Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 3/20/12
Season Summary The Green Bay Packers had one of the better regular seasons in recent memory, finishing with a league-best 15-1 record. Coming off of a Super Bowl XLV victory in 2010, the Packers looked poised to make another Super Bowl run in 2011. Flaws in the team’s defense, however, exposed Green Bay’s Achilles’ heel. The Packers had the NFL’s third-best offense in terms of total yardage (6,482 yards) last season, but also had the league’s worst defense in this category and allowed 6,585 yards to opponents. The Green Bay defense relied heavily on creating turnovers and led the NFL with 38 (31 of those being interceptions). The Packers’ dominant offense and weak, but opportunistic, defense was able to carry the team to a 13-0 start on the season. A slew of drops by Packers' receivers and defensive issues dashed the team’s hopes of a perfect season, however, as they lost to the Kansas City Chiefs 19-14 in Week 15. It was the only game last season that the team failed to produce a single turnover. After receiving a first-round bye in the NFL Playoffs the Packers went on to lose to the eventual Super Bowl Champs in the New York Giants 37-20 in the divisional round, putting a disappointing end on a promising season. The one bright spot of postseason came in the form of NFL MVP honors, awarded to quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
  2011 Record 15-1. Finished first in the NFC North Division. Lost to the New York Giants 37-20 in the divisional round of the playoffs after first-round bye.
  Positions of Need OLB or Pass-Rushing DE: An anemic pass rush was the source of most of the Packers’ troubles on defense. The team tied for 27th in the NFL in sacks, finishing with just 29 on the year. Their inability to pressure the quarterback allowed opponents to pick apart a normally solid secondary for 299.8 yards per game, the most in NFL history. Though he made his third-straight Pro Bowl, outside linebacker Clay Matthews was held to just six sacks after notching 13.5 and 10 in his prior two seasons. This was due to a lack of pass-rushing help from the opposite side and the defensive line. Erik Walden, Brad Jones and Frank Zombo have all had flashes of talent, but they are backups at best. Meanwhile, the loss of defensive end Cullen Jenkins in the offseason left the Packers without a true penetrator on the defensive line. The oft-injured Mike Neal has yet to pan out and Jarius Wynn hasn’t been able to consistently apply pressure. Ryan Pickett is a great run defender, but will never be an asset in the passing game.
 
Center: The Packers failed to re-sign Scott Wells, who went on to sign with the St. Louis Rams instead. Wells earned his first Pro Bowl invite in his eight-year career last season with Green Bay and was a crucial leader on the team’s offensive line. He started 100 games in his time as a Packer and leaves a large void to fill. They reportedly contacted Houston Texans' free agent Chris Myers, who grades out every bit as good as Wells, but nothing came of it and Myers ultimately re-signed with the Texans. The Packers have now reached out to five-time Pro Bowler and 13-year vet Jeff Saturday from the Indianapolis Colts. Though 37 years old, Saturday was a Pro Bowler in 2010 and can still play at a high level. He would be a great short-term option and his signing would allow the Packers to focus their draft on solely bolstering its defense. The likely in-house replacements are reportedly guard T.J. Lang and guard/center Evan Dietrich-Smith, neither of which are ideal options.
 
Safety: As stated above, the Packers’ lack of a legitimate pass rush put a lot of strain on the team’s secondary. While the gaudy passing numbers allowed by the Packers' defense might imply coverage issues, the team also led the NFL in interceptions with 31. The Packers are pretty set with future Hall of Famer Charles Woodson, 2010 Pro Bowler Tramon Williams and the speedy Sam Shields at cornerback right now. However, safety is another story. The Packers lost three-time Pro Bowler Nick Collins for the season after suffering a herniated disc in his neck in week two. It is still unclear whether Collins, who also served as the leader of the team’s secondary, will be able to play football again.

Second-year player Morgan Burnett played well (three interceptions), but struggled at times without Collins’ guidance. Charlie Peprah made some great plays and intercepted five passes (returning one for a touchdown). However, he is not the asset in coverage his stats may lead people to believe. Peprah failed many times in this area and doesn’t have the range required in the NFL. What the Packers decide to do at this position depends heavily on the status of Collins. They may be able to get by with Burnett and Peprah with an improved pass rush, but if the Packers fail to dial up the pressure consistently again you can expect more outrageous numbers to be put up by opponents.
  First Round Targets DT/DE Fletcher Cox – JR – MississippiState(6-4, 298): Cox is an impressive athlete for his size and has all the makings of a solid penetrating force at the next level. He turned in an outstanding 4.79 40-yard dash time and 30 reps in the bench press at the Combine. As a defensive tackle for the Bulldogs, Cox racked up 23.5 tackles for loss (14.5 in 2011) and 7.5 sacks (five in 2011) in three seasons. He has a ton of upside, possessing the size, strength, athleticism and motor to excel as a 3-4 defensive end. He may just be the guy to fill the hole left by Cullen Jenkins for the Packers.
 
