The biggest challenge GM Ted Thompson faces this offseason is whether he can admit he made a mistake last offseason with S Marquand Manuel. The Packers defense played very well during the last four games of the season, as Tom Silverstein points out, the Packers didn't play any good offenses during that stretch except Chicago, and QB Rex Grossman admitted that he phoned that game in (better luck with your next NFL team Rex). Silverstein brings back the memories of the twenty-three explosive plays surrendered in the first twelve games. The pass defense ranged between solid with occasional lapses (see Buffalo game) to complete confusion and collapse (see Philadelphia). I was very wrong regarding the release of CB Ahmad Carroll and his subtraction was a major addition to the secondary. It seemed obvious that the main cause of the problem this season was the play of the safeties. FS Nick Collins deserves another chance after playing only his second season above Division I-AA (now called the subdivision), recovering from a preseason injury, and finishing the season with an outstanding game at Chicago. However, Manuel was torched from the beginning, his only preseason game against Cincinnati was a three TD disaster, until the end when he let WR Mark Bradley run by him for Chicago's only TD in week 17. The only player on the roster who has a chance to start ahead of Manuel is S Marviel Underwood, but in a seperate article, Tom Silverstein does not sound too optimistic about him coming back strong after major knee surgery. Thompson should address the position in free agency in March, but will he admit he made a mistake with Manuel or instead give him a second chance?
Assuming QB Brett Favre returns in 2007, the other and equally important task for Thompson is to give Favre more weapons. For all the talk about Favre being old and done, there has been no talk about how WR Greg Jennings was one of the worst WRs in the league and TE Bubba Franks was the worst TE. Jennings caught only one of the thirteen passes thrown his way in week 16 and was mercifully shown the bench in week 17. Franks was a pass dropping machine in 2006, when he wasn't fumbling at the goal line. Jennings struggles began after his mid-season injury and there are many reasons to expect him to bounce back. Expecting Franks to bounce back is a fantasy; he just finished his seventh season and he has never shown very good hands during his career. Excluding the WR Koren Robinson saga, the next depth behind Jennings are two little used wide receivers and the injury prone WR Robert Ferguson. Behind Franks is the ever injured TE David Martin. None of these players should be ignored, but none of them can be counted on either. It is shaping up to be a weak free agent class and better receivers might only be found in the draft.