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Author Topic: 5 2014 Stats the Packers Must Improve Upon in 2015 - Bob Fox  (Read 901 times)

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5 2014 Stats the Packers Must Improve Upon in 2015 - Bob Fox
« on: April 03, 2015, 02:56:32 PM »

 Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press Photo


The Green Bay Packers finished with a 12-4 record in 2014 and won their fourth consecutive NFC North title.

In the regular season, after a bit of a slow start, the offense was exceptional once again. The Packers led the NFL in scoring with 486 points. That averages to a little more than 30 points a game.

The Packers were also sixth in total offense, which marked the eighth time in nine years that Green Bay has been in the top 10 in that category.

A number of individuals on offense had great performances last season.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw for 4,381 yards and had 38 touchdown passes to just five interceptions. No. 12 had a passer rating of 112.2, the sixth straight year Rodgers has had a passer rating over 100.

That make sense, as Rodgers has the best all-time passer rating in NFL history. When it was all said and done in 2014, Rodgers walked away with his second NFL MVP award.

Rodgers was helped by the production at wide receiver, as Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb combined to grab 189 catches for 2,806 yards and a whopping 25 touchdowns.

Running back Eddie Lacy had another great season for the Packers, backing up his NFL offensive Rookie of the Year award in 2013 with 1,139 yards rushing and nine touchdowns. No. 27 also added 42 receptions for 427 yards and four more scores.

So while the offense did its job in 2014, both the defense and special teams struggled most of the season. In addition to that, both units failed the team in crunch time during the NFC Championship Game against the Seahawks as well.

To be fair, the offense didn't exactly click in that game, while the defense as a whole was magnificent for about 55 minutes.

But special teams was an eyesore all season, except for the play of kicker Mason Crosby and the punt returning of Micah Hyde.

Going into the 2015 season, the Packers have to improve in five statistical areas if they expect to be a Super Bowl contender once again.

These five areas, predictably, are all on defense or special teams.


Total Defense


The Packers finished 15th in the NFL in total defense in 2014. That isn't great, but the defense as a whole played much better in the second half of the season.

The Packers were ranked 10th in pass defense, allowing a little over 226 yards per game through the air. The team also had 18 interceptions, which was tied for seventh in the league.

The Packers also held opposing quarterbacks to an 82.0 passer rating, which was seventh in the NFL.

Every good secondary needs a good pass rush, and the Packers were tied for ninth in the league with 41 sacks. Even when there wasn't a sack, more often than not there was solid pressure up front.

For the Packers to become a top-10 defense in 2015, the team will have to overcome losing both Tramon Williams and Davon House to free agency. The team will have to add a few more cornerbacks to the roster one way or the other.

The Packers also need to solidify their front seven in run defense, which I talk about in the next slide.

But every successful defense Dom Capers has put out there over the years has one important attribute: applying tenacious pass pressure to the quarterback.

If you do that, you can hide some deficiencies in the secondary and force errant, potentially intercepted, throws.

The Packers have the weapons to do that with Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, Mike Daniels, Mike Neal, Nick Perry and Datone Jones rushing the passer.

Capers must continue to find ways to pressure the quarterback and get his defense to stuff the run consistently. Do those two things, and the Packers will have a top-10 defense without a doubt.


Run Defense


After Week 9 last season, the Packers were ranked last in the NFL in run defense. It was at that point that defensive coordinator Dom Capers decided to occasionally use outside linebacker Clay Matthews as an inside linebacker, plus he basically replaced A.J. Hawk with Sam Barrington at the other ILB spot.

That change helped Green Bay's run defense quite a bit over the second half of the season, as the team improved to 23rd by the end of the season.

The Packers gave up an average of almost 120 yards a game and allowed opposing running backs to have a 4.2 yards per rush average.

That certainly needs to improve in 2015. Re-signing both B.J. Raji and Letroy Guion would help. Raji missed all of last season due to a torn biceps. Before that, he was having a good training camp playing solely at the nose tackle position.

The Packers also need to add another inside linebacker to pair with Barrington. This addition will come most likely in the 2015 NFL draft. Matthews will still be moved around at times, but the Packers prefer No. 52 rushing off the edge.

The Packers defense as a whole also has to do a better job of tackling. There were way too many missed tackles last season, which could be addressed by an improved run defense.


Kickoff Return Average


There is a reason why DuJuan Harris is now a former Packer. He didn't get the job done returning kickoffs, which was his primary role.

The Packers finished 31st in kickoff returns. The team only averaged 19.1 yards per return.

Harris had a 20.7-yard average and did return a kick for 41 yards once, but overall, his production was subpar.

Harris ended up losing his job as kick returner late in the season due to his lack of production, and Micah Hyde took over.

Hyde averaged 24 yards per return after he took over for Harris. Hyde also returned kicks in 2013 and had a 24.1 average to go along with a 70-yard return.

Hyde is really exceptional in returning punts, as he has scored three times on returns the last two years.

Depending on whether the Packers select a kick return specialist in the 2015 NFL draft, the kickoff return job appears to be Hyde's.

The production on kick returns would also be much better if the blocking unit up front did a better job of creating lanes to run through.


Blocked Kicks Allowed


To let you know how woeful the special teams unit was at times in 2014, just take a look at the rankings put out by Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News.

The Packers finished 32nd in the overall rankings and were dead last in blocked kicks allowed with seven.

That's seven blocked kicks too many. That's an embarrassing stat.

All the kicking units suffered. The blocked kicks came on field goals, extra points and punts.

The Packers, under new special teams coordinator Ron Zook, have to improve a lot of things on special teams.

But getting the proper blocking for the kicking game has to be at the top of the list. A lot of the time, it's simply a case of getting better personnel out there to do the blocking assignments.

The communication process with the blockers also needs to be rectified.

One of the goals for the Packers in 2015 should be for the team to have zero blocked kicks.

That is what good special teams units do in the NFL.


Punting


From 2010-2013, Tim Masthay did a nice job as punter for the Packers. It's tough to kick in Green Bay, especially as the weather gets colder. But until last season, Masthay seemed to handle the conditions just fine.

But 2014 was not a stellar year for No. 9. Masthay finished dead last in overall punting in the league.

After averaging almost 25 punts per year inside the 20-yard line from 2010-2013, Masthay only had 14 punts inside the 20 in 2014. That was also last in the league.

Masthay also finished 31st in net average with his punts. Additionally, Masthay had two punts blocked and had another one returned for a touchdown.

Is it any wonder why the Packers signed Cody Mandell to compete with Masthay for the punting job this summer?

I would not be surprised if the Packers sign another punter to compete as well.

The Packers did the same thing in the summer of 2013 for the place-kicker's job, as Mason Crosby was coming off the worst year of his career in 2012. The added competition seemed to help Crosby, as he has had two excellent back-to-back years for Green Bay since.

Hopefully, the new competition will get Masthay to focus better and improve. Otherwise, the Packers will have a new punter in 2015.


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Bob Fox always had the itch to return to the media, and he became a writer at a Packer website called ThaPack for a couple of years, before he joined Packer Report, where he was for several years, before joining Wisconsin Sports Online (PackerChatters) writing about the Packers, Badgers and Brewers.  Bob also occasionally writes for JoeBucsFan.com which covers the Tampa Bay Bucs, and also used to write for JoeBoltsFan.com which covers the Tampa Bay Lightning when the site was operational.


Bob also has an article in the 2012 Green Bay Packers Yearbook that profiles the 2012 draft class for the Packers.
« Last Edit: April 03, 2015, 03:00:29 PM by LMGAdmin »
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