The Green Bay Packers once again ended their season at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers, but the team’s effort could not go unnoticed. The Packers fought adversity all year long, losing offensive playmakers Jermichael Finley, Randall Cobb, and James Jones for parts of the season. Star linebacker Clay Matthews missed games with a broken thumb, an injury that kept him from playing in the playoffs. Casey Hayward, who led the team in interceptions last season, missed most of the year with a hamstring injury. Finally, for mostly eight games, the Packers had to survive without Aaron Rodgers after he broke his collarbone. But even with all of the injuries, the Packers rallied and won the NFC North.
Now, some questions need answers as the offseason begins.
1. What happens to Jermichael Finley?
Finley has been a top offensive weapon for the Packers since he was drafted in 2008. With Finley standing 6-foot-5, Aaron Rodgers looked his way when the Packers got to the red zone. Before this season, Finley had been having problems catching the football, which had Packers management debating on whether to give him a contract extension.
This season, Finley started to step up his play and was heading toward a pay raise. Then, things changed after he suffered a serious neck injury against the Cleveland Browns, an injury that sidelined former Packers safety Nick Collins for his career. With his injury, the Packers have to decide what is more important: Finley’s career, or his health.
2. What position need gets filled first in the draft?
When draft day comes in May, general manager Ted Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy have to determine where they want to go with their first round draft pick.
The answer to the Finley question might be the key to everything. If Finley is kept, the Packers can decide if they want to fill the obvious need at safety, or they can add more depth at linebacker. If they do go that way, the University of Alabama has two prospects that would be great for the Packers.
Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and middle linebacker C.J. Mosely were the leaders of the Crimson Tide’s defense the last two years, and would be really good fits for the Packers’ defense. If the Packers decide to part ways with Finley, they could look the way of Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro, who has been regarded as the best tight end in the draft. The Packers will have plenty of players to choose from come May.
3. Does B.J. Raji stay?
B.J. Raji’s Packers future also falls under the Finley situation. His most memorable moment in a Packers uniform came when he intercepted Chicago Bears quarterback Caleb Hanie in the 2010 NFC Championship game and returned it for the game-clinching touchdown. Raji then did his version of Aaron Rodgers’ “discount double check” in the end zone, and became an instant viral sensation. However, Raji’s numbers took a serious nose dive in 2013, as he only had 12 tackles and zero sacks. With cornerback Sam Shields set to be a free agent, the Packers have to determine which defensive talent is more valuable for the future.
4. Does Matt Flynn stay as the backup quarterback?
When Aaron Rodgers was out with his broken collarbone, the Packers had three quarterbacks try and fill the void. Veteran Seneca Wallace and second year player Scott Tolzien tried, but were unable to win any games. With the Packers’ playoff hopes dwindling, they turned to Matt Flynn, who played well in his two starts with the Packers in 2010 and 2011.
Flynn led second half comebacks against the Atlanta Falcons and Dallas Cowboys, which helped the Packers survive until Rodgers came back. Now Flynn and the Packers face a tough decision. Flynn can try to test free agency again, but his past struggles with the Seattle Seahawks, Oakland Raiders, and Buffalo Bills might be the reason for him to say in Green Bay.
5. Who becomes the starting tackles?
The Packers have the luxury of having five offensive tackles on their roster.
Former first round pick Derek Sherrod has yet to play a down in the NFL as he is still recovering from a broken leg he suffered in 2012. Bryan Bulaga, another first round pick, also missed all of last season with a torn ACL. Bulaga’s injury opened the door for David Bakhtiari, who played very well in his rookie season. With Bakhtiari as the left tackle, Don Barclay was given the nod at right tackle over Marshall Newhouse, and Barclay did the job.
Between Barclay, Bulaga, and Bakhtiari, the Packers have to determine which will be the two starting tackles, and who will be the backup. With Sherrod and Newhouse, it’s not a matter of who will start, but of who will stay and who will go.
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