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Tuesday, July 19, 2005

5 Keys to Packers Success this Year

by Lare
For PackerChatters

Here we are, roughly one week away from the start of training camp. The offseason, free agency, draft and minicamps are behind us. In the parlance of poker playing, it’s time hold em or fold em, read em and weep.

For you true Pack fans, it’s time to put your money where your mouth is by listing your top five keys to success for the Packers this year. Bates, Favre, turnovers, injuries? It’s up to you, list em in order with most important first. Never being one to avoid controversy, I’ll start off by listing mine.

1. Offensive Line- Say what you want about the defensive troubles, but this team lives and dies by its offense and its offense is successful due to the contributions of Beightol’s troops. This year, there will be at least three new players in starting positions from last year, and possibly four if Tauscher gets switched to guard to make room for Barry. The bottom line, if this unit can’t stay healthy, gel and produce, it won’t make a whole lot of difference what Brett, Ahman, Bubba, Donald, William and Javon do.

2. Fundamentals- You’d think that players that get to the pinnacle of NFL success would be proficient at the basics. Wrong! Too often over the last few years, the Packers have been plagued by inconsistent play totally devoid of any semblance of football fundamentals. Poor tackling, poor angles, missed blocks, missed gap responsibilities, dropped passes, over-pursuit, bad passes, fumbles, running before the ball is caught, dumb penalties, the list goes on-and-on. In this day and age of football parity, the gap between all teams is small. The teams that don’t beat themselves are the ones who have the best chance of making it to the Super Bowl.

3. Schemes- I know that such things as Bates’ new enthusiasm and turnovers will be near the top of many people’s lists, but to me the key to both of those is schemes. Everyone harps about interceptions and fumbles, but to me a good OC develops schemes to minimize the risk of those things happening. Sure fumbles are going to happen, and yes Brett has that gunslinger mentality, but Green is going to fumble less when playing to his strengths and Brett will throw less interceptions when throwing higher percentage passes. If you doubt how much importance schemes play in the overall success of a team, look at what Slowik’s new scheme did to the defense last year.

4. Defensive Talent- Stats don’t lie, this defense was in serious need of talent upgrades over last year. And unfortunately, it doesn’t look like they got it. For whatever reason, TT basically stood pat over the offseason. Sure, he added 3 players (Franz, Freeman & Little) to possibly replace 1 ½ (Sharper & Roman), and added Ray Thompson to possibly replace Navies, but they really needed much more improvement over that to have any chance of being a “good” defense in the NFL. In a perfect world with no salary cap constraints, the Packers need one or two DTs, one DE, two CBs , two LBs and a safety before they can ever be a top ten defense. Barring that, average is about the best Bates can hope for with this group.

5. Special Teams Play- I would have loved to put signing Sherman, Walker, Franks and Jackson to new contracts here, but special teams play just edges them out in my book. Only because they will all be taken care of in due time, but things like poor special teams play can cost them victories in the meantime. If you don’t believe that, look at where Longwell’s last second field goals got them last year. As I mentioned earlier, little things count in this age of parity, and field position is one of them. A few yards on a short kickoff or good return here, a shanked punt or poor coverage there can make a difference in close games. Remember, the Packers won or lost five games last year by 3 points. A few yards can make a difference when trying a game winning field goal in the last seconds on the game.

So there you go, that’s my top five list of things I think will affect their success this year. Would be interested in seeing yours.
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