Hey folks, Ryan Wood here. The Packers are about to exit the doldrums of the post-postseason calendar when their front office and coaching staff heads down to Indianapolis for the NFL scouting combine next week. Let's get to your questions.
I think next season will tell us a lot about Kyler Fackrell's future as an NFL player. If you consider expectations for a third rounder, he had a serviceable rookie season. No, he didn't have a major impact on defense, but not a lot of third-round rookies do. Fackrell showed some potential as a pass rusher with a pair of sacks and a batted pass, forced a fumble. You're right, he does need to add weight and power, but that's why this offseason is critical. A full offseason should help him further develop. If it doesn't, it could be a problem. Fackrell turns 26 years old in November. That is old for a second-year player.
It's going to be very interesting to see what Ted Thompson does with this offensive line. Jason Spriggs, at the least, can be a good swing tackle, and every team needs a reliable swing tackle. But you don't trade up in the second round to draft a backup. With that said, there's no obvious spot to put Spriggs. You're right, age and past knee injuries could eventually catch up with Bryan Bulaga, but he just had the best season of his career. He shouldn't move off the right tackle spot in 2017. T.J. Lang is a free agent, and how the Packers approach him will likely determine the future of this offensive line, but Spriggs isn't a guard even if you let Lang walk. And why let Lang walk? He's a Pro Bowl guard, and there are enough problems on this team (corner, edge rusher) to mess with a very good offensive line. So I'm not quite sure what they do here, but it will be fascinating to follow.
You're right, this is a defense that needs more talent. And that isn't good for a defense that has added a first-round pick each of the past five years. Even the "playmakers" weren't exactly difference makers this past season. Clay Matthews, with five sacks and two significant injuries (shoulder and hamstring), was not a difference maker. Mike Daniels, a borderline Pro Bowl talent, is better against the run than pass and didn't take over games as an interior rusher. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was a Pro Bowler, but he still can be inconsistent with his angles, and the interceptions come in spurts. Now, Clay Matthews can play better with more health, Ha Ha will get more consistent with experience, and Mike Daniels is very good inside, but Super Bowl defenses have playmakers at every level. The Packers currently do not.
It goes back to the offensive line, and not messing with a good thing. The Packers should have four solid NFL receivers entering the fall: Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams, Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison. Could they use an explosive No. 1? Sure, but they're hardly alone in the NFL when it comes to filling that need. It's a solid rotation for Aaron Rodgers, and Cobb (when healthy) is part of that. The problem is keeping him healthy, where Ty Montgomery might help. Montgomery is moving to running back, but the Packers are still going to use his versatility as a receiver and move him around some. With Montgomery filling that role, perhaps there will be fewer carries up the middle for the 195-pound Cobb, less wear and tear on his body. We'll see.
I think you hit it dead on with Kenny Clark and Dean Lowry. The defensive line as a whole is in good shape. Only two defensive linemen are on the field for most snaps because of the Packers heavy nickel use, and there should be at least four solid linemen next season. Randall and Rollins will be the key to 2017. Nothing could provide a more immediate and significant improvement than them bouncing back from their sophomore slumps, like Davante Adams did last fall. It's why, to me, edge rusher is a slightly bigger issue than corner. At least the CB position still has young guys with potential. At OLB, you're looking at aging free agents, hardly a wealth of young talent. As for other young guys stepping up, I think you could see Geronimo Allison take strides, and Blake Martinez was pretty good before his knee injury in Washington. If healthy, I think Martinez could still be a solid linebacker.
If it's a one-year deal, I don't see the harm in the Packers re-signing a running back who was averaging a career-best 5.1 yards per carry in five games before his season-ending ankle surgery. Wouldn't trust Lacy on a long-term deal, but a one-year deal makes sense. Either way, whether Lacy re-signs on a short-term deal or walks in free agency, the Packers will be searching for a running back of the future. I'll never predict Ted Thompson to take a running back in the first round, because that's just not what he does, but I'd expect the position to be targeted high in the draft.
