Tuesday, January 02, 2007

How will the Packers play in 2007? Mostly it depends on QB Brett Favre's return. He didn't have a very good season, but it really hurt that he played with a new head coach, mostly rookie offensive line all learning a new blocking scheme, and the Packers started one of the 5 worst WRs and the worst receiving TE. TE Bubba Franks's days as a receiving TE are over, but WR Greg Jennings was a rookie, played through an injury, and appeared to hit the rookie wall. Jennings shouldn't have played that well in his first NFL season after coming from a small school. Hopefully he bounces back in 2007. Favre appears to have confidence in WRs Ruvell Martin and Carlyle Holliday, and he threw the ball a lot better when they were in the game. TE David Martin played well, when he was healthy, but as it has gone during his entire career, Martin was again often injured. Peter King wrote last Monday that the Packers could really use TE Tony Gonzalez. That won't happen because Kansas City will use their franchise tag on him, but they need to find a quality free agent WR or pass receiving TE to help Favre. It seems that Favre needs receivers he can trust, he defintely didn't trust Jennings during the last Minnesota game. He could have really used WR Javon Walker this season; how much better would Favre had been if he had Walker and Driver? The Packers used Denver's draft choice to select LG Daryn Colledge, who had an excellent rookie season, but they would be better off with Walker.

If Favre leaves, then we will see if QB Aaron Rodgers is as awful as awful has he has looked during his limited appearances. Rodgers hasn't played under the best circumstances and he has never played an entire game are legitimate defenses for Rodgers, but he still hasn't shown anything yet.

The defense played very well during the four game winning streak to end the season, but they played against a number of bad offenses. Chicago was the first quality offense they played during the winning streak, and while Chicago could run the ball, their pass offense was awful. CBs Al Harris and Charles Woodson are a solid foundation, and FS Nick Collins struggled at times, but ended the season very well with a monster game at Chicago. 20, 17, 14, 3. The number of pass defenses during 2006 for Harris, Woodson, Collins, and finally S Marquand Manuel. Manuel is obviously the weakest link in the secondary and he has to be replaced. The Packers were very high on S Marviel Underwood until he blew out his knee in the preseason, so that is one in-house candidate to replace Manuel. S Tyrone Culver is on the roster, but the Packers showed no sign of replacing Manuel with him. This is another area the Packers have to improve in free agency this offseason.

The Packers started the same linebackers for all 16 games, except when LB Abdul Hodge started in place of injured LB Nick Barnett. LB Brady Poppinga struggled early but seemed to improve along with LB A.J. Hawk as the season goes on. It seems likely that all three starters will return next season, and that is not bad despite their struggles, because this is the best group of linebackers in the last few seasons.

The Packers need to address the defensive line in the 2007 draft. If the Packers could draft high enough to take RB Adrian Peterson, that would be a different story. The Packers could draft a WR too, but at the middle of the 1st round, defensive line seems like the safe pick. They could draft an end to replace DE KGB on 1st and 2nd down, who then could slide over to DT on passing downs. DTs Corey Williams and Cullen Jenkins have been solid over the last four games, but drafting a starting DT would essentially replace DT Colin Cole, who has made no impact during the four game winning streak, in the rotation at tackle and end. Ryan Pickett is a solid nose tackle, so a pass rushing DT, like ex-Packer DT Santana Dotson, would seem to make the most sense. Maybe someone like Michigan's DT Alan Branch.

The special teams were one of the worst in the NFL this season and need to be upgraded. Hopefully with a different coaching staff and another a full season of experience for many first year players will make a big difference on the kick coverage and returns.

This will be a quiet playoff season for the Packers. No playoff games, no new coaches, and probably no decision from Favre. They have a lot of planning to do for the draft and in free agency, maybe as much as $30 million available under the salary cap this offseason. GM Ted Thompson has proven that he can draft good players, made one good move in free agency signing Pickett and one great move signing Woodson when everyone thought he couldn't play cornerback anymore. Unfortunately he signed the awful Manuel and blew it by trading away Walker when they had plenty of cap room to make him happy. Hopefully he avoids the awful decisions this offseason.

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