Two weeks into the National Football League season and for at least two Green Bay Packer players, the brief stretch looks a lot like the 2010 Super Bowl season for pass-rusher extraordinairre Clay Matthews and cornerback Tramon Williams after sub-par 2011 campaigns.
Both Matthews and Williams played through hardship last year that excused their normal lack of production. Clay dealt with recurring hamstring injury issues and constant double-teaming as the 2011 Green Bay squad simply had no other pass rush threats to concern the opposition. Tramon suffered a serious shoulder injury in the season opener and played through pain and nerve damage that severely limited his aggressive physical presence. His effectiveness was clearly hampered with a lack of strength in his shoulder that could barely bench press thirty pound dumbbells, less than half of his normal weightlifting load.
While the offense clearly showed the way for the 2011 Packers, the defense failed miserably and ultimately cost the team a shot at repeating their 2010 Super Bowl season.
It was no secret that bolstering the defense through the draft would be a top priority, but a return to 2010 form from the squad’s arguably two best defensive playmakers was a necessity as well.
“Claymaker” Matthews looks unstoppable in his premier pass-rushing role with six sacks after two games that equals his entire 2011 total and looks to be on pace to surpass his 13.5 sacks of 2010. Williams has two interceptions already and clearly looks like a different player this year. He now resembles the “shut-down” corner that blanketed opposing receivers to near perfection in the Super Bowl season’s stretch drive and finished that glorious football year with 6 intereceptions.
Surprisingly it’s the offense that appears to be holding back the Pack at this youthful juncture of the 2012 football year. The vaunted passing game has yet to click and appears to be just a shadow of its once premier self as either opposing teams have figured out the scheme or the timing just needs to be fine-tuned.
Monday night’s contest against the Seahawks in Seattle will offer a bit more evidence of the team’s progress after a mediocre first two games. The defense should be well prepared with an unusually long ten day span between contests. One might reasonably expect the defensive effort against the Chicago Bears to carry over in tonight’s tilt as the Seahawks are mainly a one-dimensional running team with a rookie quarterback at the helm in Russell Wilson, the former Wisconsin Badger.
Look for the offense to continue its below average early season performance as the boisterous Monday night crowd in Seattle will likely cause havoc. Hopefully Aaron Rodgers and Co. can provide just enough offense tonight for the Green and Gold to prevail and as always, keeping turnovers to a minimum will be key.
The offense likely will come around in the next few weeks, but for now a return to 2010 splendor from Clay Matthews and Tramon Williams should be enough to keep the team’s defense from reverting back to its porous 2011 form.
Another strong performer from 2010 that regressed last year could be key as well. If cornerback Sam Shields can carry his weight in coverage and keep Jarrett Bush on the sidelines where he belongs, the defense might be able to get off the field once in awhile. Bush was notably absent in the defensive backfield last Thursday night and perhaps defensive coordinator Dom Capers has finally come to realize that Bush is a persistent liability in coverage.
Now if the team could only combine the 2011 offense with the improved defense we all could relive the fantasy that was 2010 and a Super Bowl trophy in hand. Unfortunately, lightning doesn’t usually strike the same place twice in sports, but why not return to splendor one more time?