One nice thing that comes with losing ugly in the playoffs two years in a row is that expectations for the Packers from the national media are not nearly as high. I have seen a few pick the Packers to win the division but with an early exit to follow. Of course, here in Titletown expectations remain the same – Super Bowl or bust.
For the first time since maybe 2009 the Packers are not in the conversation for best team in the NFC. Watching Adrian Peterson and Colin Kaepernick run roughshod over the Packers’ defense is still fresh in most people’s minds. In the NFC it is San Francisco, Seattle and Atlanta at the top with the rest fighting for mediocrity.
The Packers also have another chip on their shoulders besides the two playoff losses – their man cards has been questioned. The popular offseason topic was that the Packers are a finesse team unable to stand up to rugged teams like San Francisco and Seattle. Head coach Mike McCarthy staunchly disagreed, but the proof will be on the field this year.
McCarthy, along with general manager Ted Thompson have addressed the Packers’ needs with the drafting of running backs Eddie Lacy and Jonathan Franklin and the switching of right guard Josh Sitton and right tackle Bryan Bulaga to the left side. McCarthy appears committed to improving the running game which should help protect quarterback Aaron Rodgers and maybe help give the defense some added rest by extending offensive drives.
To me an improved running game on offense and the return of linebacker Nick Perry on defense are the keys to the Packers’ fortunes this year. Perry can bring the toughness the Packers need on defense and with another training camp under his belt should be much better at his new position even after missing 10 games as a rookie.
I am a little worried about losing Greg Jennings because James Jones has never been able to play consistently well for a whole season. He was excellent last year and is in a contract year, so that should help. Jordy Nelson just needs to find a way to stay on the field.
I am looking forward to seeing Datone Jones come in and bring some pass rush to the defensive line. I also will be very interested in the cornerback battle. Davon House talks a big game but can he deliver? Will the loser of that battle move to safety opposite Morgan Burnett?
Hopefully other than the key position battles the Packers have an uneventful training camp and come out better prepared for the 49ers than they were last year. It all starts next week.