Cory's Corner: Must Get Better In NFC Meat Grinder

The NFC was a downright meat grinder this year.

And unfortuntely for NFC teams, it's not getting any easier.

The 49ers might have the best overall team 1-53, the Saints have a quarterback in Drew Brees that amazingly has completed over 70 percent of his passes the last three years and the Packers have sophomore stability at head coach.

Then there are the Seahawks, who had an MVP candidate in Russell Wilson, because he brought them out of several fires this year. And you cannot forget about the Vikings. They have an amazing defense and Kirk Cousins will benefit with Gary Kubiak as the offensive coordinator.

That's five teams right there. There are also the Cowboys who brought in you know who to be their next head coach, the Rams who are rolling the dice by firing veteran defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and Eagles who cannot be ravaged again by injuries like they were this past season...can they?

Those are the top eight. Last year at this time, many would have put the Bears in this list. However, after what we've seen from Mitch Trubisky, Chicago is clearly a bottom feeder with Washington and Detroit.

The team with the best chance to make the largest gains is the Packers. The 49ers will have a bullseye on their backs all year and Jimmy Garoppolo must answer for his mediocre performance in the Super Bowl. Is he in fact a franchise quarterback, or is he another Cousins with a dominant defense playing behind him? The Saints will be solid again, but Brees is 41. I don't see how he retires, especially since he has the luxury of playing at least eight games in a temperture controlled dome.

Green Bay will be used to LaFleur's system and know and understand what he expects. And if general manager Brian Gutekunst adds capable wide receivers, this team could be special again. Many want to point to skill players as the most important, but I would argue that with Rodgers' age, protecting the team's most vital investment remains. According to Pro Football Focus, Billy Turner allowed 33 pressures, David Bakhitari 26, Elgton Jenkins 21, Bryan Bulaga 18 and Corey Linsley allowed just 13. Rodgers cannot keep getting hit and expect to play at an Aaron Rodgers level. If Rodgers goes down, this team isn't going anywhere. That means adding offensive line depth and understanding how important a blocking tight end is to this team. Jenkins was the best pickup by Gutekunst and his crew in 2019. Following up that pick with another impressive piece of depth would go a long ways to sustaining greatness in Green Bay.

The thing that the Packers are missing is team speed. The 49ers are so much faster and the Chiefs ran right past them in the Super Bowl. This has turned into a speed league and if you don't have it, you're not going to be successful.

This upcoming offseason is very important for LaFleur, arguably the most important. Because, there are expectations now. The Packers won 13 games when many thought they would tally just 10.

The roster must contine to be reshaped and get better or else they will get eaten by the NFC meat grinder.

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Cory Jennerjohn is a graduate from UW-Oshkosh and has been in sports media for over 15 years. He was a co-host on "Clubhouse Live" and has also done various radio and TV work as well. He has written for newspapers, magazines and websites. He currently is a columnist for CHTV and also does various podcasts. He recently earned his Masters degree from the University of Iowa. He can be found on Twitter: @Coryjennerjohn

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Comments (47)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
packerbackerjim's picture

February 04, 2020 at 06:52 am

It’s a tad early to awfulize the daunting task of winning the NFC North let alone the Super Bowl. We all know Gute is expected to fill the gaping holes, but Cheesehead TV is here to advise him on how to go about his challenge. Fear not!

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Gort's picture

February 04, 2020 at 07:18 am

Gute relies on CheeseheadTV advice?

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packerbackerjim's picture

February 04, 2020 at 07:22 am

Tongue firmly in cheek.

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Gort's picture

February 04, 2020 at 06:29 pm

Got it.

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Houndog's picture

February 04, 2020 at 07:53 am

"Cheesehead TV is here to advise him (Gute) on how to go about his challenge".
You are joking, right?

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packerbackerjim's picture

February 04, 2020 at 08:35 am

I heard Jersey Al is THE Gute whisperer.

