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Five Things to Watch Once Training Camp Starts

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Five Things to Watch Once Training Camp Starts

It's now the month of July, which means finally the calendar has been turned to the page on which the Packers' 2018 training camp will begin, ushering in the team's 100th season. While we still have a few weeks of excruciating offseason to go, the season finally feels like it's just around the corner.

Needless to say, I'm ready for some football (sorry baseball, you just don't do it for me). Here are five things I'm excited to watch during training camp and exhibition season this year.

1. A new defensive scheme and attitude.

I think this is probably the thing most Packer fans are looking forward to seeing this July and August. What will the new Packers defense look like under Mike Pettine? What kind of schemes will Pettine employ, and what sort of attitude will he instill in this defense? This is the first time the Packers defense has been lead by a man not named Dom Capers in a decade, and it feels like for the first time in a long time there's legitimate hope among Packer fans that the defense could turn out to be a strong unit.

2. New additions to the secondary.

Brian Gutekunst masterfully executed his first draft as Packers GM, picking up two excellent cornerbacks in addition to getting an additional first-round pick for 2019. I'm looking forward to seeing first-rounder Jaire Alexander and second-rounder Josh Jackson get their first real significant action this preseason. Rookie defensive backs almost always have some growing pains as they adjust to the speed of the NFL game, but watching how they handle those growing pains and progress as players should be a lot of fun. 

In addition, the Packers welcome back Tramon Williams, who quietly had one of the better years for a defensive back in 2017 for the Arizona Cardinals, despite being 34 years old (35 now). Williams' veteran savvy and ball instincts will be a welcome return to the secondary. He'll be an excellent mentor to Alexander and Jackson, as well as to Kevin King, who showed some promise in his rookie season but is still largely untested.

3. A developing running game.

It feels like it's been quite a while since the Packers had so many strong options in the running game. While the Lacy/Starks tandem worked well for a couple years before Lacy ate himself out of town and Starks' body wore down, this is now a backfield that boasts several very different, versatile weapons. 

Aaron Jones, who has apparently put on a good deal of muscle since last season ended, is the one most people are going to be buzzing about this offseason, thanks to his flashy plays, quick cuts and strong vision in the action he saw in 2017. But let's not forget the extremely versatile Ty Montgomery, who can line up anywhere on the field, and Jamaal Williams, who showed a lot of burst and ability to finish off hard runs. The Packers didn't see all three healthy together during most of the 2017 season, so it'll be interesting to watch during training camp and exhibition games how the Packers use the three and how they divide duties in the backfield.

Plus, with new tight end addition Marcedes Lewis to pave the way, we could be seeing some new types of blocking packages.

4. Pass rush solutions.

The biggest area that went unaddressed during the offseason was outside pass rush. The Packers did not bring in anyone through free agency or the draft that could give the pass rush a jolt in 2018, whcih means it's up to players already on the roster to have made some strides during the offseason.

As I've written previously on this site, Pettine's philosophy looks to make greater use of the interior pass rush, which makes sense considering the addition of Mo Wilkerson to the already strong defensive front. Perhaps we'll start seeing Clay Matthews take more rush snaps inside again. Pettine might also use his other interior linebackers to provide more pressure. 

We'll see exactly what solution Pettine has in mind, because there's no doubt that the Packers must generate a stronger pass rush this year if they're going to hope to get in the heads of opposing quarterbacks. Even if the secondary plays well as a unit this year, those young corners are still inevitably going to make mistakes and will greatly benefit from having a strong pass rush to support them.

5. The return of Aaron Rodgers.

I like to think most Packer fans already appreciated the greatness of Aaron Rodgers, but more than a half season of Brett Hundley definitely turned up the dial on that appreciation. Seeing Rodgers trot back out on the field, unencumbered by injury, is going to be a sight for sore eyes, even though he'll be a rare sight during exhibition season.


What are you most eagerly anticipating about the upcoming training camp and exhibition season?


Tim Backes is a lifelong Packer fan and a contributor to CheeseheadTV. Follow him on Twitter @timbackes for his Packer takes, random musings and Untappd beer check-ins.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (47) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

EdsLaces's picture

I'm really excited to see if Jackson really is as insanely good as his last season at Iowa was...

