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Lambeau Leap of Faith


March 5, 2010 11:40 PM

Packers Top Position of Need

After a very successful 11-5 season, the Green Bay Packers are not a team with a lot of needs. For those of you reading my articles analyzing each of the Packers offensive units, you know I see each quarterback and receiver as among the best in the league and running back as solid.

While I cannot reveal what I think of the defensive units--in reality, just as coaches wait to make assessments until they watch tape, I want to avoid making declarations until I have finished my analysis of each position--it does seem pretty obvious that a defense that ranked second in the league does not have a lot of positions in need of upgrade.

So what should the Packers be looking for this off-season? There are still five positions the team needs to win a Super Bowl, and I will address them one at a time, starting with the most urgent, offensive tackle.

Chad Clifton was re-signed, but is by no means the answer. He is aging (33) and has been injury-prone over the past two years while his play has suffered. He can no longer be counted on to protect Aaron Rodgers' backside.

Mark Tauscher helped to solidify the line, reducing its sacks allowed from 34 in the first eight games to 19 in the eight after his return. Still, his future with the team is uncertain, as he is also a free agent and he was drafted the same year as Clifton.

The bad news is that this is a position the Packers will have a hard time finding an answer for. Rookies usually cannot be counted on to start, and the draft has at best four players worthy of that kind of faith: Russell Okung, Anthony Davis, Brian Bulaga, and Trent Williams. All are expected to go in the first half of the first round, and it seems unlikely the Packers will trade up far enough to get them.

There are other tackles who may be able to handle the job--after all, Clifton was a second-round pick, and Tauscher was stolen in the seventh round. Both started part or all of their rookie seasons.

However, counting on most of them would be downright foolish. The only other tackle projected to be first-round material by Scouts, Inc., is Bruce Campbell. It might be a bit of a reach for the Packers to take him with the 23rd pick, but it may be worth the risk. Or Thompson can trade down and still get him while adding a late Day Two pick to his arsenal.

At the same time, there are precious few free agents available, which is why the youth-obsessed Thompson re-signed a 33-year old tackle with a recent history of injuries. Mike Gandy of the Arizona Cardinals is the only free agent tackle ranked in the top-50 by Pat Kirwan of ESPN, and in a players' market, he is sure to come at a high price. If they were going to sign Tandy, they would not have settled for Clifton.

Tauscher and Clifton are the next two highest rated tackles, and Barry Sims follows behind him. Packers fans should remember Sims as Mike Sherman's favourite extra tackle for the jumbo package he used to pave the way for Ahman Green in short yardage situations. But I live out in San Francisco now, and I have gotten a chance to see him up close--he is no answer for anyone.

This leaves the position one that may need to be filled from within the team. T.J. Lang did show some growth in the position, but does not appear to be ready to pass protect. Allen Barbre was barely a speed bump for opposing defensive ends, and Breno Giacomini showed nowhere near the readiness the team was hoping he would have in 2009.

The best the team can do is re-sign Tauscher and look to draft the best player available in the first round. With the risk of injury to the two aging tackles, there is plenty of need for depth, anyway.

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