this Nov. 24, 2013, file photo, Green Bay Packers outside
linebacker Clay Matthews celebrates sacking Minnesota
Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder during an NFL football
game in Green Bay, Wis. Matthews is out again and the
Packers now need a victory over Chicago on Sunday, Dec. 29,
to take the NFC North title.
GREEN BAY —
Packers coach Mike McCarthy's offseason started way too early for
Three days after
the San Francisco 49ers ended their season and the Packers are in
the thick of starting to look ahead to 2014. For all the strengths
on offense, it's the defense that again needs a tuneup.
more impact players. We need more players making plays on defense.
I think that's stating the obvious," McCarthy said Wednesday
in his season-ending news conference. "I feel that those guys
are here, but do we have more coming in? That's really what the
offseason is for."
finished 8-8-1 but benefited from stumbles by Chicago and Detroit
to take a third straight NFC North title. That might be considered
a huge accomplishment given the injuries that ravaged both sides
of the team, particularly to quarterback Aaron Rodgers
(collarbone) and linebacker Clay Matthews (thumb).
Rodgers went down
for when the Packers were 5-2, and the team went 2-5-1 before he
returned to help win the season finale against the Bears to claim
the division. His absence was the defining factor to the Packers'
But just as
concerning was the collapse of the defense at about the same time
as Rodgers' injury. The Packers started getting porous against the
run. They went nearly the first three months of the year
struggling to force turnovers before coming up with a bunch in
All of which has
led to questions about whether defensive coordinator Dom Capers
again, we're not even 72 hours away from the game, OK. Dom Capers
is an outstanding football coach. No one will be evaluated
today," McCarthy said when asked if Capers would be back.
Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy talks to the Packers
quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) during the first half of an
NFL wild-card playoff football game against the San
Francisco 49ers, Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014, in Green Bay, Wis.
coaches will take place the next couple weeks, though it doesn't
sound like McCarthy is planning to change things up drastically.
going into this looking to make big changes," said McCarthy,
adding that he was glad Capers was on the staff.
It also doesn't
sound as if Capers is looking to move on, either.
"I have no
plans of not coaching, I'll say that," he said.
finished the regular season ranked 25th in total defense, giving
up 372 yards per game. Even without Matthews, who finished with a
team-high 7 ½ sacks, Capers is satisfied with the pass rush. The
Packers were tied for eighth in the league with 44.
But they suffered
from a lack of turnovers. The Packers had just 11 interceptions
all season. Not having cornerback Casey Hayward, who had six picks
as a rookie in 2012, hurt.
linebacker A.J. Hawk probably had the best season of his
eight-year career after a team-high 118 tackles and career-high
five sacks. Still, the Packers could use speed and/or playmaking
ability at linebacker.
Bay Packers cornerback Tramon Williams (38) celebrates an
interception with strong safety Morgan Burnett (42) and free
safety M.D. Jennings (43) during the first half of an NFL
wild-card playoff football game against the San Francisco
49ers , Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014, in Green Bay, Wis.
Safety also is a
top concern. Morgan Burnett signed a four-year extension in the
offseason, then missed the first three games with a hamstring
injury. Neither Burnett, nor the other starting safety, M.D.
Jennings, had an interception.
believed this: to be a real top-notch defense, you have to have
two or three guys that basically are what I consider difference
makers, where sometime within a 60-play game you're going to see
two or three plays that really have an impact and influence the
game," Capers said.
The offense has
several of those options. Start with Rodgers and receivers Jordy
Nelson and Randall Cobb. Add in emerging rookie running back Eddie
Lacy. Even if free agent-to-be James Jones doesn't return at
receiver, the offense has big-play potential.
For his part,
Rodgers said Tuesday on his radio show that he thought one window
of opportunity was closing for the Packers — though a new one
"We have a
lot of things that are setting up to be really good for a long
time, a lot of really good young players," Rodgers said on
540-AM ESPN in Milwaukee. "I think this window has a chance
to open up and be really bright for four or five years when you
can get guys signed and keep them around."