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Packer Partisan (08/29/2007)
By Dave DeLano

Packers Prepare for the 2007 Season

The 2007 opener against the Philadelphia Eagles is less than two weeks away and Cheeseheads worldwide can hardly wait. Three of the four pre-season games have been played and fan interest is running high on who will and who won't make the Packer roster.

As always, training camp has brought some pleasant surprises and a couple of disappointments for Cheeseheads. The aggressive play of undrafted free agent Atari Bigby has been impressive, and he has apparently won the starting safety spot. Bigby has displayed big-time hitter qualities along with good blitzing and coverage speed. He will be a significant upgrade at that position.

Another pleasant surprise has been the performance of the two kickers in camp, rookie Mason Crosby, and the incumbent, Dave Rayner. Both have strong legs and their field goal accuracy has been very good. It will be a tough decision for Packer management on which one to keep. My hunch is that it will be Crosby.

One of Ted Thompson's sleeper draft picks this past spring was unheralded wide receiver James Jones. Jones was selected in the third round and has thus far responded nicely in camp" seemingly securing the third receiver position. Of the remaining 2007 draft picks, linebacker converted to fullback, Korey Hall, has been a nice surprise and might end up starting at that position against the Eagles. Desmond Bishop is another big time hitter who most likely has earned a position as backup middle linebacker. Interestingly, Hall, Bishop, and Crosby are all low (6th round) draft picks.

First round draft pick Justin Harrell has shown little or nothing in the pre-season and, thus far anyway, would have to be classified as a major disappointment. Also disappointing is the lack of someone to take over as the feature back. It was Vernand Morency's opportunity until he hurt his knee the first day of camp and he hasn't practiced since. Second round draft pick Brandon Jackson took over and has looked "OK" but he is now also hurt with a concussion.

More concern has developed about the moribund play of the Packers' tight ends. Donald Lee has been selected as the starter, taking over from Bubba Franks, but he hasn't shown much. The Packers need a tight end who can run downfield to compliment their version of the West Coast offense. Ted Thompson could have drafted Greg Olsen, who is now the Bears starting tight end to upgrade that position, but instead he took Harrell. It would be a cruel irony if Olsen were to emerge as a standout tight end.

It appears to the Packer Partisan that the 2007 Packers will have a sound defense but they will struggle scoring points. Can they improve on their 8 - 8 season of last year? Anything is possible in the NFL, of course, so who knows. Most of the so-called experts think that the 2007 Pack ranks in the bottom third of the 32-team league. Ted Thompson probably needs to find a couple more playmakers before the Packers can achieve their 13th world championship of professional football. Methinks winning 9 games and getting into the playoffs would be lofty goals this year. 


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