The defensive line was already ok last season due to the likes of Aaron Kampman, Ryan Pickett and Cullen Jenkins. Now with the drafting of Justin Harrell the line just got a little more stubborn against the run. The Packers were able to take a filer with Harrell because the defensive line was already ok but with the Viking getting Adrian Peterson and Chicago going full time with Cedric Benson, the Packers had to do something to off set those changes. But the inserting of Harrell will not happen until the Packers feel he is successfully recovered from biceps injury. The X factors are Corey Williams, Johnny Jolly, Colin Cole and Mike Montgomery. Unless there are injuries to the others Larry Birdine and Daniel Muir look to be practice squad players. Another attempted improvement is the shifting of KGB back to a stage in his career where he was successful at rushing the passer and not a full time defensive end. But soon to be 30 years old might be a telling sign to KGB and the Packers, that those days are over. This training camp will allow the coaches a early look see if KGB has it or not. The defensive line is more settled than the other two defensive areas but improvements were made. Will those improvements with Justin Harrell being added will be helpful this season or next. Again these gains will not be noticed until probably half way into the upcoming season. So Corey Williams will have to hold down the fort with Johnny Jolly and Colin Cole. So with that the Packers will keep defensive ends Aaron Kampman, Cullen Jenkins, Jason Hunter and KGB. Now if there were to be a change and KGB was gone then either Mike Montgomery or Larry Birdine will have the position. The Packers will keep five defensive tackles, which should include Ryan Pickett, Corey Williams, Jolly, Cole and of course Harrell.
A lot of football experts say that the strength of Green Bay Packers 2007 defense will be the linebackers. They mention AJ Hawk and Nick Barnett, completely forgetting about Brady Poppinga. Last year Brady was coming of a similar injury that Marviel Underwood is coming off this year. So it took a while for Brady to gain confidence on the knee that he injured. By the end of the 2006 season, Brady was coming into his own. Now Brady is not as gifted as the other two linebackers but the fact that he wears his emotions on his sleeve will be a telling factor on how good this defense can be this year. Now an interesting piece of information that leaked out was that Abdul Hodge had a year long bout with a knee injury last year but didn’t go on the injured reserve. In the off season the injury knee didn’t require surgery, so the Packers are gaining an advantage there with Hodge coming back healthy. I am excited about the linebackers the Packers did get with and after the 2007 draft. See the linebackers may be the strength of the defense but there was no depth to speak of if one of the starters went down. The only decent replacement was Abdul Hodge for the three spots. Hodges top end speed was some where in the 4.87 seconds for a 40 yard dash, not good when you have to cover a tight end. So the only spot he could have backed up was middle linebacker. Now enter Desmond Bishop, Rory Johnson, and Juwan Simpson. Desmond Bishop is cut in the same mold as Abdul Hodge. Rory Johnson and Juwan Simpson have top end speed to cover the outside positions. All three would be an upgrade on the special teams as well. So how should this shake out. Believe it or not I have the Packers keeping seven linebacker on their squad this year. Why so many, that would be for the upgrade in the special teams coverage units. So Poppinga, Barnett and Hawk are the starters with Bishop, Hodge and Johnson and Simpson for depth.
Now the scoop on the safeties are all over the place as to who will be projected as the starter and who will be the backups. There are opinions out there that have the rookie Aaron Rouse starting at strong safety. I am not one of them. I find that hard to believe because Aaron would have to understand the defense immediately and that usually never happens with a rookie. Aaron will make the team because of his ability on special teams. I feel everyone is not taking into consideration the fact that defensive coordinator Bob Sanders is on a short leash this year, because the defense was out coached several times last year and factor that in with Winston Moss, the linebacker coach, being elevated to assistant head coach. Meaning if the Packers defense comes out against Philadelphia flat that could mean the end of the line for Bob Sanders. Getting back to the topic, my thinking is that Bob Sanders will play it close to the vest this year with last years starter Marquand Manuel. That is unless Manuel is beaten out by either Tyrone Culver or Marvel Underwood. Those are the next two guy in line with the most experience in the current defensive system. I would have entered Atari Bigby in that mix, but it is always been a fact that Ted Thompson likes his draft choices to be on the team and limit the street free agents as much as possible. I give Atari a lot of credit because from reports he has done nothing but had the best off season in trying to gain the strong safety position this year. Safety position should shake out with Nick Collins at FS and either Marquand Manuel or Tyrone Culver or Marviel Underwood starting at SS. Then Aaron Rouse will back up the SS position and the winner of the Tyrone Culver and Marviel Underwood battle will back up Nick Collins at FS. If the Packers defense comes out on fire as expected then Aaron Rouse will get some playing time to gain experience, most notably on early running downs.
