Almost exactly one year ago, the Green Bay Packers played host to the Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles in back-to-back weeks. Green Bay lost both games, and in fact lost their starting quarterback after just one drive in each, as Aaron Rodgers suffered a broken clavicle against the Bears and backup Seneca Wallace went down against Philly.
This year, the Packers again play Chicago and Philadelphia in back-to-back weeks at Lambeau Field. The first half of this stretch started much better in 2014 than it did the previous year, as Aaron Rodgers threw six touchdowns in the first 30 minutes of play against the Bears. Hopefully the reversal of fortune will continue with a win over Philly this week.
With this year's schedule paralleling last season's, we at Acme Packing Company and Bleeding Green Nation thought we should prepare for the Eagles game much the same way we did last year. Thus, this will be the first of three cross-blog previews that you'll see over the next few days that may remind you of similar posts a year ago.
Today's question is this: which one player from the other team would we want and why?
The Eagles' roster is littered with playmakers on offense, but then again, the Packers aren't exactly struggling for talent. Would you add a receiver like Jeremy Maclin or a running back like LeSean McCoy to this offense instead of choosing to upgrade the Packers' defense? I wouldn't.
That of course brings us to the defensive side of the ball. Last year when we went through this exercise, we identified defensive end Fletcher Cox as the ideal 3-4 defensive end to bolster the Packers' run defense. This year, with Cox playing at a high level once again, he is a valid and valuable option for a team that has run into its share of injuries on the line. Though Cox primarily plays the right end position manned by Mike Daniels in Green Bay, he could likely move to left end with little trouble and man two gaps while the Packers' linebackers flow around him.
However, with the extensive use of sub packages in Green Bay and the emergence of Clay Matthews as a weapon at inside linebacker, another intriguing option arises. What if the Packers added yet another talented pass-rushing outside linebacker? What if this player was stout against the run and could put his hand on the ground and rush from on the line in obvious passing situations? That would allow Matthews to become a full-time inside linebacker on early downs while still allowing him to rush from the edge on third down - potentially putting Clay to his best use on this defense while still getting high-level production on the outside on each play.
The perfect player for that role is sitting on the Eagles' roster, and Trent Cole is his name.
Cole is, in essence, the ideal version of Nick Perry or Mike Neal. He is a large body as an outside linebacker at 6'3", 270. He is an above-average run defender (+2.2 this year from Pro Football Focus and +8.5 in 2013). He has hit the quarterback 15 times this year, including five sacks, and has recorded another 19 hurries, ranking fifth in PFF's pass-rushing productivity stat.
After what we saw against the Bears on Sunday, it's entirely possible that the best inside linebacker for either of these teams in fact plays outside linebacker in Green Bay. The best way to upgrade the run defense for the Packers very well might be to add a Pro Bowl-caliber outside linebacker and allow Matthews to make a more substantial, long-term shift inside.
Trent Cole is my pick.