Five Questions the Green Bay Packers Must Answer During Training Camp
NFL Training Camp: Five Questions the Green Bay Packers Must Answer
The Green Bay Packers have won the NFC North in each of the last two seasons, but both times they made an earlier than hoped exit from the playoffs by losing to the last two teams that have represented the NFC in the Super Bowl.
The Packers have one of the league’s best quarterbacks in Aaron Rodgers, who is still firmly in his prime at age 29, and despite the loss of some notable veterans this offseason they have plenty of talent in place to remain one of the best teams in the NFL.
Ted Thompson heads a front office that other teams seem to hire executives out of every offseason now, and Green Bay’s track record of not spending big money on outside free agents while finding below-the-radar players that turn into key contributors is the envy of the league.
The Packers came out of April’s draft with a solid group of rookies, adding talent in need areas like running back (Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin) and along the defensive line (Datone Jones and Josh Boyd) while adding players that could compete for spots on the offensive line, at linebacker and in the secondary.
Green Bay has to still be considered the front runner to win their division in 2013, and as long as Rodgers and some other key players on both sides of the ball stay healthy their chances are very good.
That said, here are five questions I think the Packers must answer during training camp if they want to make another Super Bowl run this year.
5. Who Will Be the Backup Quaterback?
Rodgers has been very durable during his five seasons as a starter, but if he continues to be battered like he was at times in 2012 his backup could be forced into action quickly. Graham Harrell has not looked good in limited regular season action, and 2012 seventh-round pick B.J. Coleman is expected to get a legit shot to take over as Green Bay’s No. 2 quarterback.
4. Can Mason Crosby Rebound?
Crosby made just 21 of 33 field goal attempts last season, prompting the Packers to sign Giorgio Tavecchio as potential competition for him. It would be a significant upset if Crosby does not win the job, but the team is clearly trying to light a fire under him and may not hesitate to move on if he struggles during the preseason.
3. How Will the Wide Receiver Depth Chart Take Shape?
With Greg Jennings signing with the Minnesota Vikings in free agency and Donald Driver retiring, the Packers will have a new look at wide receiver in 2013. Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson and James Jones remain in place, but after that there are unproven options like Jarrett Boykin and rookie seventh-round draft picks Charles Johnson and Kevin Dorsey behind them on the depth chart.
2. Who Will Survive a Potential Running Back Carousel?
Lacy and Franklin are likely to step into prominent roles right away, so a reshuffled depth chart is surely coming here for Green Bay. James Starks and Alex Green may appeal to other teams in a trade, and DuJuan Harris could find himself on the roster bubble as training camp wears on. One or more of the latter three could be showcased during preseason games in an effort to grab interest from other teams.
1. How Will the Offensive Line Look?
Green Bay allowed 51 sacks (second-most in the league) in 2012, due in equal parts to injury and ineptitude, so a reshuffling of the offensive line was in order. Tackles Brian Bulaga and Marshall Newhouse will swap spots, with Bulaga moving to left tackle, and guard Josh Sitton will move from right guard to left guard. T.J. Lang is slated to move inside to right guard and Evan Dietrich-Smith will start at center from the outset this season.
Newhouse could face competition from Don Barclay, 2011 first-round pick Derek Sherrod and 2013 fourth-round pick David Bakhtiari, and he has to be considered the most vulnerable of the five expected starters. In any case, protecting Rodgers better and more consistently has to happen for the Packers to make another deep playoff run.