GREEN BAY PACKERS
HEAD COACH: Mike McCarthy
Key Additions: OL Jeff Saturday; RB Cedric Benson; DL Anthony Hargrove; DL Daniel Muir
Key Losses: OL Chad Clifton; QB Matt Flynn; DB Nick Collins; DB Charlie Peprah; OL Scott Wells; DB Patrick Lee
Offense: The Green Bay Packers can score... and score... and ...you get the idea.
Quarterback and 2011 NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers threw 45 touchdown passes with just six interceptions and amassed 4,643 yards passing in a huge season. Rodgers is a QB who can also run when needed, as he totaled 257 yards on the ground and scored three times. Graham Harrell and B.J. Coleman are vying for the backup spot.
The passing game has a plethora or wide receivers for Rodgers to throw to, including Jordy Nelson (68 catches for 1,263 yards and 15 touchdowns) and Greg Jennings, who made 67 receptions for 949 yards and nine touchdowns despite missing the final three regular season games with injuries.
Also in the mix is veteran Donald Driver, who had 37 grabs for 445 yards and six touchdowns. James Jones (38, 635, seven TD) and second year man Randal Cobb (25, 375, one TD) who also returns kicks, are the other wideouts in the aerial attack. Cobb returned both a kickoff and punt for touchdowns last season.
The tight ends include Jermichael Finley (55, 767, eight TD), Andrew Quarless and Tim Crabtree. Finley is an All-Pro who provides a big target for Rodgers to throw to and has the size and agility to make the big plays.
The running game will have a different look in 2012 as Ryan Grant (holdout) may soon be gone to another team after free agent Cedric Benson (1,067 yards for a 3.9 ypc average and six TD with Cincinnati) signed with the team. Benson will play along with James Starks, who gained 578 yards (4.3 ypc) and had one touchdown to go with 29 pass receptions. Alex Green will also be on hand to spell the duo. The fullback is John Kuhn.
The offensive line went through some revamping during the off-season as veteran center Jeff Saturday was brought in from the Indianapolis Colts' house cleaning to replace free agent Scott Wells. The guards are T.J. Lang and Josh Sitton. Marshall Newhouse and Bryan Bulaga are the tackles.
Providing depth up front on the line, which allowed 41 QB sacks, is Evan Dietrich-Smith, Derek Sherrod, Ray Dominguez, Herb Taylor, Sampson Genus and rookie Andrew Datko.
The team averaged 35 points per game last year, scoring 560 points to lead the league and also finished third overall in both total yardage (405 yards per game) and passing with 308 yards per game. The rushing game had 97 yards a game, which was 29th in the NFL.
Defense: This was a definite sore spot a year ago as the defense fell from being a top flight unit in 2010 to the bottom of the NFL last season.
The Packers allowed 412 yards per game while setting a record as the worst pass defense in NFL history, giving up 300 yards per game.
The run defense was somewhat better, ranking 14th while allowing 112 yards per game.
To help shore up this problem, the team drafted six rookies to help out, including top pick Nick Perry (USC), who will be counted on to step in at outside linebacker in the 3-4 scheme.
Along with Perry is All-Pro Clay Matthews (six QB sacks and three interceptions, one for a TD) at the other outside linebacker position. The inside backers are A.J. Hawk and D.J. Smith.
Backups include Desmond Bishop (five sacks), Terrell Manning, Jamari Lattimore, Vic So'oto and Robert Francois.
Up front are B.J. Raji at nose tackle with Ryan Pickett and either C.J. Wilson or rookie Jerel Worthy (Michigan State) at the ends. Daniel Muir, Anthony Hargrove, Jarius Wynn, and rookie Mike Daniels will provide depth.
The secondary, which did help produce a league high 31 interceptions, includes Tramon Williams (four interceptions) at Jarrett Bush at the corners. Veteran Charles Woodson (seven picks) makes the move from cornerback to safety this season and will team with Morgan Burnett (three picks) in that spot.
Backing up in the secondary is rookie Casey Hayward (Vanderbilt), M.D. Jennings, Sam Shields (four INT), Anthony Levine, Davon House and Jerron McMillian.
OUTLOOK: There is no reason to doubt the Packers ability to make it back to the Super Bowl after the playoff debacle against the New York Giants last January.
Whenever you have Aaron Rodgers leading the offense, you are always in the game.
The Packers problems on defense must be resolved as they gave up too many big plays a year ago, especially in the playoff loss.
They must get more pressure on opposing passers this season, as they totaled just 29 sacks a year ago. On the plus side, the Packers were second in the NFL with a plus-24 in the turnover category.
The fact they allowed so much pass yardage is a bit misleading because so many teams they played were coming from behind and throwing the ball a lot more often than normal.
However, Green Bay must realize they cannot just try to outscore every team they play because it bit them when it counted most.
The running game needs to improve as well and the team will be relying on Starks and Benson to provide the spark in that area.
If the Packers get better overall defensively and the running game produces more often, the sky is the limit because the Packers are a team that can win it all.
A 12-4 finish should be enough to win the NFC North and once the playoffs start, Green Bay will be a favorite to return to the Super Bowl. Anything short of that goal would be considered a disappointment.
Week 1- vs. San Francisco
Week 2- vs. Chicago
Week 3- at Seattle
Week 4- vs. New Orleans
Week 5- at Indianapolis
Week 6- at Houston
Week 7- at St. Louis
Week 8- vs. Jacksonville
Week 9- vs. Arizona
Week 10- BYE
Week 11- at Detroit
Week 12- at NY Giants
Week 13- vs. Minnesota
Week 14- vs. Detroit
Week 15- at Chicago
Week 16- vs. Tennessee
Week 17- at Minnesota