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By CHRIS HAVEL
Meantime, back in Green Bay: Trying to fill Packers’ holes
Long before Super Bowl 50 Opening Night reached halftime I couldn’t shake the thought: God, how I miss Monday Night Football.
While Carolina’s Cam Newton tried to explain his naïve views on race relations, Denver’s Peyton Manning attempted in earnest to dodge a media-driven blitz led by Father Time.
If passer ratings were affixed to their performances Monday night in San Francisco neither quarterback broke 50. Hopefully, Newton and Manning will be a lot better come Sunday.
In between, there was the usual fun, frivolity and foolishness – without a lot of football – that is associated with “media day,” which was moved up to Monday night this year. All the while, aside from channel surfing, I kept coming back to one question: How do the Packers get to the podium for Opening Night Super Bowl 51?
Here are some suggestions, and frankly, does it really matter if the Packers’ reinforcements come via free agency or the draft?
Acquire whichever tight end the Chargers fail to re-sign: Antonio Gates or Ladarius Green.
Gates is in the twilight of a fabulous career. His leadership and resume coupled with his ability to still rise to the moment makes him a good fit.
Green, at 6-5, 245, with 4.5 speed in the 40-yard dash coming out of Louisiana-Lafayette makes him intriguing. He knows how to play in the NFL and he could make an immediate impact.
Defenses would have to defend the middle of the field, an element which was seriously lacking last season. Green also could threaten the deep seam which would force safeties to adjust, meaning shallow underneath routes should be open.
Add a proven inside linebacker who can strike a blow in the hole against the run on early downs.
Somehow, that doesn’t seem like it should as difficult as the Packers are making it look.
Sam Barrington, Nate Palmer and Jake Ryan all took their shots lining up next to Clay Matthews. Barrington was dealt a season-ending injury, although he didn’t appear to be the answer before he got hurt. Palmer played well in stretches but seemed to plateau and eventually fade before mid-season.
Ryan, the fourth-round pick from Michigan, battled and displayed some toughness. Ryan may become a regular starter, especially with a year under his belt.
But the Packers need to find a solution (aka a veteran) rather than another promising project.
A third down back would be nice.
It’s time the Packers’ offense had a weapon that could catch a simple check-down in the flat, make one tackler miss and take it to the house. That player currently isn’t on the roster. A Darren Sproles-type would perfect.
Add another big receiver who can line up on the perimeter and work the sideline or middle of the field with equal aplomb.
The next Jordy Nelson would be too much to hope for, but it’s worth a shot. To sit back and expect the current receiving corps to rebound would be awful risky. All reports are that Nelson will be even better than he was before the injury, and there’s been nothing to suggest Ty Montgomery’s ankle will be a chronic problem.
Still, the Packers’ offensive dysfunction demands that GM Ted Thompson provide head coach Mike McCarthy and quarterback Aaron Rodgers with another weapon.
There was a time when I felt the Packers needed to add another offensive tackle. That was about when Don Barclay was struggling mightily, Bryan Bulaga was still recovering from injuries and David Bakhtiari was shaky and injured.
J.C. Tretter’s performance at left tackle in the wild-card win at Washington changed my thinking. Tretter will become a quality swing tackle (left or right side) and could challenge to be the starter.
What the Packers do need is a nose tackle. Re-signing Letroy Guion and/or B.J. Raji is important, but I don’t think relying on one of them, plus Mike Pennel (who played well), is prudent. A tenacious, run-stuffing nose tackle would be greatly welcome.
The Packers’ offseason wish list isn’t that long and it’s certainly doable. Now we can sit back and enjoy Super Bowl 50 now that “Opening Night” has played out.
Chris Havel is a national best-selling author and his latest book is Lombardi: An Illustrated Life. Havel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4-6 p.m. CDT on WDUZ FM 107.5 The Fan, or on AM-1400, as well as Fan Internet Radio (www.thefan1075.com). Havel also hosts Event USA’s MVP Parties the evening before home games.