Here we go, Pack, go again: The A.V. Club’s 2013 Packers season preview
Technically, the 2012 Green Bay Packers season can be chalked up as a success. Even after having a win stolen away—or, at best, simultaneously possessed—in Seattle, the Pack cruised to an 11-5 record and NFC North division title en route to its fourth playoff appearance in as many years. After beating the Vikings handily in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, Green Bay’s accomplished season was cut short in San Francisco when the 49ers racked up 45 points and amassed an embarrassing 579 yards (323 rushing!) on the Packers defense.
This Packers season begins in the same site as the tragic events of January 12. Though the opponent is the same, much of each team’s roster and circumstances are different. Recently roused from our preseason nap, The A.V. Club previews the third Packers/Niners matchup in the last 365 days, and Green Bay’s season to come.
What’s the rush?
Last season, Aaron Rodgers nearly matched most of the numbers from his 2011 MVP campaign despite Green Bay having no 1,000-yard receiver. However, most of his inflated numbers were the result of an absence of rushing options. Green Bay was 25th in the league in rushing touchdowns (9), 20th in rushing yards per game (106.4) and 22nd in yards per carry (3.9). Most telling, the Packers ranked 20th in team rushing, with a sparse 1,702 yards on the season. More than half that paltry output (996 yards) came from players who won’t be wearing green and gold this season: the four-headed shitwolf of leading rusher Alex Green (464, lol), Cedric Benson (248), the injured Dujuan Harris (157), and the ghost of Ryan Grant (127).
Seeking to address the issue, Ted Thompson nabbed Crimson Tide running back Eddie Lacy in the second round and traded up to get UCLA rusher Jonathan Franklin in the fourth round of this year’s NFL Draft. Lacy appears to be the go-to back, despite having just 36 yards on 18 carries in three preseason games. Franklin managed a mere 47 yards in four contests. Fortunately, James Starks is healthy (for now) and John Kuuuuuuuuuuhn is still around to bumble around in negative one-yard increments. Unless Lacy shapes up or Starks relocates his late 2010 form, you should expect a double-dose of Rodgers this season.
The 2012 Packers scored 97 more points than their opponents. However, that 433-336 disparity was mostly a testament to Green Bay’s high-powered offense (which hung 55 points on Tennessee Titans in one game) rather than a suggestion of any defensive prowess. In most categories the Pack sat between 11th and 22nd in most major categories, including rushing yards allowed, yards allowed per game, points allowed, and passing touchdowns allowed. However, the team’s 47 sacks were good for fourth in all of football.
Besides parting ways with Charles Woodson (who missed the final nine games due to injury), the biggest losses incurred on the defense were Erik Walden, Frank Zombo, and Dezman Moses—none of whom are exactly game-changers—and Desmond Bishop (who didn’t play in 2012). Conversely, the so-so defensive unit is uncharacteristically healthy coming into this season. Moreover, it’s been upgraded after drafting beastly defensive end Datone Jones in the first round and welcoming back purple drank kingpin Johnny Jolly back after serving time in prison.
Listed as questionable
Outside of concerns about the run game and putting the fate of the defense in the hands of a skilled-but-young secondary, Green Bay comes into the season with a few question marks. How will rookie tackle David Bakhtiari manage in place of the injured Bryan Bulaga? Will the rest of the O-line keep Rodgers off his ass for once? Do Jordy Nelson, James Jones, and Randall Cobb believe in themselves enough to account for the loss of talkative turncoat deodorant salesman Greg Jennings and mascot Donald Driver? Has Mason Crosby exorcised his uprights-evading demons? Will Jermichael Finley stop doing that fish-fin thing already?
After a long offseason, Packers fans will begin to get answers to those uncertainties Sunday afternoon in what looks to be Green Bay’s toughest test of the season. Hopefully, in the eight months since the last game in San Francisco, Mike McCarthy has a remedy to contain the Niners’ unconventional rushing attack and tremendous defense. If not, Green Bay will feel the familiar sting of a 0-1 start to the season, and an uphill battle thereafter.