Three reasons why McCarthy's not completely accurate about Packers' identity
Photo: Image by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
You are what your record says you are, a legendary NFL coach once said.
But often, the words of Hall of Famer Bill Parcells can prove faulty, and that could become a welcome truth for the Green Bay Packers if their first four games go the way they possibly could.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Friday:
McCarthy-It's Week 1 vs. SF-This team's identity will be formed during first quarter of the season. McCarthy is finished at podium. #Packers— Green Bay Packers (@packers) September 6, 2013
His point is well directed, as it's designed to get his guys to meet the challenge of perhaps the most brutal first four games any team has to face:
- Week 1: at San Francisco
- Week 2: Washington
- Week 3: at Cincinnati
- Week 4: Detroit
OK, Detroit doesn't scare me. The rest do. 0-3 anyone?
No, I don't think the Packers will actually go winless in that part of the season.
By 3:30 p.m. Sunday, October 6th, the Packers will have a partial gauge on who they will be as a team.
But not completely.
Why not? Because this team will not be able to truly reach its potential in that early stretch - and not because of challenging competition.
It's more because of three specific facets of their game which still need development.
1) The offensive line.
David Bakhtiari and Don Barclay have a combined six NFL starts. Those two men will be Aaron Rodgers' bookends in pass protection.
(49ers pass rusher extraordinaire Aldon Smith is salivating. He should be.)
I don't expect them to be an impregnable wall of protection Sunday. But by November, December and January, they probably will have a much stronger level of proficiency.
They will jell. They will coagulate. They will get better as a unit.
The blocks the line will miss Sunday, they may succeed in making during a playoff rematch. They'll be better as the season goes along. Book it.
2) The running game.
The Packers are counting on three running backs to make important impacts this season in an effort to revive a sometimes moribund running attack in recent years.
Rookies don't usually make monster impacts in week 1. But like an offensive line still growing in familiarity, they can grow quickly and become more productive, more dangerous, more of a threat to make defenses honest.
Because of that offensive line as well, a running game that might only gain 75 yards in week 1 may gain 140 in a rematch.
That's plenty of improvement to draw defenses in and help the Packers' nuclear passing game explode in later games this year.
3) The young, now-injury-scarred defense.
In the front seven, two key guys asked to make big impacts are either rookies or virtual rookies - 2013 first round pick Datone Jones and 2012 first round pick Nick Perry.
Perry barely played much during the 2012 season, as he comes off knee and wrist injuries.
However, if both reach a large portion of their potential to go with the Claymaker (Clay Matthews), the front seven could prove downright nasty.
We can expect both to be healthy in the latter half of the season.
With all those things factored in, we may not see the full defensive potential for the Packers in Week 1.
By week double-digits, we probably will.
These are all reasons why the Packers' "first quarter" of 2013 may not actually define what this team can and will do.
A 2-2 start (what I expect), or even 1-3, will not bury a Packers team that has the potential to (at full strength) rattle off six straight season-ending games entering the playoffs, and a lot more at full capacity and health.
All that is why, to me, Mike McCarthy's words today about having its identity unveiled by October 6th are not accurate.
It's a good, hopeful and uplifting thing that they're not.