As we look toward the 2014 campaign and what the team will look like, it’s important to also look back at this past season and decide who deserves to stay. With 17 unrestricted free agents on this Packers team many decisions will have to be made. We may see some familiar faces go to other teams, or retirement. Who, however, is the one player that impressed us the most based on his expectations at the start of the season?
For me, and much of Packer Nation for that matter, this biggest need to establish consistency is on the Packers’ defense. This year they fought through injury after injury it seemed. Clay Matthews went down, Johnny Jolly was in and out of the line up as well as so many of the linebacking corps it seemed like a joke. There was one player who played all 16 games on defense, however, and the level of his play was nothing but surprising. Mike Neal had his best year as a pro after not being able to stay healthy for a full season his first four years. He stepped up in Matthews’ absence, totaling 67 total tackles (56 solo, 11 assists) with five sacks, an interception and a forced fumble.
Heading into the offseason the defense will be the focus of Ted Thompson, Mike McCarthy, Dom Capers, and all of the front office. Mike Neal must be resigned as he’s proven he can be an impact player and his age means he won’t cost the Packers too much to lock him up for five more years.
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