Packers fall with bad defense, Rodgers injury

Jan 4, 2018 - 12:23 AM GREEN BAY, Wis. -- From a Super Bowl favorite to a playoff observer -- that's what happened to the Green Bay Packers in 2017.

Green Bay entered the season with the best odds of representing the NFC in the Super Bowl. Instead, the Packers' hopes for greatness were derailed by Aaron Rodgers' broken collarbone that cost the standout quarterback more than half the season.

The Packers began the year 4-1 with Rodgers. But under the direction of No. 2 quarterback Brett Hundley primarily, Green Bay lost seven of its final 10 games and finished 7-9 overall, third in the NFC North.

The Packers had their eight-year playoff streak snapped. And Green Bay will now select 14th in April's draft, its highest draft position since picking ninth in 2009.

Even with Rodgers, though, Super Bowl chatter seemed like delusions of grandeur as the season unfolded.

Green Bay's defense bordered on awful again. And at the end of the season, the Packers fired long-time coordinator Dom Capers.

The offense lacked the explosion of many recent Packers teams and needs some new blood. And head coach Mike McCarthy had arguably the poorest of his 12 seasons coaching the Packers.

In all, it was one of the Packers' most disappointing years in some time.

"Our ultimate goal was to win a championship," safety Morgan Burnett said. "That's what we're about here in Green Bay, is winning a championship. And we fell short of that by not making the playoffs. But I'm pretty sure every guy is going to respond very well come next season."

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Truthfully, very little.

Perhaps the No. 1 thing the Packers could hang their hat on was they went 4-1 before Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone in Week 6. Green Bay looked like a viable Super Bowl candidate before the injury to Rodgers.

When the Packers' two-time MVP quarterback went down, though, the roster was exposed for its dearth of playmakers and young talent. The offense could no longer carry a suspect defense, and Green Bay's free-fall began.

WHAT WENT WRONG: You name it.

The defense was sieve-like again, finishing 22nd in total defense (348.9 yards per game) and 26th in scoring defense (24.0). Opposing quarterbacks had a 102.0 passer rating against Green Bay this year, the highest figure in franchise history. And opposing quarterbacks completed 67.8 percent of their passes, which is also the worst in franchise history.

When the year ended, Capers, defensive line coach Mike Trgovac and inside linebackers coach Scott McCurley were all fired.

In the 10 games Green Bay played without Rodgers, it averaged just 15.9 points per game. No. 2 quarterback Brett Hundley never figured it out and finished the year with nine touchdown passes, 12 interceptions and a 70.6 passer rating.

MOST DISAPPOINTING PLAYER: Jordy Nelson averaged 93.3 receptions, 1,363 yards and 12 touchdowns in the past three seasons in which he was healthy. This season, Nelson fell off the planet with 53 receptions for 482 yards and six touchdowns. Nelson averaged 14.6 yards per catch in the last three seasons he played. This year, that figure fell to 9.1. In Nelson's final nine games, he caught 28 passes for just 192 yards -- a feeble average of 6.86 yards per reception. Nelson also didn't have a touchdown reception after Week 5.

Nelson often fell immediately to the ground after a reception, almost as if his intent was not to get hurt. Nelson enters the final year of his contract in 2018 and is scheduled to make $10.25 million in salary and bonuses. Now, the Packers will have to determine if Nelson's demise was due to age, injury or the loss of quarterback Aaron Rodgers to a broken collarbone.

"I mean, Jordy's the ultimate pro, he's the ultimate teammate," head coach Mike McCarthy said. "He's the same guy every day. I understand what numbers say, but it's about opportunities and being in rhythm."

MOST SURPRISING PLAYER: Rookie running back Jamaal Williams did little during training camp and wasn't even a lock to be the top backup to preferred starter Ty Montgomery. But after Montgomery suffered broken ribs and a wrist injury, Williams stepped up. Williams led the Packers with 556 rushing yards and finished fourth in receptions (25) and receiving yards (262). Williams also had six total touchdowns, and he will be tough to unseat as Green Bay's No. 1 running back in 2018.

ASSISTANT COACH ON THE RISE: Packers offensive line coach James Campen was dealt a lousy hand this year. Green Bay's offensive line was decimated by injuries and the No. 1 unit played less than one full game together. Somehow, though, the unit more than held its own. Campen, a former center in New Orleans and Green Bay, just finished his 14th season as a Packers coach. At 53 years old, Campen may not be heavily pursued by other teams, but his stock should be extremely high in Green Bay.

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