You probably have heard it a million times already that the starters will be. Well one more time will not hurt. Ted Thompson will be patting himself on the back over and over this year for signing Charles Woodson last season, then giving Al Harris his contract extension. Three reasons for that is Calvin Johnson and Roy Williams of Detroit then there is Bernard Berrian and Muhsin Muhammad of Chicago and finally the Vikings with the drafting of Sydney Rice. The other major concern going into this off-season from a secondary standpoint was the nickel and dime positions. Now based on what happened last year after the major collapse of “Batman” Carroll during the Philadelphia Eagles game. The nickel back position was taken over by Patrick Dendy and many felt that over all he did a fine job for the limited time at the position. But experts were saying that there is always room for upgrades in the nickel and dime position in the secondary. Well with the only upgrade came from the signing of Frank Walker from the Giants, as a unrestricted free agent, and the return of Will Blackmon from a foot injury, the experts felt that the Packers still didn’t improve enough. I would have to disagree due to it takes more experience than athletic ability to be successful at either the nickel or dime packages and knowledgeable in the defensive scheme. Frank Walker has four years as a defensive back for the Giants and for the nickel that is important. Than either Patrick Dendy, Jarrett Bush or Will Blackmon can handle the dime package. One of the big questions going into this training camp is will the injury bug that Will Blackmon has had ever since joining the Packers last season. Right now Will Blackmon is recovering from a groin injury and was on the sideline, which didn’t make Mike McCarthy to happy. If Blackmon is to keep a roster position with the Packers, then this training camp he will have to be on the field more than on the sidelines with injuries. Cornerback situation should shake out with Charles Woodson and Al Harris starting and Frank Walker the nickel back and a dog fight between Patrick Dendy, Jarrett Bush and Will Blackmon for the final spot. Either Antonio Malone or Tramon Williams will be on the practice squad when it is finished.
Well this area was being developed last year and is showing signs of life this year. The only new addition to the line this year was Allen Barbre. A tackle in college that will be project as a guard with the Packers, at least early on. Other than that, it’s the same as it was last year. Clifton, Colledge, Wells, Spitz, Tauscher as the starting line up. Backing them up should be Colledge, Barbre, Spitz, Palmer, Moll. The X factors for the line this year go to Orrin Thompson and Junius Coston. Possible practice squad players include Pat Murray and Travis Leffew.
Bubba Franks still holds the hopes of the Packers in the upcoming season. The X factors to go Donald Lee, Zac Alcorn, Tory Humphrey and Clark Harris. This position needs as much upgrading going into 2008 draft as the cornerback position, due to the age of the starters. So here is my selections based on keeping three. Franks, Lee, Harris. But I hear that the Packers are thinking of using the tight end position more in their offensive philosophy. If that is the case then the Packers will keep four tight ends. Based on four would include, Franks, Lee, Alcorn, Harris
With the drafting of James Jones and David Clowney to go along with rest of a collection of blue collar guys that reflect the image that the Packers want to put on the field in the upcoming season. Clowney is a special teams guy from Virginia Tech. Remember there was another Virginia Tech player drafted by the Packers and that was Antonio Freeman, he was 6-1,198 and had a 4.42 in the 40 when drafted. Clowney is 6-0, 188 and had a 4.35 in the 40 after being drafted. David will be effective this year for the Packers.
James Jones was drafted with someone else in mind, that player was Sterling Sharpe. Sterling was 6-0, 207 with 4.55 speed in the 40 yard dash. James Jones is 6-1, 207 with 4.59 speed in the 40 yard dash. Now with those to comparisons will see how effective they are when the season starts. I really believe Jimmy Robinson, wide receivers coach will have both ready, just like Greg Jennings was last year. We as fans already know about Donald Driver, Greg Jennings and their potential. The X factors go to Ruvell Martin, Carlyle Holiday, Koren Robinson. The other wide receivers are just camp bodies. The order that I see is Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, Ruvell Martin, James Jones and David Clowney.
Well another season with Brett Favre will not be so bad. Couple of reasons, one we get to see him break some more of Marino and Elway records. Two, I like Brett in this scenario because he can calm down a young team and help guide the team as it still gets its feet under control. Three, continue development of Aaron Rodgers to keep coming along slowly so that he will be able to immediately step into the position when Brett calls it a career. Ingle brings more of the conventional pocket passer to the table more than anything else. I like Ingle Martin but I am also intrigued with Paul Thompson. One of the main things that Mike McCarthy is trying to do this year differently from last year is based on rollouts away from the protection. Paul Thompson has caught the eye of the Packer coaches in that offensive phase of the game. Another thing that Paul Thompson does is that he was a wide receiver at Oklahoma as well. Now Thompson has to remind Mike McCarthy of Carlyle Holiday. Holiday was the QB at Notre Dame then turned WR when drafted by Arizona Cardinals. McCarthy has already stated that he loves QBs that can play other positions because they understand offensives quicker. If Thompson is not on the final 53, then expect him to be on the practice squad this year.
Finally the running backs position. Everyone fells there is great unrest at this position. Yeah we have inexperience working against the Packers at the moment. But both Vernand Morency and Brandon Jackson, will be ok after about four games into the season. Both will have successful seasons in the zone blocking scheme the Packers are running. Barring any major injury both of those running back should be at or near 1000 yards each. Now the major question is who will be the third halfback kept on the roster. The general experts are saying Noah Herron will keep his job. But if Green Bay is to keep a sound rushing attack throughout the season there needs to be a better runner than Herron in the backfield and that player is DeShawn Wynn. Wynn will be able to give the running game a new dimension that Herron couldn’t. That dimension is speed, something that Herron doesn’t have. At the full back position, I look for Brandon Miree to be backed up by Korey Hall. Only reason why Hall will be on the team is for his special teams ability. If Korey Hall wasn’t drafted I could easily see Ryan Powdrell being Miree’s backup instead. The players that are looking at practice squad are Corey White and Ryan Powdrell.
Overall this years team should be better at special teams, more of an overall defensive dominance, and just enough of a balance offense to control the clock in order to win games. We will have to see if that become true. Let training camp begin!!
by Joe Blackwell.