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flackcatcher's picture

February 04, 2020 at 03:48 pm

Good lord, I swear some folks have no sense of humor around here.....

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RCPackerFan's picture

February 04, 2020 at 07:00 am

I completely agree that we need to add more speed to our team. When Tyler Ervin was added to the roster you could just see that his speed was much needed. On offense he brought a true threat on the jet sweeps and motion plays.

Next year I would expect EQ to replace Allison. Hopefully MVS can take a step next year. Sternberger is faster then Graham. Regardless of what happens with Graham I expect Sternberger to be a bigger part of the passing game next year. If they can still add 1-2-3 Speedier options on offense that would really help change the look of our offense.

On defense if we can add a faster ILB that can go sideline to sideline, that would help add a lot to the defense.

I don't think we are far away at all. With a really good core of players if we can just add a few final pieces I think we have as good of a chance to be hoisting the Lombardi Trophy as anyone.

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Leatherhead's picture

February 04, 2020 at 02:24 pm

Will speedier guys help us convert 3rd and 1? Will speedier TEs help us run the ball?

We are very close. IMO, on offense it ought to be about protecting our QB and converting short-yardage so we can stay on the field. I don’t think speed is the answer.

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carlos's picture

February 04, 2020 at 02:28 pm

Speed kills. The way the league’s going.

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dobber's picture

February 04, 2020 at 02:32 pm

The league has been going this way for about 30 years.

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splitpea1's picture

February 04, 2020 at 05:32 pm

Maybe some of those direct snaps that KC used in the Super Bowl would help. At least it would be a nice change of pace.

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jannes bjornson's picture

February 05, 2020 at 12:47 pm

It worked for Curly Lambeau.

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NickPerry's picture

February 04, 2020 at 07:12 am

IF the Packers could land Robby Anderson in FA as long as the price isn't completely ridiculous he's one of my top targets for the Packers in FA. He's been durable so far in his career and IIRC hasn't been in trouble since entering the NFL as a FA. The kid is fast and can catch a deep ball as well as any other route but he would flourish in MLF system IMO. Again, he's FAST!

One of the writers on APC has suggested more than one on his Podcast the Packers should try and trade for Robert Woods. Woods isn't as fast as Anderson but he's a damn good WR who knows the MLF system and IMO would make a nice running mate with Adams. IMO the Packers NEED to add a veteran WR and another fairly high in the draft.

The Packers are paying Rodgers a ton of money for the next 3 years and like it or not barring any career or season ending injury, Rodgers will be the Packers starter for at least two and most like three seasons...At least. Not surrounding him with a lot more talent is just wrong. Paying Rodgers what the Packers are paying him and not surrounding him with more talent would be just stupid. Gute's not stupid.

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RCPackerFan's picture

February 04, 2020 at 08:43 am

I would like them to go after Anderson if they can. They obviously like him since they tried trading for him.
It will be interesting to see how teams view the veteran WR FA's this year. With this being one of the strongest drafts at WR lately, it will be interesting to see how much teams are willing to pay for veteran WR's. We may see teams not wanting to overspend on veteran options and draft guys.

I completely agree that we need to surround Rodgers with as much talent as possible. One thing is clear. They need better receiving options. Allison was not good this year. They need an upgrade there. They need more speed and more guys that can get open on their own more often.

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Gort's picture

February 04, 2020 at 07:23 am

Speed and athleticism are crucial, especially at the point attack, O-line and D-line.
Everything starts at the LOS.

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stockholder's picture

February 04, 2020 at 08:07 am

You want to get better. Yet you don't want to Clean House. That just won't work. You know Bulaga over-achieved. And Yet had Vlad not stepped in. We would have had more problems. Even a playoff loss. So whats easier. Signing players that have peaked, and ready to fall over the cliff. Or just drafting a Fill-in. Gute knew the problems when he Traded Randall. Drafted Burks. And yes, 3 Wrs in his first draft. ! None of which went away. We still need a Back-up QB, ILB and WR speed. The last FA group helped us improve. The Next FA class must Keep us on TOP! Gute wasted time. Time that must be made up from his first draft. That means WR. Back-up QB ;As Rodgers hour glass is running out of sand. And finally the heart beat of the .Defense. ILB. And now the mistakes of The DL; showed up like a sore thumb. I've said it all along. Pay Defense! , Draft Offense. BPA Rd. 1, WR 2 Regardless of costs!

