By Jake McCormick
Have you ever been disappointed in a 26-0 shutout before last weekend? Better yet, has the Packer offense ever been the lighter fluid doused on your fires of frustration in those seemingly lopsided wins? Lost in Mike McCarthy’s inept playcalling in the red zone, a broken condom of an offensive line, and a lack of a consistent running game is the fact that the Green Bay defense has quietly made steady improvements and now ranks in the top 10 in the league in many statistical categories. Sure it’s early in the season and the Packers have played a mostly mediocre schedule, but do I need to remind you of last season’s defense under Bob Sanders? More predictable than a James Bond movie.
The Packer defense is currently ranked 10th in points per game (18.6), 8th in yards per game (298), 10th in passing yards per game (192.6), 16th in rushing yards per game (105.4), and 3rd in interceptions (10). They outrank the Minnesota Vikings in all of these categories except rushing yards per game, sacks, and forced fumbles. And the Packer offense deserves some credit for making the defense look good, as they have managed to limit their turnovers to two fumbles and interceptions apiece to make sure the defense’s turnovers are not in vain.
I’m not saying the Packer defense is on par with the Vikings’, but it has taken steps forward to get to that point against nearly identical opponents. This weekend’s game features the Cleveland Browns on the opposite side of the field, who have many players with the LeBron flu and many more that play like they do. The Packers have a second straight chance to strengthen their defensive chemistry against a lesser team before facing the meat part of their schedule against the Ravens, Vikings, and Steelers.
The possibility that the Packer defense may win the team games as the offense continues to find itself is definitely a new feeling for Packer fans. Clearly the offensive line has problems everywhere, Rodgers has problems getting rid of the ball because he always hears footsteps, and the running game is so 2008. This of course has led to some desperate measures by Packer management in the form of free agency. Green Bay is rivaling New England in blast from the past free agent pickups. Unlike in New England, new Packers Ahman Green and Mark Tauscher actually have expectations to be regular contributors. Considering Ahman Green’s best days are seemingly behind him and Tauscher is coming off of knee surgery, it’s interesting to hear McCarthy and Ted Thompson changing their tones towards picking up veterans.
For all we know, Tauscher could be everything he was before last December’s knee injury, and Green could have a little bit of fumes left in his injury-proned tank. But wouldn’t these midseason problems have been alleviated if the team was more active under this philosophy during the offseason? Maybe McCarthy and Thompson have seen the light and understand that a free agent that will guarantee you some veteran level of production may be better than giving an annual baptism by fire to younger players. And maybe this is a way to cover their asses for free agent impotency. Either way, I hope it works.