Packers seek ways to score points
The final roster cuts have been made and the 2007 Green Bay Packer squad is taking shape. The Packers open the season next Sunday at Lambeau against the Philadelphia Eagles and, of course, Cheeseheads everywhere are looking forward to the season opener.
Many of the roster cuts were predictable, but there were some interesting developments. Ted Thompson elected to go with two quarterbacks (usually there are 3), eleven defensive linemen (usually 9 or 10), two tight ends (usually 3 or 4) and five linebackers (usually teams keep 6). The explanation is that the Packers are keeping their best 53 players, but one has to wonder, for instance, what will they do with 6 defensive tackles? The team seems to be in a state of imbalance right now but perhaps this will level out as the cast-offs from the other teams surface and more personnel adjustments are made.
The 2007 Packer defense appears to be a stout unit"¦ perhaps as strong as a Packer defense has been in many years. The cornerbacks are experienced and solid. Atari Bigby will upgrade the strong side safety position. Linebackers Nick Barnett and A. J. Hawk are close to being pro-bowl candidates and the defensive line is the strongest position on the team.
Special teams' play should be much improved in 2007. Will Blackmon showed in the pre-season that he has potential be a very exciting return guy. Mason Crosby won the kicking job and looks like he could be a star in the league for many years to come. Punter John Ryan's powerful leg, combined with his new two-step delivery, should put the kicking game in good shape.
With a defense that is looking good and special team improvements, how will the Packers' offense fare in 2007? At this point, it looks like the Pack has real problems. Donald Driver's foot injury is a concern as the rest of the receiving corps is largely untested. The two tight ends are marginal, at best. Brett Favre is still the valiant competitor with a super arm, but how many points can the passing game generate?
The Packers' problem is their lack of a running game. The youngsters on the offensive line will hopefully improve on last year's new cut-blocking scheme, but thus far not many holes have opened for the running backs. The Pack has been decimated by halfback injuries and, as I write this column, it is unknown who will be the opening day starter. Rookies Brandon Jackson and DeShawn Wynn have been hurt. Dittoes for Vernand Morency"¦ who has not played at all in the preseason. The fourth running back is a guy named Ryan Grant, who was just picked off the waiver wire. To state the obvious, we have a problem here.
The Eagles are a solid football team with good personnel. Donavan McNabb is a very good quarterback who is returning from a serious injury last year. His performance will largely determine how far the Eagles will go. It will be a great challenge for the young Packers. The game starts at noon. I can't wait!