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32 in 32: Defense holds the key for Green Bay Packers

"NFL Total Access" has launched its "32 in 32" series, breaking down the biggest subplots of every NFL team as the 2013 season approaches. Around The League will follow along and offer our own take. Up next: The Green Bay Packers.

  1. No quarterback was sacked more than Aaron Rodgers last season. That was partly due to injuries up front, but the Green Bay Packers aren't content to simply plug the same players back in. Bryan Bulaga and Josh Sitton, the team's top offensive tackle and guard, respectively, are moving to Rodgers' blind side to aid in pass protection.
  1. The Packers entered the season relying on Cedric Benson -- a player the rest of the NFL deemed washed up -- as the key to their rushing attack. They ended the season without a single player over 500 rushing yards while the top three backs failed to top 3.6 yards per carry. The top of the depth chart could have three new names this season with late-season find DuJuan Harris joined by second-round draft pick Eddie Lacy and fourth-round selection Johnathan Franklin. This unit is in the discussion for most improved in the league.
  1. The defense has been in the offseason spotlight after Colin Kaepernick reeled off a single-game quarterback record of 183 rushing yards in the San Francisco 49ers' playoff victory over the Packers. The pieces are in place with an All-Pro pass rusher in Clay Matthews to go with young talent in the secondary, but the Packers need 2012 first-round draft pick Nick Perry and 2013 first-round choice Datone Jones to establish themselves as quality starters.
  1. Two years after making a serious run at an undefeated regular season, the Packers seem like afterthoughts in a stacked conference featuring the Atlanta Falcons and the NFC West superpowers. As long as the Packers have the game's best quarterback in Rodgers, an offensive mastermind in Mike McCarthy and an emerging star in Randall Cobb, they will be the favorites in the NFC North. If the defense cooperates, there's no reason the Packers can't be Super Bowl contenders.

Follow Chris Wesseling on Twitter @ChrisWesseling.

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