Packers: Will No. 5 Arrive?
Green Bay remains a contender in the coming season
Five summers ago the Packers’ fourth Super Bowl trophy was on display at Lambeau Field, and the team then embarked on a near-perfect regular season. Another championship or two surely lay ahead. Except...
Fans need no reminders of the last five playoff heartaches. But it’s a tribute to the franchise’s talent and leadership that the Packers remain a top contender for the title as they open a new season Sunday.
Will the disappointment end in five months? The Fairly Detached Observers discuss...
Frank: First off, we’ve got to get out of the prediction business. The last two years we both declared that the Packers would definitely reach the Super Bowl.
Artie: Obviously, predicting is fruitless. All anyone knows about how a season will play out—especially in terms of injuries—is so much nothing.
F: Just ask the Vikings, whose outlook changed drastically when they lost quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
A: The same way the Pack got blindsided a year ago when Jordy Nelson went down.
F: Still, there’s no reason to think the Packers can’t go all the way. They’re due, they haven’t had a major injury...
F: Ah, the Art of Fatalism we know and love. But how about some reasons for optimism?
A: That secondary looks excellent. I’d say that’s their biggest strength, and it’s in the right place in a pass-happy league.
F: So there’s talent and depth?
A: And now, experience! Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is in his third year, and he gets a lot of talk as one of the top NFL safeties. Cornerbacks Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins established themselves as rookies last year. LaDarius Gunter is another second-year corner, and of course there are the “old” veterans Sam Shields and Morgan Burnett.
F: As for depth, pending any moves that might come after our deadline the D-back corps includes no fewer than four undrafted youngsters—Kentrell Brice, Josh Hawkins, Marwin Evans and Makinton Dorleant.
A: That’s impressive. But the big weakness on D is the line.
F: Because of Mike Pennel’s four-game suspension to start the season?
A: That’s one thing, but they just don’t have depth. There’s Mike Daniels and Letroy Guion, but then only rookies Kenny Clark and Dean Lowry and “sophomore” Christian Ringo. So they’re thin, if that’s a word for D-linemen.
F: In between the line and secondary, now that Clay Matthews is back to outside linebacking there’s more pressure on the inside LBs. I’ve been impressed by rookie Blake Martinez.
A: Who’ll be starting with Jake Ryan now that Sam Barrington has been cut. But Ryan has had a hamstring problem, and right now there’s only Joe Thomas as a reserve ILB. And what makes that problematic is controlling the opposing rushers, especially in the first two games. Jacksonville has two really good running backs, Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon.
F: Then in Week 2 at Minnesota it’s Adrian Peterson, who’ll presumably get even more work with Bridgewater out and Sam Bradford only acquired from Philly over the weekend.
A: We’ll see if Matthews has to be moved back inside to shore things up.
F: On offense, Nelson is back, although he didn’t play in the pre-season.
A: And Eddie Lacy is looking good...
F: No slimmer, I’d say, but quick and powerful again. How about the eternal issue of the offensive line?
A: The word was that they were deep, but that changed Saturday when right guard and pro-bowler Josh Sitton was shockingly released. Last year’s center, Corey Linsley, is out with a hamstring tear, but JC Tretter seems just as good, and maybe more nimble.
F: On to the passing game. Last year Randall Cobb was playing but nowhere near 100%. But now, assuming Nelson at some point is all the way back and Cobb stays relatively unhurt, it’s a whole different situation.
A: Unfortunately, Davante Adams didn’t have a good pre-season—after dropping a lot of balls in 2015. And Jeff Janis has one hand all wrapped up, at least for a while.
F: So for a No. 3 wide receiver, it looks like Jared Abbrederis?
A: But they can put the new tight end, Jared Cook, out there too, with Richard Rodgers in the “regular” tight-end role.
F: So Cook is in the mold of Jermichael Finley?
A: Yup. He can get down the field well.
F: How about Aaron Rodgers, who had a sub-par 2015? After his only pre-season appearance, Bob McGinn wrote in the Journal Sentinel that he looked “unsettled,” bolting the pocket too quickly under pressure. But at the same time, Rodgers is as good as it gets in being able to escape the rush.
A: And rookie QB Joe Callahan, who’s got to be No.2 while Brett Hundley’s ankle heals, also has good mobility. I think a big part of Rodgers’ trouble last year was Nelson’s absence and Cobb’s ailments. Teams could load up “the box” with rushers and jam the wideouts, so no rhythm got going. That’ll change, I sure hope.
F: So you’re cautiously confident.
A: A title won’t come easy. Arizona, Seattle and Carolina should all be in the NFC picture again, and there’s always a surprise team or two.
F: So we’ll just say the Packers have as good a shot at the Super Bowl as anyone, and leave it at that.
A: But in case folks wants to get some money down in Vegas, it’ll be Packers-Patriots.
F: Readers take note: That’s a solo prediction.
Frank Clines covered sports for The Milwaukee Journal and the Journal Sentinel. Art Kumbalek does an impressive Lambeau Leap in his dreams.