One would think after going 15-1 last season, the Packers should enter the 2012 campaign with very few issues. They have a record setting offense, led by the league MVP in Aaron Rodgers. They also own arguably the best wide receiver corps in the league. A solid offensive line makes life for such a high powered offense much easier to dominate with. A Dom Capers defense led by play makers such as Clay Matthews and Charles Woodson does not hurt either. Combine all of this with (dare I say) relatively solid special teams play, and on the surface it seems as if this team was destined for another trip to the Super Bowl at the end of this season. Somehow, despite all of the positives listed above, the Packers enter this season with perhaps more question marks surrounding them then in recent memory. Changes in the coaching staff, roster changes, and ingering personnel question marks were all part of the Packers offseason. And with the start of training camp next week, it will be time to start and evaluate how they will impact the upcoming season. There are five areas that were affected during the off season that will be interesting to see how they play out during the course of training camp and the season. If they work out, life should be quite nice for the Packers. If not, it could make for some rough waters ahead for the team and their fans.
- Tom Clements' promotion to Offensive Coordinator: When Joe Philbin left the Packers to become the head coach of the Dolphins, Clements was the logical choice to succeed him as McCarthy’s OC. He has been part of the Packers since 2006, and has been in demand as a OC the past few seasons. Will his moving up the ladder affect their relationship, which has been said to be very strong? Add to that Ben McAdoo, the former TE coach taking over the reigns as QB coach, and it could be an interesting transition.
- Running Back: When the Packers did not make an effort to resign Ryan Grant, this area became a major question mark for me. None of the incumbents-James Starks, Alex Green, Brandon Saine or fan favorite John Kuhn-have a solid enough resume to inspire hope for the running game. Maybe the answer lies in one of them. Or in rookie Marc Tyler and Du’ane Bennett. But starting training camp and not having certainty in the run game is something I personally struggle with.
- The secondary: Nick Collins is gone. Charles Woodson is a year older. Tramon Williams struggled mightily last year (although in fairness he was injured). Sam Shields regressed big time in 2011. Charlie Peprah…Jarrett Bush…think you get my point. Granted a large part of their struggles came from little rush from up front on opposing QBs. But some of the fault has to be placed on the players. If they can revert back to their play of 2010, being opportunistic and not sacrificing the overall play for the sake of being opportunistic, things should be alright. If not, Dom Capers will once again catch the wrath of Packers fans.
- Outside Linebacker: For two years, I said that the combination of Zombo WaldenJones was not the answer opposite Clay Matthews. That answer has hopefully been found in Nick Perry. If he were to struggle, then it’s back to Zombo So’oto WaldenJones or something combination similar to that. Capers and his staff must find someone that will be a force opposite Matthews. It has to happen for this defense to be successful.
- The team itself: Mike McCarthy did a great job coaching in 2011. Coming off a Super Bowl win, he kept his team focused on the goal of repeating throughout the entire season. If not for one very poor performance in Kansas City, they would have been undefeated in the regular season. However, 15-1 was quickly replaced with a one and done in the playoffs. The players should still feel the sting of that loss heading into this season. McCarthy and his coaching staff had better make it a point to his players and coaching staff that anything less than a Super Bowl victory will not be accepted this season. He pushed all the right buttons for this team for the better part of 2 years, guiding them to great success. It’s now time to focus all of them on the bigger picture, that they are not a one time champion, and this dynasty in the making is ready to add to its resume
Question marks exist for every NFL team at the beginning of training camp. It is part of the NFL. The Packers have issues like any other team at this time of year. If they can minimize the potential impact of these question marks, they are set up for another deep run in the playoffs and a return to the Super Bowl. If not...let's not think about the if nots.
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