DE/OLB Whitney Mercilus – JR – Illinois(6-4, 261): Mercilus was an unstoppable force for the Fighting Illini last season. He led the nation in sacks (16), fumbles forced (9) and ranked second in tackles for loss (22.5). He is a great athlete who ran a 4.68 40-yard dash at the Combine and consistently exhibited a relentless motor in his junior season. A college defensive end, Mercilus has the perfect combination of size, speed and tenacity to contribute as a pass-rushing outside linebacker in the Packers’ 3-4 defense. As just a one-year starter Mercilus is still very raw, however, and will need to add to his pass rush repertoire in the NFL.
 
C Peter Konz – JR – Wisconsin(6-5, 314): If the Packers fail to find an answer at center in free agency, they may choose to use their first-round pick on Konz. He is easily the top player at his position in this year’s draft class and could also play guard at the next level. He has outstanding size and an excellent base. His disappointing 18 bench press reps at the Combine may scare some teams, but his on-field performance has shown more than enough to prove that he should be a solid pro. The three-year starter is aggressive, smart and reliable. He would be a great long-term option for the Packers to consider in filling the vacancy left by Scott Wells.

Other Possibilities: DE/OLB Nick Perry – JR – USC (would most likely have to trade up), DE/OLB Andre Branch – SR – Clemson, DT/DE Jared Crick – SR – Nebraska
  Teams That Could Vulture Pick The team that poses the biggest concern on draft day for the Packers is the New England Patriots. They have a similar need for pass rushers in their 3-4 defense and will be targeting the same type of players as Green Bay. New England picks 27th overall, one slot ahead of the Packers at pick No. 28 and could very well swoop in and snatch someone like Fletcher Cox or Whitney Mercilus off the board.
  Trade Winds I don’t foresee the Packers trading out of the No. 28 spot. However, if GM Ted Thompson decides to be aggressive in his pursuit of a pass rusher he may set his sights on swapping picks with or trading ahead of the San Diego Chargers at pick No. 18. The Chargers look to be a likely landing spot of talented USC defensive end (3-4 outside linebacker) Nick Perry. The Packers could try to make a move and swipe him away. Another possibility is to look at getting in front of the Patriots at No. 27 to ensure a shot at Fletcher Cox and Whitney Mercilus.
  Draft History 2011: 1(32) – Derek Sherrod – OT – Mississippi State
2010: 1(23) – Bryan Bulaga – OT – Iowa
2009: 1(9) – B.J. Raji – DT – Boston College
          1(26) – Clay Matthews – OLB - USC
2008: 2(36) – Jordy Nelson – WR – Kansas State*
2007: 1(16) – Justin Harrell – DT – Tennessee
*Packers had no first-round picks in 2008. Nelson was first player selected.

GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Injuries are depriving us from watching the Spurs thrive in the clutch

Nashville Predators fans just made the worst hype video of 2017

Draymond Green files trademark paperwork for ‘Dray Day’

Aaron Judge gets special fan section at Yankee Stadium

New lawsuit alleges NFL knew about CTE for decades

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Magic reportedly hire Raptors GM Jeff Weltman as new president

62-year-old Greg Norman’s workout video shows he’s still jacked

Celtics celebrated Game 3 win by Facetiming with Isaiah Thomas

Stephen Curry still hobbled by ‘dirty play’ of Dewayne Dedmon

Aaron Donald not at Rams' voluntary OTAs, reportedly over contract

Enes Kanter wants to become American citizen

NBA Weekend Awards: Who will take a bite of the Snow White Crystal Apple?

The 'How two award snubs might shake up the NBA' quiz

Preparing for the BIG3: Q&A with BIG3 co-founder Jeff Kwatinetz

Two months in and Nintendo's Switch dominates 2017 video game market

Getaway Day: League leaders falter allowing new teams to surge ahead

Why wait? Our too soon Cavaliers-Warriors NBA Finals preview

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

Best of Yardbarker: Gregg Popovich doesn't mince words

The 'Happy birthday to two of the NBA's all-time antagonists' quiz

The shortstop evolution continues to raise the ceiling

Three Up, Three Down: Astros dominate in every category

Box Score 5/19: Heartbreak in OT

NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

NBA Weekend Awards: Who will take a bite of the Snow White Crystal Apple?

The 'How two award snubs might shake up the NBA' quiz

Preparing for the BIG3: Q&A with BIG3 co-founder Jeff Kwatinetz

Two months in and Nintendo's Switch dominates 2017 video game market

Getaway Day: League leaders falter allowing new teams to surge ahead

Why wait? Our too soon Cavaliers-Warriors NBA Finals preview

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

Best of Yardbarker: Gregg Popovich doesn't mince words

The 'Happy birthday to two of the NBA's all-time antagonists' quiz

The shortstop evolution continues to raise the ceiling

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker