Driving in the car for over 8 hours allows a lot of time to think.
Driving to and from Green Bay yesterday, I had time to consider the 2011 version of the Packers, in particular specific players who could be in store for a big year. Along the same lines, there will be those players who could see their performance decline, as always happens from year to year.
There is a long way to go as we are only one week into Training Camp. However, after careful consideration, and a lot of Red Bull and Monster driving home late last night, I present to you five predictions for the 2011 Packers sure to go wrong but hopefully don't.
1-Mason Crosby will have better than a 80% field goal percentage
Now that Crosby is being paid like an elite kicker he needs to start kicking like an elite kicker. Having under a 79% completion rate for his career does not inspire much confidence to pay someone top money to kick field goals. But quick math will show that even if Crosby makes 1, maybe 2, more field goals this year, he will be over 80%. I'm not suggesting that he will become a 90% or higher kicker, but he could definitely go over the 80% mark this year.
2-Clay Matthews will have less than 10 sacks
Don't panic. He is not going to fall off the face of the earth with his play this year. His total will not fall that much. Losing Cullen Jenkins is going to hurt, and while I have no doubt that Mike Neal will be able to step in and fill his shoes nicely, he is at this time an unproven commodity as a pass rusher. That alone should shift some of the focus to Matthews and how to stop him. However, opposite Matthews, the combination of Zombo WaldenJones will see a lift in their play being another year under the Capers system, and their sack total will benefit from extra attention paid to Matthews.
3-Sam Shields will be a Pro Bowler
Stats sell. As Shields continues to grow as a Nickel back, Capers will find more uses for him. Whether it is blitzing from the outside or being opportunistic with interceptions, Shields will see his numbers jump and become a bonafide star. I could be way off on this, but it is very possible Shields makes the biggest jump from year 1 to year 2.
4-The Packers will have three 1,000 yard receivers
This may seem crazy, but hear me out. Jennings will be typical Jennings with his usual 1,100-1,200 yards and 6-10 TDs. He is the constant. The next two names would be new to the 1,000 yard. The first is Jermichael Finley, who was on his way to this the last two years before injuries derailed his seasons. If he can stay healthy, Finley will have a monster season, and seal a monster contract from someone (hopefully the Packers) along the way. The final addition to the 1,000 yard club, and a name which will no doubt cause much pain to some to read, is James Jones. While most expect Donald Driver to have a strong bounce back season, myself included, Jones is part the future, as evidenced by the three year contract signed this week. Jones will finally put it together and see by far the best season of his career. Driver does not need to be a focal point of the receiving corp anymore-he just needs to be a solid contributor. Nelson will be a good number 3/4 receiver, and rookie Randall Cobb will add his own dimension to the offense, but the passing game will focus around Jennings, Finely, and Jones, with everyone else adding to a very scary passing game.
5-Aaron Rodgers will throw for over 5,000 yards
See number 4, then add the return of Ryan Grant and the development of James Starks to take pressure off the passing game. If the Packers can have anything close to a running game this year, and the offensive line can keep Rodgers on his feet, he can literally pick defenses apart with his pinpoint accuracy. This season has the makings for a record setting offensive campaign.
There you have it, five predictions sure to go wrong but hopefully don't for the 2011 Packers.