Ted Thompson has assembled another very talented and deep Green Bay Packers team. There are a few weaknesses, but no team is perfect. Here are my rankings of their top 5 position groups:
This needs little explanation. Aaron Rodgers is arguably the best quarterback in the NFL and is at the peak of his career. Rodgers is the complete package of arm strength, accuracy, mobility, leadership and intelligence. He has kept the Packers in contention every season for years now despite little help from his defense.
Matt Flynn proved to be a capable backup for Rodgers after he went 2-2-1 with the Packers in the games that he saw action. He has been unable to make it work anywhere else, but Flynn is comfortable in Mike McCarthy’s offense and shown a knack for winning games in Green Bay despite his limited physical tools. Scott Tolzien will make a case to stick on the roster as the third quarterback after showing some potential last season.
2. Running Back
Running back is now a huge position of strength for Green Bay after it was a black hole for them since Ryan Grant’s effectiveness ended. Eddie Lacy was the NFL’s offensive rookie of the year last season after running for 1,178 yards and 11 touchdowns. He completely changed the perception of the running game and finally made opponents respect it. His vision and power are amazing traits, and injuries are the only thing that can slow him down.
James Starks was great as Lacy’s backup last year, as he averaged 5.5 yards per carry. He returned to Green Bay after not being able to get a ton of money elsewhere, which was surprising. It should be great for the Packers to be able to spell Lacy with Starks again.
Johnathan Franklin and DuJuan Harris have both showed flashes of potential so far in their career. They are great depth guys to have who can step up and play if needed.
3. Wide Receiver
The wide receiver group might not be as strong as it was the last few years, but is still filled with bunches of talent. Jordy Nelson has established himself as a true number one wide receiver and one of the more underrated players in the NFL. He proved his worth without Rodgers last season when he caught 85 passes for 1,314 yards and eight touchdowns.
Randall Cobb has proven the weapon he can be from the slot. He is a dynamic player who can sometimes be an impossible cover for opposing defenses, but he just has to stay on the field. Jarrett Boykin had a breakout season last year with 49 catches for 681 yards and three touchdowns. The former undrafted free agent relied on his big frame, strong hands and good route running to make plays despite his slow speed.
The Packers added three wide receivers in this year’s draft class in Davante Adams, Jared Abbrederis and Jeff Janis. Past Packers rookie wide receivers have not made a quick impact in their rookie seasons, but Adams and Abbrederis have a chance to do it this year. Janis is more of a developmental player after playing his college ball at Saginaw Valley State.
A defensive group finally makes the list at number four. Cornerback is clearly the deepest and most talented group of Green Bay’s defense.
The Packers paid Sam Shields like a number one corner and expect him to develop into that. Shields did a fine job shadowing number one receivers last season with his speed and ball skills. He will look to continue that as he gains more experience at the position.
Tramon Williams proved down the stretch of last season that he still has plenty of good football left in him. Williams looked close to his old form making plays and even improving his tackling immensely. He is one of the veteran leaders of the team and is a strong presence.
Casey Hayward will look to return to his old form after only playing three games last season due to a hamstring injury. He intercepted six passes as a rookie in 2012 and was a big time playmaker from the slot.
Micah Hyde proved to be an effective slot corner in his rookie season last year and is now taking snaps at safety, but he should see time at both positions. Davon House may never develop into a starter, but is a quality backup .
5. Outside Linebacker
The Packers have been searching for an answer opposite Clay Matthews forever and think they have their answer in Julius Peppers. They feel as though Peppers has not lost much athletically and can be his usual force rushing the passer. Matthews should be one of the best pass rushers in the NFL if he can manage to stay on the field.
The Packers have quality depth behind Matthews and Peppers in Nick Perry, Mike Neal and Carl Bradford. Perry flashed potential at the beginning of last season before he broke his foot. He sets a good edge against the run and has shown good power rushing the passer, but needs to develop a better speed rush.
Neal made a surprisingly smooth conversion to the position last season and recorded five sacks. It will be interesting to see if he goes back to playing on the line in sub packages or just sticks to outside linebacker. Bradford was a very productive pass rusher at Arizona St. last year who has a chance to do the same in the NFL.——————
Matt Bove is a writer at PackersTalk.com. PackersTalk.com. You can follow him on twitter at @RayRobert9.
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