The TKstinator's picture

12 is purty good too.

davy jones's picture

Oh Eula, Eula, Eula, that just brings a tear to my eye. Where can I send money to help? Would cash be best? Large bills?

The TKstinator's picture

I already sent her my credit card number and social security number.
Feels good to help such a worthy (and persistent) cause.

4thand1's picture

We should all get together and build her a new hospital.

Spock's picture

Do robots (robo callers and spambots) really need hospitals? We should all get together and send all the spam we get forwarded to "Eula's" site, lol.

Snake Plissken's picture

Why don't the Mods suspend this Twat from begging for money on here?

Rak47's picture

Once the draft was over people forgot about some of the talent already on the roster. When the season ended I was pretty high on Lenzy Pipkins. If he's gotten stronger he could challenge for a starting spot as he checks off all the boxes like height/weight 6'0 198, speed 4.46 40 at his pro day, short shuttle 4.40 and 3 cone drill 7.31. His vertical and broad jump were above avg at 33 1/2 and 9'5 but nothing special. His one weakness may have been his bench press with 11 reps which is slightly below average. All in all I thought he played well and has potential not only as a defender but on special teams as well. Going to be very interesting with him, King, Alexander, Jackson, Williams, Waters, Brown, and House all competing for roster spots.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

A 7.31 3 cone and a 4.40 20-yard shuttle are awful scores for a CB. A 33.5" vertical and a 9'5" broad jump are below average scores. His forty is good as is his 10-yard dash. He has height at just shy of 6' and 197 pounds is fine.

Lare's picture

I'm pretty impressed by the mix of youth and veteran leadership Gutekunst has added this offseason. Going to be nice watching players with size and speed competing for positions instead of the slow plodders Thompson was so fond of. It was time for a change with the Packers and there has been plenty of them.

Ultimately though, the success of the team this season will once again ride on Rodgers shoulders. Hopefully that changes with an improved defense and a backup QB that can perform better than below average should he be injured again.

Nick Perry's picture

"Ultimately though, the success of the team this season will once again ride on Rodgers shoulders."

No doubt about that Lare, the Packers success rests squarely on the shoulders of Aaron Rodgers. But, doesn't it FEEL like the Packers are much further away from being a team like the 2011 Indianapolis Colts when Manning was injured and they finished 2-14? Like maybe instead of 2-14 or 4-12 they could possibly go say 7-9 or even 8-8 if Rodgers was injured? Then what if McCarthy was able to whisper the right things in Kizers ears? Dare I say 9-7 or GULP..10-6.

That's how much I think Gutekunst has improved the Packers in one off-season. I can't wait to see his encore next off-season.

Bearmeat's picture

I think you're dreaming. IMO they'd be 6-10 at best without their franchise QB. Hundley sucks and Kizer isn't ready, and the defense certainly isn't capable personnel wise to hold teams under 20 routinely. However, when you think about it, what team is set up with a franchise QB who wouldn't go 6-10? The franchise QB is paid to be the face of the team. This one is no different.

Nick Perry's picture

We have no idea about Kizer. Defensively they could/should improve at least 10 spots just by getting rid of Capers and having a guy like Pettine in place who WILL hold them accountable. Okay, okay i got a little reckless with 10-6 but 9-7 or 8-8 should be a reality.

Wouldn't it be an awesome day when the Packers could win even when Rodgers plays poorly? That's about to start at least every once in a while because of the defense, I guarantee it.

dobber's picture

I suspect that Kizer is more ready than he was a year ago at this time...

Bearmeat's picture

Yeah, but he was really really bad last year. And this is a new offense and new coaching staff and new personnel he's working with. Even if all those things are better, it's still an adjustment.

0-16 is a long way to get to even get to 8-8.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

PFR gave Jared Goff a negative 2 (that's -2) CarAv for his 2016 season. You can look for quite a while before you find another negative grade. In 2017 PFR gave Goff a plus 15 after he posted 28 TDs to 7 INTs, 8.0 yds/att, and a 100.5 passer rating.

I am not looking for such a turnaround from Kizer. After all, Goff was a number one pick for a reason. Still, rookie QBs thrown into the fire often bomb spectacularly. Sometimes they never get better, but more often they do improve, sometimes moderately, but sometimes by a lot.

dobber's picture

I'm sure hoping that Kizer doesn't play enough to get to 8-8.

