Issue No. 1: Can Aaron Rodgers repeat his success from last season?
Answer: In just his first full season as a starting quarterback, Rodgers threw
for over 4,000 yards and posted 32 combined touchdowns (28 passing/4 rushing).
And to think he achieved such lofty numbers while playing with a sprained right
shoulder, which he suffered during their Week Four game at Tampa Bay, and the
injury lingered for several more weeks. While Rodgers had has practice time
limited most weeks until very late in the season, he started all 16 games, a
feat that didn't seem possible after he first suffered the injury.
Rodgers already has shown in just one season that he can play with a nagging
injury and still play at a high level. The other surprising facet about his
success from last season was his ability to throw the ball down field with a bad
throwing shoulder. His 7.5 yards per pass attempt and over 250 yards
passing/game were pretty impressive. Rodgers was thought to have an average arm
coming into last season, but from his numbers and from watching him, I'd say
that couldn't be further from the truth.
Why shouldn't he continue his success? The one area which is a concern is the
with the offensive line. RT Mark Tauscher is coming off of ACL surgery and
remains unsigned. His return to the team is considered a real long-shot, and
because of that, second-year OT Allen Barbre has been penciled in at that spot.
However, Barbre didn't start a single game last season and projected starting RG
Josh Sitton only started two games last year (his rookie season). While LG Daryn Colledge has started 44 games in his three years of play and shown decent
versatility, some would question if he's a solid player.
The good news is that while the offensive line looks to be questionable, Rodgers
may have the NFL's deepest group of receivers to work with. Led by emerging star
Greg Jennings, Green Bay has speed and size at this position. While Jennings and
veteran Donald Driver are considered to be smaller than average for the
position, Green Bay uses taller receivers such as second-year pro Jordy Nelson
and veteran Ruvell Martin as a part of their passing down and red zone packages.
And don't forget about James Jones, who was a pleasant surprise for the team as
a rookie, but his second season was marred by knee problems.
Taking everything into account, there really isn't a strong reason to think
Rodgers won't do just as well if not better if he stays healthy.
Issue No. 2: Will the change from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defensive scheme prove to be
Answer: New defensive coordinator Dom Capers has had his share of success over
the years with some of the seven teams he coached for. Now with his eighth team,
Capers will be charged with moving the Packer defense from a 4-3 to a 3-4 zone
Capers' best seasons were his first two as the head coach of the Carolina Panthers and during his tenure as the defensive coordinator with the Pittsburgh Steelers for three seasons.
One thing stood out over that time, he found quality pass rushers at OLB--Kevin Greene (in Pittsburgh and Carolina), Greg Lloyd, and Lamar Lathon to name just a
Other than Aaron Kampman, who be making the switch from being a 4-3 end to a 3-4
outside linebacker, the rest of the other outside linebackers on roster have a
grand total of three sacks--for their careers. First-round pick Clay Matthews is
might be better off as a 4-3 SLB than playing OLB in a 3-4--time will tell. Keep
in mind depth isn't about numbers, it's about talent and productivity. A team
can go three to four deep at any one position, but if those players are
unproven, the depth isn't really what you might think it is. A player to keep an
eye on as camps get underway is Marcus Washington, formerly of the Washington Redskins. The veteran outside linebacker can offer a solid role as a situational
Another issue is going to be depth up front. Can former first-round pick DL
Justin Harrell contribute? Harrell will be playing end in the revamped scheme,
but he's done absolutely nothing in his first two years as a professional. The
only backups who've had meaningful playing experience are Mike Montgomery and
Johnny Jolly. Unfortunately, Jolly could be suspended by the NFL for alleged
illegal possession of codeine. His trial has been rescheduled for July 17. If I
was executive vice president, general manager & director of football operations
Ted Thompson, I'd take a hard look at signing veteran DLs Vonnie Holliday or
Kevin Carter. Both have a decent amount of experience in playing in a 3-4, and
both can rush the passer. They could also look at veteran DE Anthony Weaver, who
had playing experience in the 3-4 with the Baltimore Ravens. He's not much of a
pass rusher, but is decent against the run.
The secondary is in decent shape, especially at cornerback. And they are going
to be pretty strong at inside linebacker, but depth could be an issue.
The bottom line is Capers will have his hands full converting the defense this
season. Expectations shouldn't be very high, but there's a decent base of talent
in the front-seven.