- Corey Williams’ departure hurts our D-Line depth. Corey Williams was a solid player, but before we go about claiming his loss is the reason for our woes, remember that he was somewhat inconsistent last year and disappeared for 2-3 games at a time. It was more the fact that he was another massive D-line body who could keep the rotation of players fresh. He also did have some talent.
- Injuries. This season, Bigby, Collins, Harris, Grant, James Jones, Rodgers, Hawk, Jenkins and Korey Hall have all dealt with injuries. Of these injuries, I’d say the Jenkins injury was most hurtful to the team, then the Bigby injury. The other injuries we’ve managed to smooth over. Jenkins injury hurts again, mostly because his absence reduces overall depth for the D-Line rotation that Bob Sanders likes to use. He also was a talented player (though the Pack’s D-Line was not playing too well before Jenkins was hurt either). Bigby’s loss seemed to affect the defense a fair amount. The Pack is 2-1 when Bigby plays. One other major injury was the one to James Jones. He had a bunch of catches last year (48) and his absence on the field takes away a few special plays the offense could be running otherwise. The injuries have been fairly significant for us this year – though as bad as they’ve been, we’ve drafted a few new contributors and have finally gotten other players healthy and contributing like Will Blackmon and Tramon Williams.
- Schedule. The Packers have losses to the Cowboys, Bucs, Falcons and Titans (combined overall records of 23-11). Our wins are against the Vikes, Lions, Seahawks and Colts – all weak teams, excepting maybe the Colts and maybe the Vikes. Going by our schedule, I’d say we should probably be 6-2 at the worst. I don’t think the schedule is much of a reason for us being 4-4 right now.
- O-Line shuffling – this kind of relates to injuries, above, but the shuffling of the O-Line has been an issue (and perhaps been a significant reason why Ryan Grant doesn’t seem to be the same). Interestingly, though we all seemed to miss Scott Wells when he was out, the Packers we 2-1 with him out and are 2-3 with him starting again. But the overall continuity and moving players around may be problematic. Still, we have largely the same personnel grouping as last year – and the same starting 5 at least, so it shouldn’t be that much of a drop-off.
- Declining performance. Ryan Grant, Chad Clifton, Aaron Kampman, AJ Hawk, Nick Barnett – these are all players many of us figured would be reliable this year and perform at a high, consistent level and none of them have. Grant can’t seem to break arm tackles like he did last year; Kampman has seemed fairly absent; I actually thought Clifton was overrated last year but he’s definitely struggling this year; Hawk seems to be having trouble fitting into the scheme even (preference for Chillar right now); and Barnett’s performance has been nothing short of shocking.
- Favre leaving. This is a lighting rod issue, I know. Now, importantly, this is not a comment on who’s fault the whole thing was etc etc etc…it is merely pointing out that last year Favre was the QB and this year he’s not. I think the Packers had a certain swagger last year that many of us were hoping would simply carry over to this year. Then IT all happened. The whole Favre departure scenario has hurt this team in subtle, unspoken ways and I think the departure divided the team more than we know. It’s one thing to lose Frank Walker to free agency – it’s something quite different to lose probably the most popular player in Packers’ history to another team after a bitter divorce. Aaron Rodgers has done a hell of a job stepping in and giving us consistency and he’s even added a few new wrinkles, like actually gaining yards rushing. And I’d submit that he’s already demonstrated solid leadership skills for a young player. But Favre carries with him “something”…probably the same “something” that Bill Belicheck, John Elway, Michael Jordan, Mike Krzyzewski (never spelled that before…wow), Albert Pujols, Tiger Woods and many other great athletes/great winners carry around. It’s something that’s hard to replace right away. It’s something that leads other teammates to want to perform well in the presence of that player or coach. I’m not necessarily saying the Packers would be 8-0 with Favre here. But I do think that either missing Favre’s “something” hurts this year or we’re being affected more than we realize by the residue from the ugly split.