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CAG123's picture

February 04, 2020 at 08:25 am

Why does everyone think we need speed a WR? MVS runs a 4.3 and ESB runs a 4.4 the Packers don’t need speed they need a more refined WR with goods hands and route running. Those are the traits the Packers need to be looking for not size not speed.

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Packerpasty's picture

February 04, 2020 at 08:35 am

well it would be nice to have a WR who could get a few YAC...only Adams seems capable of that now...

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CAG123's picture

February 04, 2020 at 09:06 am

And he’s not the fastest he’s been chased down plenty of times but makes up for it with excellent route running. Everything else will false in place.

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dobber's picture

February 04, 2020 at 10:07 am

If they can't get on the field, they don't do you much good.

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stockholder's picture

February 04, 2020 at 06:17 pm

MVS hung himself. Moore Cut, Kumerow no way, Janis late pick, bad routes, Not to mention others. ESB INJ. Was in a fight for his job. Allison slow and fumbles now. Lazard could be a TE. The Catch Radius is important. Route running is important. Getting off the Line Priceless. The top picks all have something. Adams has YAC. Nelson, Jennings, Freeman, Cobb weren't late draft picks. And While everyone hoped Gute could find a Driver. That just didn't happen. So when I tell you we need a Wrs. Look at the failures and what we had. Now look at what we got!

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CAG123's picture

February 04, 2020 at 09:34 pm

No where did I say they didn't need a WR I said speed shouldn't be the main thing they look for they need the most polished route runner they can get with their pick. Adams doesn't blow past anyone he gets open with elite level footwork and crisp route running he might have the best feet since Chad Johnson. Looking for just speed is Al Davis levels of talent acquisition.

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mrtundra's picture

February 04, 2020 at 09:11 am

How about every sportswriter just stop telling us just how great the viking defense is? They have been exploited in recent years and have been resting on their laurels for almost a decade, now. Their cap space problems stem from bad management decisions such as paying a mediocre QB $86 million guaranteed dollars. Now, that kind of fiscal responsibility will see their GM cut, or trade, veteran members of that "vaunted" defense and porous O Line, just to make payday a reality. To think that Kubiak can right the sinking purple ship is pure folly. This is the minnesota vikings. Blow that damnable viking horn!

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dobber's picture

February 04, 2020 at 10:14 am

Here's a list of the Vikes' free agents.

https://www.spotrac.com/nfl/free-agents/minnesota-vikings/

Here's a list of the cap space for NFL teams.

https://www.spotrac.com/nfl/cap/2020/

The math is not hard to do for the Vikings, who are likely to jettison Xavier Rhodes and have to figure out how to put together a defense with Waynes and Alexander coming off rookie deals and Eversen Griffen needing to be paid. They've got problems. Notice also the Bears situation...

https://www.spotrac.com/nfl/free-agents/chicago-bears/

Not nearly so daunting, but they have a tremendous hole to fill at the head of their offense, and a quality player there with starter expectations will not come cheaply. They've already renegotiated Mack once to get cap relief.

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McFly's picture

February 04, 2020 at 10:35 am

Wow, Vikings are in big trouble cap-wise! I love it!

One interesting piece of info on that site was that GB has the 4th youngest roster in the league! Contrastingly, SF was the 4th oldest... Found that kind of surprising.

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albert999's picture

February 04, 2020 at 10:59 am

Snag Vic Beasley as the falcons let him go yesterday and he could be had pretty reasonable as far as money goes

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CAG123's picture

February 04, 2020 at 11:32 am

Why would they do that? They don’t need pass rushers especially failed ones. His 2016 sack leading campaign was smoke and mirrors its why nobody talks about it and why nobody has inquired about him.

