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Tuesday, September 06, 2005

What we'll see in 2005, What we'll like and what we won't

by Mark Quarderer
PackerChatters Staff

One of the most active offseasons in Packer history has officially ended and we now begin preparing for the opener Sunday against the Detroit Lions, followed by four more games against 2004 also-rans.

Based on the changes we've made to this team, and what I've seen in the preseason, I'm going to make a few predictions about what we'll see from our team this year. I hesitate to make predictions, because people never remember when you are right but the never forget when you are wrong, but nonetheless I don't think I'm going out on much of a limb in these predictions:

Defensively, we'll be substantially improved from last year, especially in the area of surrendering long plays. That's the good news...here's the not so good news: This "bend-but-don't-break" philosophy is going to enable teams to drive the ball on us, eat the clock, and keep our offense off the field. We're not going to stop the run real well this year when Grady isn't in the lineup. And although we'll probably improve on last year's takeaway numbers, we still aren't going to be among the league leaders there, either. And our much-maligned pass rush (unfairly, IMO) is going to continue to take heat for not being in the QBs face on every pass.

We held 10 opponents to 20 or less last year....I don't think we'll see a big improvement in that. I also don't think that three teams will go over 40 on us.

On Special Teams I think we'll continue to be above average but not outstanding. Longwell is one of the best in the league at his position and Sander has shown that he could be a big help to us this year, but our return guys are nothing special and our coverage units have looked kind of ragged in the exhibition season. You don't expect special teams to win a lot of games for you but you hope they don't lose any for you either. We didn't allow one single return of a punt or a kick for a TD last year but I don't know if we'll equal that this year.

Offensively, we could be in for an unpleasant time this year. I have noted on several occasions the difficulty we've had in the past with above average defenses and our schedule this year has a number of them. Additionally, I think it's safe to say that without Wahle and Rivera we probably aren't going to enjoy the kind of running game we've had the past couple of years.

So you add a diminished running game to the fact that we're probably going to be losing the Time of Possession battle most games and I think the table is set for us to be forced into passing the ball more than is good for us. Last year, behind a better line and with a better running attack than he has this year, Favre was the 10th rated QB in the league; it could easily be worse this year.

Additionally, you have to be concerned about the combination of breakdowns in pass protection and the oldest starting QB in the league resulting in an injured QB. Favre has demonstrated unparalleled durability but he's also been the benficiary of pretty good protection most of his career, especially the last couple of years. I can very easily see a scenario where the streak stops this year.

In summary, our offense isn't going to score 400+ points this year and will have their share of games where they struggle to reach 20. We'll probably have a negative turnover differential for the season and we'll probably lose the time of possession battle in quite a few games.

But here's the good news: We probably aren't going to give up 380 points again this year, either. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to see our scoring defense average under 20 ppg. We've got some beatable teams on our schedule and we need to take care of business there.

If I were to look for keys to our season, I'd list these three:

We've simply got to play better at home than we did last year. We can't lose games at home to non-playoff teams like the Bears, Jags, Giants and Titans.

When the opposing offense puts themselves in a bad position with a penalty and they're 1st and 20 or 2nd and 15, we've got to stop the drive. We simply cannot afford to let teams off the hook so that they can burn another 3 or 4 minutes of clock.

We need to avoid panicking when we fall behind and not dig ourselves a deeper hole. Look, we're going to get scored on early in some games and we're going to lose some games, but you can't just compound the problem by getting away from what you do well. This offense should be able to put 20+ points on the board against most of our opponents and that should be enough to give us a chance.......if we don't beat ourselves in the process.

I think patience is going to be a big key this year for the fans, the coaches, and the players.

Anyhow.....that's the view from the beach....
I agree with most of what you say. Now, I don't think the pass protection will be that bad for the entire season. The two new guards will get more use to playing with the returnees as the season progresses. That's the key to an offensive line, its a unit and takes time to gel.
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