Despite Inexperience, Packers’ Secondary Primed to Succeed

When the Green Bay Packers’ offense struggled in 2015, it was the defense that stepped up to help guide the team to another strong season, even if it did not end in a fifth straight division title.

A big reason for the defensive unit’s overall improvement was the play in the secondary. Just five years ago, the Packers’ pass defense ranked dead last in the NFL. Last year, led by a group of young playmakers, Green Bay rose to the sixth-best defensive backfield in the league.

Despite the relative youth of the secondary, the Packers’ unit has the potential to rank among the best in the league in 2016 by most defensive measures. Cornerbacks Sam Shields, Damarious Randall, and Quinten Rollins and safeties Morgan Burnett and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix will serve as the anchors of a talented group of playmaking defenders.

The Packers elected to go with a younger group in the secondary after allowing Tramon Williams and Davon House to depart in free agency last year. That left Shields, still only 28 years of age, as the oldest and most experienced man in the backfield. Burnett, like Shields, will be entering his seventh year in the league, but the other three core members all have racked up less than three years of experience.

Green Bay selected Randall and Rollins with its first two picks in the 2015 draft, and they both exceeded expectations during their rookie seasons. The duo combined for five interceptions (including one pick-six apiece) and 20 passes defended. Both are due to have expanded workloads this season, especially with the departure of Casey Hayward.

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A Way, Way Too Early Roster and Depth Chart Prediction

The first day of the Green Bay Packers’ training camp is still over a month away. That means that predicting the final 53-man roster and depth chart is, frankly, pretty stupid. But it’s the time of the year when we have little to do but speculate. So, just for fun, let’s take a stab at it now. Back-ups will be in parentheses. Non-starting role players will be italicized. Let me know what you think in the comments.

Quarterbacks:

Aaron Rodgers (Brett Hundley)

Running Backs:

Eddie Lacy (James Starks, John Crockett)

Fullback:

Aaron Ripkowski

Tight Ends:

Jared Cook (Richard Rodgers, Kennard Backman)

Offensive Line:

David Bakhtiari, Josh Sitton, Corey Linsley, TJ Lang, Bryan Bulaga (JC Tretter, Jason Spriggs, Kyle Murphy, Lane Taylor, Don Barclay)

Wide Receivers:

Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb (Davante Adams, Ty Montgomery, Jeff Janis, Trevor Davis)

Defensive Line:

Mike Daniels, Kenny Clark, Letroy Guion (Dean Lowry, Christian Ringo)

*Mike Pennel does not count against the roster for the first four games of the season due to suspension. I suspect that Ringo will be waived to make room for Pennel when he returns).

Outside Linebackers:

Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers (Nick Perry, Datone Jones, Jayrone Elliott, Kyler Fackrell, Lerentee McCray)

Inside Linebackers:

Sam Barrington, Jake Ryan (Blake Martinez – Dime ILB replacing Ryan, Joe Thomas)

Cornerbacks: 

Sam Shields, Damarious Randall (Quinten Rollins, Micah Hyde, Ladarius Gunter)

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Brett Hundley’s Trade Value

The Green Bay Packers come into the season with a promising young backup Quarterback, but would a good preseason be enough for them to get significant trade value for Brett Hundley? After falling to the 5th round of the 2015 NFL Draft, Hundley had a very solid rookie camp and preseason. Whether that was a product of playing against 3rd and 4th string competition, or the beginning of a legitimate starting NFL Quarterback career, will be tested this offseason.

The Packers will need Hundley to develop because of Aaron Rodgers health concerns over the last three seasons. For a team with Super Bowl ambitions, having a capable backup QB in place is a must. If Hundley performs well in the preseason it may get Quarterback-needy teams interested. Mike McCarthy will give Hundley at least one start during the preseason. With the Packers playing 5 practice games this year, he should see at least 12 quarters of action.

Any reps he gets in the regular season are a bonus, and are additional chances to prove his worth to potential suitors (Hopefully due to the Packers blowing out their opponent and not an injury). Matt Flynn turned two solid games against the Lions and Patriots, and one great game against the Lions into a huge free agent contract from the Seahawks. NFL teams are desperate to acquire a franchise signal caller, and don’t typically follow a conservative approach in acquiring one.