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dobber's picture

February 04, 2020 at 12:33 pm

Atlanta was one of the worst pass-rushing teams in the league in 2019. He had no support, but 8 sacks is still nothing to sneeze at. He may have had a couple poorer years, but he's going to make a lot of money, yet.

I think the answer is more that the Falcons are ridiculously cash-strapped.

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CAG123's picture

February 04, 2020 at 02:27 pm

I don’t think Beasley will have that Dante Fowler turn around you might be looking for,teams were interested Fowler nobody has come to call for Beasley. I think he’ll settle into more of a Bruce Irvin type role. Also the Packers have another failed first round pass rusher in Tim Williams they’ve stashed on the practice squad who’s probably the replacement for Fackrell.

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dobber's picture

February 04, 2020 at 02:37 pm

"Packers have another failed first round pass rusher in Tim Williams they’ve stashed on the practice squad who’s probably the replacement for Fackrell."

Williams was a 3rd rounder, but point taken. I wouldn't be surprised if they try him inside.

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jannes bjornson's picture

February 05, 2020 at 12:52 pm

And Roberts from the PUP will be in the competition. Maybe they get Fackerell on a fair deal?

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Guam's picture

February 04, 2020 at 11:40 am

In order to play Beasley, you have to sit one of the Smiths (and give less development time to Gary). Why would the Packers do that? The Packers have greater needs elsewhere for their limited cap resources. Let some one else sign Beasley.

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Jonathan Spader's picture

February 04, 2020 at 03:31 pm

Because Beasley is a shiny toy and name Packer fans have heard of. I'd rather see another vet on the DL personally and/or ILB.

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tincada's picture

February 04, 2020 at 11:28 am

It started at the ho hum draft last year and i was right. GB has no running game. Jones is just OK. After him there is nothing, no depth. To prove it, oh let's see AR is the 3rd best running back on the team stats for the year. So the game plan is as it's been for years, oh AR save our ass again. another mediocre year where they will probably win the NFCN with on;ly one team to actually beat. Then it'll be all down hill.

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jannes bjornson's picture

February 04, 2020 at 01:36 pm

No doubt, they need another bell cow to carry the load if A.Jones gets put out of a game. A power back like A.J. Dillon from B.C or James Robinson, Illinois State would help out the 4 minute offense. Not counting on Williams to stay healthy.
Also like James Proche from SMU as a slot WR by the fourth round, he may go higher depending on the Combine. Hard to Mock before the free agency period. Gutedkunst should go for the DT in free agency that can hold point and let Kenny Clark play more 3 and 5 tech. Lancaster is a backup NT at best and Lowry ?? Montravious probably another Ted miss.

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splitpea1's picture

February 04, 2020 at 03:24 pm

Broken record time: The Packers need a stout D-lineman to pair with Clark, a great ILB that can do the job against both the pass and run, and a speedy WR with reliable hands. That should be Gute's priorities. Then comes the O-line. Whether or not to re-sign Bulaga is going to be a tough decision; if they don't, they better have somebody who can step right in and play without having to reshuffle things.

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mrj007's picture

February 10, 2020 at 09:50 pm

Yes. D line is priority. 285 rushing in NFC championship game? That and speed at ILB. Packers are a longer way off I think than many think. But I think biggest gap is still on defense. Missing on Gary last draft really hurt. Samuels and Metcalf at WR would haved been better but it's hindsight now. I'd get a top free agent WR and draft defense line/ILB. But Packers seem to suck at evaluating linebackers.... So it's a crap shoot.

