The Packers secondary is beat up to say the least. What's your level of concern with that in the early part of the season?
Everyone loves Aaron Rodgers, everyone loves the Packers offense this year... but are there any chinks in the armor? What might stop them from being the best offense in the NFC?
I've got some concern about the secondary. CB Charles Woodson and FS Nick Collins are two of the best in the NFL, and CB Tramon Williams is a solid starter, and they are one of the team's strengths. Undrafted rookie CB Sam Shields and 3rd round rookie SS Morgan Burnett, who both played like rookies during the preseason, will play a lot, but I can also see their potential. I'm not sure about CB Al Harris, who tore multiple knee ligaments last season, but CB Brandon Underwood should return soon, and former 2nd round CB Pat Lee should get better as the season goes on (he missed all of last season due to a bad knee). Also, SS Atari Bigby will certainly return in a few weeks. The Eagles might be catching them at their weakest.
There aren't any glaring weaknesses in the offense. The pass protection was bad early in 2009, but the return of veteran LT Chad Clifton and RT Mark Tauscher shored it up. The depth is good up and down the roster too. Some of the grey beards (Clifton, Tauscher, WR Donald Driver) aren't as good as they were five years ago, but they can all still play. On the other hand, outside of QB Aaron Rodgers (who'd I put up there against anybody), it isn't an offense loaded with All-Pros either. WR Greg Jennings is a solid No. 1 but he's far from the best WR in the NFC, for example.
If you could steal an Eagle and add him to Packers, who would it be?
My chief concern is the pass rush, so I'd have to say DE Trent Cole tops the list. He wouldn't be a true starter in a 3-4 defense, he's not big enough to play as a 3-4 DE and probably not a good fit at outside LB. But the Packers play a lot in a 4-2-5 scheme (since most teams favor the pass now) and Cole would fit perfectly in it. Unfortunately, just as Aaron Kampman bolted in free agency at his first opportunity, Cole might not like playing in a scheme that would occasionally require him to back pedal in coverage.
As good as the Packers offense was last year, they were only an average team running the ball. Would you say that was a function of troubles they had running, or simply because the passing game was so effective?
They certainly aren't an elite running team. On Thursday night, as I watched the Saints giant offensive guards shove the equally giant DT Pat Williams out of the way, I realized the Packer guards could never do that. Only RG Josh Sitton has above average size. They've tried to get more size inside, but no one has been able to beat out LG Daryn Colledge or C Scott Wells. And the offensive tackles aren't going to pancake anyone either. It's really a line best suited for pass or zone blocking, vs. winning one-on-one matches. The teams primary concern is having good pass blockers, who don't turn out to be the best run blockers, which necessitates more passing. I'm not sure it's by design, exactly, but the result is that they're better off throwing the ball.
The NFC North looks like it will be pretty good this year. The Packers and Vikings are 2009 playoff teams, the Bears went on a spending spree in the offseason, and the Lions are showing signs that they might finally be improving. Since the Eagles play the NFC North this year, would mind sizing it up a bit for us? Who is a real contender and who is a pretender?
The Lions are only going to be better if QB Matt Stafford is better. His stats were brutal in his rookie season (not a big surprise), and I'm not a believer in his future, but if he proves me wrong they could be a much better team as soon as this season. The stars on the Bears defense just keeping getting older and I wonder how much longer they can remain effective, while their offense will only improve if they find a decent starting WR for QB Jay Cutler. The Vikings look in trouble without WR Sidney Rice. It hasn't been talked a lot about nationally, but his loss is very big in my mind. I think back on how Favre played in 2005-2006, when he didn't have a healthy WR Javon Walker or WR Greg Jennings available to him, and his stats plummeted. Unless a Viking receiver other than TE Visanthe Shiancoe emerges as a favorite target, Favre's going to struggle to keep his QB rating above 80, and the Vikings are going to be in a battle for a playoff spot. The Packers still have to actually beat the Vikings this year when they play them, but right now the Packers appear to be a clear step ahead of everyone in the NFC North.
Thanks again to Brandon of Acme Packing Company