With Adrian Peterson in the backfield. **ducks**
Not sure you caught the story I wrote a couple weeks ago on the Packers' legacy, but it's very much a glass-half-full, glass-half-empty perspective. On the one hand, they are one of just seven teams to make eight straight playoffs in the Super Bowl era. The other? Walsh's 49ers, Belichick's Patriots, Landry's Cowboys, Noll's Steelers, Dungy's Colts, and the 1970s Rams. The bad side of that is only the 1970s Rams made eight straight playoffs with only one conference title, until the Packers did it. Yes, the Packers win at a rate that probably makes them the No. 2 franchise in the whole league over the past eight years, enough to put them in rare air. This run should be remembered as one of the finest in the Super Bowl era. Without more trips to the Super Bowl, it won't be. That's where they are this offseason.
B.J. Raji would be a free agent if he decided to come back. From what I hear, he still hasn't closed the door on playing in the NFL again, but certainly isn't thinking of making an imminent comeback. And there wouldn't be a spot for him in Green Bay. This defense has plenty of problems, but the defensive line isn't one. As for letting Mike Neal walk, he was one of the least productive pass rushers in the league when you look at his number of sacks (4) to number of rush attempts. There's a reason no other team signed him.
Jared Abbrederis was cut because he wasn't a top 4 receiver in this offense, and his special-teams contributions were minimal. Add in his extensive injury history, and there just wasn't much value.
I would think Quinten Rollins might have a better chance to eventually wind up at safety. Gunter is a good corner, just not a No. 1 shutdown cover guy. He has the best press technique on the depth chart, thanks to hiis height (6-1) and length (31.5-inch arms). He could be a fine No. 2 corner. He's physical enough to play in a nickel defense. He's just not a No. 1. Ideally, that would be Damarious Randall, who has the talent and speed to be a shutdown type, if he can regain confidence and hone his technique. If not, the Packers will have to fill that hole in the draft or free agency (but probably the draft).
Letroy Guion signed a three-year deal on or around Feb. 11 last season, and that was a big surprise because it was so early. Usually, those conversations take place at the combine. The combine was pushed back a week this year, which might be why it feels a little longer than usual.
They'd be looking at a guy on the practice squad (Lucas Patrick) making a big jump, or filling the vacancy through the draft. Maybe they re-sign JC Tretter and move him or Corey Linsley to guard, but both are natural centers. If they moved Bryan Bulaga inside to guard, they'd become worse at two positions instead of one. I think it's more likely the Packers would draft a guard. But you're absolutely right, with all the issues this team has, there's not sense in making offensive line a problem. That's why it makes sense to re-sign a Pro Bowl guard. Despite Lang's injury history (which is quite extensive), he's a guy who's proven he can play through things others can't.
Yeah, you're spot on. They're solid, serviceable linebackers, but nothing special. There's no other way to put it than the Packers simply need more speed in the middle of their defense.
The basis of Ted Thompson's team-building philosophy has always been to keep an eye on the future, if not both eyes. There's wisdom in that. It's how the Packers avoid falling into financial ruin with the cap, and how they continue replenishing positions through the draft. At some point, you'd think, the future would give way to the present as the urgency increases with Aaron Rodgers' age. If they haven't hit that point yet, they've got to be close.
That's a good question. The Packers give their edge guys (especially Matthews) flexibility to freestyle on the field, allowing a playmaker to make plays. Usually in the past, they've been rewarded. Sometimes they're not. Just how it goes.
It wasn't an easy layout, but ending the season with three straight divisional games was a big part of the Packers making their run to a NFC North title too. And they had the easiest strength of schedule entering the season. Bottom line is you've got to beat your schedule. In the end, the Packers mostly did.
I don't think so, but I'm not sure if the Packers feel the same. Tretter is a former tight end whose athleticism and football IQ (he went to Cornell) help at center. He can play tackle in a pinch, and guard. But he has quite the injury history with two significant knee issues. Hard to see how he'd hold up playing full-time guard.
Richard Sherman. **ducks**
I haven't heard any, though it's not like the Packers broadcast those. Also, Ted Thompson isn't the type to make big trades.
Ultimately, I think the 29th overall pick comes down to the best player available at OLB or CB. They're both huge needs, so it's not like one is way more important than the other. To break the tie, I'd go with which position is older ... and that would be edge rusher. But both positions needs major work.