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flackcatcher's picture

February 04, 2020 at 04:25 pm

All in all, the Packers are in good shape cap wise. Good work by Ted and his team back in 2017. (Murphy came close to screwing that up with his early signing of Rodgers. Another reason to thank the football Gods that Gute is Packer GM....) Gute moves on with the rebuild, and the team gets younger and hopefully better via the draft. While picking up core backups and maybe future starters and cutting salary over the long term. And as Gute reminded all in his presser, his mentors are Ted Thompson and Ron Wolf, neither overly big spenders in free agency. Be glad we're not the Vikings, about to go into Cap Hell. (YES! dances on grave and smashes horn at same time.) Gute has told us fans his plan. Sign your own, see what's reasonable in FA, and build team depth thru the draft. With the contract talks (OK grudge match) between the NLFPA and Owners looming, this may be the limit of what Gute can do for now.

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wompos74's picture

February 04, 2020 at 05:50 pm

The yeti places they need top improve is on the offensive and defensive line. Protecting Rodgers is a must. However, Gutenkurst went ALL in on pass rush. The league is definitely a passing league. But you must be able to stop the run. The Packers lost to San Francisco in the trenches. The d line got their butts handed to them in both games against the 49ers. The offensive line faired better in the championship game but looked slow in both games. Draft offensive line and d line or get a good run stopper.

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stockholder's picture

February 04, 2020 at 06:23 pm

Not 1 guy at #30 or #60 is capable at starting. The only guy that could start is a WR. No way Pettine puts his Defense in the hands of a Rookie. Example: How much playing Time did Summers Get?

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CAG123's picture

February 05, 2020 at 07:48 am

I mean we can't compare a raw 7th round pick to a potential 1st or 2nd rounder. How many 7th round picks are even still on the roster by the time the regular season starts?

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MoMoney's picture

February 04, 2020 at 06:52 pm

Every is so awed by Mahomes. 1. He has three very very fast hard to cover receivers, not one Adams. 2. He has the second best TE in football, not a worn out grahm. 3. He has a 6'7 de who knocks down four passes in in a sb, while everyone else rushes the passer. 5. He has speed in the backfield to catch out passes and scoot? 6. He has a d line that can stop or hinder the run.

You can put money on Speilman seeing what KC has and he will get his pieces of the puzzle for next year. Two delvin cooks should do it.

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Lphill's picture

February 05, 2020 at 06:49 am

How can Speilman do anything being in negative cap space already?

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Sol's picture

February 05, 2020 at 09:47 am

I know it's not very flashy or sexy but drafting quality offensive and defensive lineman is a great way for building a team, they just make everyone around them better.

It shouldn't be to hard to find a receiver in the draft with the quality of that position this year. But it's a bit like rolling the dice, so many high draft choices just don't earn a second contract. I like the young man from Colorado Laviska Shenault he kind of reminds me of Sterling Sharp. Doubling up this year might not be a bad idea for that position. I really like the willingness of our wide receivers to block downfield this year and hope that continues. As far as linebacker goes the only way I see of solving the problem is get bigger up front and taller and faster at linebacker. It's really hard to find a guy with no neck that can run really fast.

As for free agents I like the idea of finding teams that have a track record of creating what you need the most. If the young man out of Baltimore, Michael Pierce were to become available for the right price the probability of success goes up. He coming from a team that has prioritized defense for decades, we have the team chemistry and the Smith brothers to help with transition and he would make Kenny Clack absolutely shine with all the double teams he would command. He is only six foot tall and 340 lbs, just imagine the leverage and mismatches he would be able to create. It would also help solve our problem at linebacker by commanding a double team the opponents have one less hole to run through, and less clutter for the linebackers to negotiate, that will definitely show up in the analytics and stats.

Oh bye the way I would also like a guy that has the reflexes of a cat, the vision of an eagle, can throw the ball 90 yards, run a 4.4 forty, is six foot five inches tall and 250 pounds, if they can find one of those in the draft that would be great.

Go Pack

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mrj007's picture

February 10, 2020 at 09:54 pm

Cam Newton might be available. Good post

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PatrickGB's picture

February 05, 2020 at 03:02 pm

Sammy Watkins might come available. He fits into the type of WR that Rodgers likes. The only rub is the price.

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