Here are my final thoughts following the Green Bay Packers’ 31-35 loss to the Carolina Panthers today.
What a way to waste a great second half effort by the Packers offense. I have a feeling the Packers will finish this season with a losing record and there will be a group of fans who will still try to place the blame on the team going with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback. For those fans, I would like to point out that, over the last four games; which have resulted in just one win, the Packers have scored an average of 31 points. When you score like that and still lose, it means you have issues on defense.
And the defense really does have issues. For most of the season, the Packers couldn’t stop the run. Now they still struggle against the run and can’t stop the pass either. That doesn’t bode well for the remaining four games of the season.
Feeding off that last point, I would like to do something I rarely do; criticize general manager Ted Thompson. I understand and support his philosophy of building through the draft with younger players. However, the Packers currently have an open roster spot because of the season-ending injury to Nick Barnett. If the team knew they were banged up at safety why didn’t he bring in a veteran on Tuesday or Wednesday to add depth?
This isn’t a knock on Charles Woodson, who did pretty well at strong safety. And, Tramon Williams is a decent cornerback. But moving Woodson to safety meant sacrificing depth at cornerback. I know, on a short week, you aren’t going to bring in a guy and have him be an immediate starter. But, I still think a veteran player, like Terrance Holt for example, would have been able to pick up enough of the defense to be a contributor. In any case, not bringing in anyone, at any position, to take over the vacant roster spot really makes no sense to me considering the team had 19 players on the injury report this week.
I also think the injuries mentioned before are having an impact on special teams; which is likely the cause of those big kick returns today. Again, this is something that could have been helped with a free agent signing or, at very least, activating someone from the practice squad for a game or two.
Speaking of special teams. Remember years ago, when punter Craig Hentrich wanted all that money and the Packers decided to let him walk? I do. And I still think it was one of the biggest mistakes ever made under the Ron Wolf regime. With the exception of Josh Bidwell, a player they also failed to hold on to, the Packers have struggled to find a consistent punter. And, I think Derrick Frost will soon be added to a growing list of ex-punters since 1997.
The Packers defense still seems to have issues getting to the quarterback. Next season, I think the team needs to do one of two things; trade up in the first round to get a premier pass rusher to play opposite Aaron Kampman or bring in a big nose tackle and consider going to a 3-4 defense and attack the QB with its linebackers.
A lot of fans have been waiting for Ryan Grant to show the same game breaking running ability he showed at the end of last season. I, on the other hand, think the Packers need to be giving the ball to Brandon Jackson more. Jackson had 80 yards on 11 carries tonight while Grant only managed 39 yards on 12 carries and, he’s averaged nearly 5 yards per rushing attempt this season. I also think he’s a better receiver out of the backfield. I’m not saying make him the starter just yet, but I do think he needs to be touching the ball more than the 5 times per game he’s been averaging.
For the record, I disagree with the announcers when it comes to Rodgers’ game-ending interception. I don’t think it was a bad decision; Driver had four guys around him but had space. I think Rodgers rushed the throw, didn’t get everything he could behind it, and it ended up being too short.