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Eddy Lacy’s Weight Loss Lessens Packers Burden

The Green Bay Packers are one of football’s finest franchises. With a dedicated fan base and highly competitive roster, they demand success. Usually, with Aaron Rodgers at the helm, they get it. However, their hard-hitting running back Eddie Lacy fell below his and the team’s expectations last season. The offense certainly suffered as a result. However, he has lost weight, refined his skill set, and changed his mindset. Could this be what Mike McCarthy’s men need to be achieve Super Bowl success this coming season?

Lacy, when in full flow, protects Rodgers and also gives him a break from throwing the ball. However, last season he let himself go, and the team struggled after that.

He was told not so subtly (publicly and certainly privately as well) to lose weight. He did just that. He spent time with Tony Horton, the founder of P90X, a famous workout regime.

It worked.

The two-month camp changed his body, his mind and the Packers’ chances of success. There’s plenty of sports to bet on this summer, but maybe it’s worth investing your time on Lacy’s Packers.

Horton explained “I wasn’t here to do football stuff. I mean, I made him do yoga. We went to boxing classes. We did P90X, we did P90X2, we did 22 Minute Hard Corps, we did a lot of my personal workouts. We did pull-ups and push-ups until we couldn’t lift our arms. We did everything.”

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Projecting the Roles of Packers’ Rookies: Rounds 4-7

The Green Bay Packers are one of the most effective teams in the league when it comes to drafting players who can have an impact in their rookie season.

As discussed last week, the Packers are expecting and hoping for significant impacts from each of their first three draft selections: Kenny Clark, Jason Spriggs, and Kyler Fackrell. Their draft status makes it likely that they will be given opportunities to excel early on in the 2016 season.

However, it is much harder to determine what the roles of the Packers’ third day selections will be. Players selected after the fourth round have a harder time making the final roster and contributing during their first year in the league, but that does not mean that these rookies cannot develop into role players for Green Bay.

The Packers had four picks on day three of the 2016 draft, including two in the fourth round, one in the fifth, and one in the sixth. Despite being lower picks, Green Bay has reason to be excited for its incoming class. What roles can Blake Martinez, Dean Lowry, Trevor Davis and Kyle Murphy have on the 2016 team?

Blake Martinez, ILB, Stanford (Round 4, Pick 131)

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Packers Safety Kentrell Brice Turning Heads

Former Louisiana Tech safety Kentrell Brice didn’t get a lot of opportunities to make an NFL roster, but he certainly made the most of the ones that he got. The 5’10”, 200 lb. defensive back wasn’t invited to the NFL scouting combine nor did he play in any all-star games. That meant that he had to impress at the Louisiana Tech pro day, which drew scouts from across the NFL given Brice’s high profile team mates like defensive tackle Vernon Butler and running back Kenneth Dixon.

Brice took the opportunity and ran with it, putting up stellar measurables. He ran a 4.38 and 4.4 forty yard dash. He also finished with a 42″ vertical and an 11-1 broad jump. According to Bill Huber, “Among defensive backs at the Scouting Combine, Brice’s vertical would have ranked No. 1, his broad jump would have trailed only first-round pick Jalen Ramsey’s 11-3 and his bench press would have trailed only Utah State’s Miles Killebrew’s 22.”

Brice received interest from multiple teams but ultimately signed with the Packers. During OTAs, Brice turned heads in Green Bay. He’s garnered attention from beat writers after making multiple plays during public practices.

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Packers offense: Juggernaut or not

On the Around the NFL podcast, Chris Wesseling made a bold prediction as part of a segment in which all of the hosts were asked to do so. His prediction: The 2016 Packers offense will be a juggernaut. Wesseling was talking serious production, to the point of breaking records. It’s supposed to be a bold prediction, after all.

To Packers faithful, that means 2011 – the game is over before it even starts so I’m just going to get wasted by half time and spout off all cocky on Twitter to entertain myself in the meantime – type of stuff. I’m not alone on that, right?

Surely, Jordy Nelson coming back will go a long way in erasing the memory of a receiving core so inept that we were crying for more playing time not only for People’s Champion Jeff Janis, but for homegrown favorite and admittedly less than exceptional talent Jared Abbrederis. On paper, that seems a far cry from 2011, which saw then-rookie Randall Cobb used sporadically because the options in the passing game were just so damn plentiful that even a seven touchdown season from James Jones, a career high for him at that point, landed him fourth on the team in receiving touchdowns. For perspective, Jones was tied for the team lead with eight touchdowns last season.

But regardless, entering a season with one of the most skilled passers on the planet who is usually the model of efficiency leaves plenty of room for optimism. Just how much optimism is realistic, though?

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