Ravens’ 40 after that. The defense let Joe Flacco look competent and generally stunk up the joint. The Packers were shut out at home for the first time in forever. And my brother and I had magnificent seats...for that abomination.
Long-term, a Packers win would mean that they would still be alive in the playoff hunt at 8-6 and Aaron Rodgers would probably be playing again on Saturday. But selfishly, I wish that my brother and I could have seen a win on that pleasantly cold November afternoon.