Packers XLV

Examining Ted's Biggest Mistake in 2011

Posted December 27th, 2011 @ 04:12pm

Let's start with the obvious. The reason the Packers sit atop the power rankings and are favored to return to a second straight Super Bowl is the unparalleled performance of Aar...I mean, Ted Thompson. He took an aging, Sherman-depleted roster and built a team that is set to contend for years.

But he made one big mistake in 2011 and it may cost the team a shot at a second straight Lombardi trophy. Let's start with all the cliches: "Hindsight is 20-20." "We don't know what was going on behind closed doors," etc, etc.

But Thompson's decision to cut loose free agent defensive end Cullen Jenkins, rather than pay him, has cost this defense dearly. The Eagles paid him $25 million over five years; I wonder if Thompson would like a do-over on this one. Jenkins could be maddening at times because it seemed like he could never stay on the field. He was often injured--not major injuries, but enough to cost him a game or two here and there. Thompson looked at a 30-year-old defensive end with a history of bumps and bruises and decided his defense could survive without him.

He was wrong. Jenkins has had a strong, healthy season for the Eagles, who obviously failed to live up to the "Dream Team" hype. Meanwhile, Thompson put a little too much faith in his guys, namely Mike Neal, who was drafted in the second round in '10 as Jenkins' heir apparent. Neal has yet to be healthy enough to even play and is inviting Justin Harrell comparisons. The other guys, Jarius Wynn and CJ Wilson have had their moments but are not long-term answers. A strong, punishing 3-4 defense begins with a bruising line (think of the Steelers and Ravens guys).

Jenkins provided stellar pass rush ability from the right DE spot, forcing opposing offenses to account for him. That opened the door for Clay Matthews on the other side to make plays. Part of Matthews' junior slump can be attributed to his achy hamstrings, but the absence of Jenkins is the bigger reason.

We all know that injuries happen. The loss of Nick Collins early in the season was a punishing blow. And the injuries to guys like Matthews, Pickett, Williams, Bishop and Hawk during the season weakened the unit.

But if you want to know why the top seeded Pack should fear potent offenses like the Saints, Giants or Patriots, it's because the D-line is a weaker unit without Cullen Jenkins lined up next to BJ Raji.

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on August 8th, 2012 at 09:05pm

Your not wrong. No border battle with PA today or did I miss it?

on December 27th, 2011 at 02:49pm

Dave, I completely agree. It's been the elephant in the room, all season long. It's been taboo to talk about because the team has won so many games. But they are vulnerable to a playoff upset (against an elite offense) because of their defensive line weaknesses. I think the rumor was that when Jenkins sat out several games, with his calf problem, the powers that be, didn't see him as a team player - cared more about staying healthy to protect his looming free agency status. I guess they thought he could have come back sooner. Plus, he was 30 and we all know how Ted feels about players 30 and over. Let's hope So'oto or somebody else can provide a postseason spark. Otherwise, this might go down as a "what could have been" season kind of like when the '97 team failed to repeat after letting a couple key contributors move on. Let's hope McCarthy has something up his sleeve, kind of like last year, when Starks was a contributor out of nowhere late in the year. I still say: play So'oto!

on December 27th, 2011 at 12:38pm

Davy.....you are right on about Jenkins....TT is a guru ...but that was a big mistake. As I have said on previous posts we will have to win shootouts in the playoffs this year to advance. Capers has to work with what he has and I agree Neal could be this teams Justin Harrell. Retool the defense next year with big free agent signings. I know TT likes to build thru the draft....but we could entice some nice additions to our winner. As to the draft...its a long way off but if your watching Bowl Games this week ....check out the Insight Bowl and Oklahoma's outside LB....Ronnell Lewis....a speed rushing LB that would be a perfect compliment to Claymaker....and he could be available at our pick. Remember last year I was the guy who picked Randall Cobb for the Pack for round 2 or 3 when no one ever heard of him. But thats getting ahead .....for now think "40" for "40". That's the number of points we are going to have to score per game in the playoffs to advance. Think a point a game minute and hopefully the defense can hold some of the prolific offenses we will face in the playoffs under that. The mantra for the playoffs is "40 for 40" GO PACK GO !!

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