2015-2016 Season Outlook
It's a quiet time of year but it seemed appropriate to give my thoughts on our team for this upcoming year.
Obviously, we look pretty strong. I would say this is our strongest team in a lot of categories, and probably overall, in a while. Really we only have one major area of concern.. it just happens to be one of the most important in this day and age.
But first, our strengths.
Offensively it's hard to argue that we're the best equipped and well-rounded offense in the NFL. As a matter of fact, it's impossible to argue against that. We have the best QB, the best WR group, a top 5 OLine (if not the best,) and a fantastic RB. The only lackluster area on the entire offense is the TE group, which is pretty average even if R. Rodgers makes a jump in his 2nd year.
Let's start from the top.
QB - A+. Obviously.
RB - A. Lacy and Starks are just a fantastic 1-2 punch. Lacy's ability to be a great pass protector and catch out of the backfield is what really makes him a wonderful fit. Plus they both add a highly physical dimension to the team.
WR - A. Only reason I don't give us an A+ is Jordy's offseason surgery; a minor question mark but a slight concern. Very hopeful Davante can take a step forward this year, as he was fantastic in a handful of late games last year.
TE - C-. Just a bleh group. Lacks any real impact either as a receiver or blocker. Maybe R. Rodgers makes a big jump but I question how high his ceiling really is.
OLine - A. I love this OLine. In the last 6 games of last year they were incredibly dominant. Lots of depth as well.
Offense Overall - A. Again, only docking the + because of a really sad TE group.
DLine - B. Mike Daniels is fantastic. I think Raji could be very good in a final chance sort of season, especially as he won't be asked to take such a high snap count. Guion was solid for us last year. Really, this grade is dependent on Daniels and how well I think the Raji/Guion rotation will work out.
OLB - B+. I knock down from an A grade due to the fact Matthews will only half count as an OLB while splitting time at ILB. Peppers is old but was very good last year. Neal/Perry work well as a rotation over there and I think we might get a jump from someone like Hubbard or Elliot.
ILB - B-. This is actually addition by subtraction. Losing Hawk and Jones makes us better.. it just does. I wonder how high Barrington's ceiling is.. will he ever actually be a standout player? Having Matthews flex inside helps. Can Jake Ryan contribute? Question marks drive down the grade for me but Matthews pushes it into the low B range.
CB - C-. And the big knock/question mark. This one is scary. Shields hasn't quite lived up to his contract and I'm concerned he'll struggled with even harder assignments. I think we'll be able to find slot corners out of our group of rookies + Heyward + Hyde but what in the world do we do about the other boundary corner? It's one of the most important spots in all of football and I question who will be ready for it this year. Hyde doesn't have the natural hips/athleticism. Heyward lacks the physicality and durability. I love Rollins fit but a rookie with little football experience coming from a bad conference or Randall with a position change? Yikes.
S - B. Burnett is suddenly a little overhyped and I always worry about second year players experiencing a sophmore slump, but this should be a strong group for us. Lots of size back there, which is great. Need to see more consistency in tackling and ballhawking.
Defense Overall - C+. The CB situation kills the grade for me. Then again, I'm not sure how much better I'd feel if we had Tramon or Davon House, so our options were limited. We'll need our pass rush and safeties to step up and cover for youthful errors at CB but we have the tools to make that work. Ideally, either Rollins or Randall will settle in by the end of the season ala Sam Shields of our Super Bowl year. Both have the tools but require a transition (as did Sam Shields.) Maybe I'm shocked and Heyward gets back to rookie form, only as a boundary guy. That would obviously be best case scenario; Heyward and Shields on the boundary with Hyde and the talented rookies in the slot, especially with Randall in a hybrid role. I think the run defense will be better, simply by eliminating Jones and Hawk.
When being a fanboi goes too far.