Turophile's picture

We are waiting on McCarthy's stated aim, that is the defense being better than the offense.

It is coming, it's just the timesacale that is uncertain.

Also worth mentioning is the competition at WR. Lots of tall quick guys.

davy jones's picture

All those things you listed are high on my list. Additionally, I'd say I am looking forward to seeing who steps forward at RG (actually, how the whole right side of the line gets cobbled together), and who distinguishes themselves as a worthy WR3 from a crowded, though inexperienced, WR group

Spock's picture

davy jones, I'm betting on McCray for RG. It's RT I'm concerned about until Bulaga is ready. We've got LOTS of players for RG, RT not so much.

davy jones's picture

Agreed, Spock. It'll be good to get a look at Bell in TC and a pre season game or to to see what they have in him. He certainly has plenty of NFL starts.

davy jones's picture

Agreed, Spock. It'll be good to get a look at Bell in TC and a pre season game or two to see what they have in him. He certainly has plenty of NFL starts.

dobber's picture

This is where I feel best about Bell, too. Either at RG or as their Swiss army knife game day backup. I've heard rumblings that Murphy looks fully recovered from his injuries and coaches feel pretty good about his chances to win the RT job coming out of camp.

Snake Plissken's picture

Murphy played well at both left and right tackle when he was forced to step in and before he got hurt. Spriggs and his injury I don't trust but i expect Murphy to get a lot of work at RT in the pre season and its his to take early in the season

stockholder's picture

Turning question marks into champions. This team has been rebuilt. Key loses were Nelson and Burnett. The Cracks have been filled. The injuries are last year's news. We have more points then just the 5 above. The outlook has us all excited. Piece by piece this team must pull together. Our Football players must show their not ordinary. Play smart. The more mistakes, the more excuses. The more turn-overs. I want to see the discipline. The leaders will emerge as the season progresses. The only thing I need to see is Depth. 1. Protection 2. Placement 3. Hitting 4. Improvement 5. Over-all Look

alinger84's picture

The most important thing is a healthy roster.

Since '61's picture

I am most anxiously anticipating the end of training camp and the exhibition season and the Packers starting the season with a healthy roster. Thanks, Since '61

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

One thing we won't be watching when the regular season rolls around is Aaron Jones for at least one game, and at present for 2 games.

Since the NFL suspended him for 2 games for that traffic stop where he was found to be in possession of marijuana last year, I gather he was already in the NFL's substance abuse program, IIRC the rules correctly. That suggests he had a previous positive test. Allison got just a one game suspension in 2017 for a strikingly similar situation.

Bearmeat's picture

Yeah, but normally the offending player is suspended one game for mary jane right away, correct? So, either this is his 2nd violation, and we just (somehow) didn't hear about it... or he miraculously didn't get punished... or (most likely) that his speeding with a controlled substance was sufficiently outside the law that the punishment was worse for a first offense.

OR (hope this is the case) he can still appeal and get it down to just the Bears game.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Oops, Jones wasn't in possession, he had it in his system while driving. IDK what I think about that. It sounds worse since it involves driving while impaired (though IDK that he was actually impaired - I'd have to look up the law to see the concentration limits and available charges), but then marijuana stays in your system for a long time, IIRC. Still, the officer would have to have reasonable suspicion to test him for it. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence of officers saying they smelled this or observed that and the person arrested turns out to have zero of whatever substance it is in their system. Hmmm.

croatpackfan's picture

I wish you all happy July, 04th. I hope you are all well and healthy.

Tundraboy's picture

And wishing you World cup success. Enjoy

Savage57's picture

6. The injuries stack up.

It's the wild-card in every team's camp and preseason, and the Packers have reasons to be nervous in several position groups. Starting offensive linemen, veteran wide receivers, or one of the Medicare twins.

Injuries are going to happen playing football, but who they happen to on the Packers at a couple of key positions could have huge impact to the team they can field due to suspect depth among those position groups.

Handsback's picture

I'm looking at the running game, which covers both RBs and Oline guys. Want to see how the Packers make their opponent respect their running game. It will show up in TC and that is what will lead or help lead the team to a SB. I encourage everyone to look back at games in the 2014 season and see what a healthy RB like Lacy did for the offense. Solid line play and RBs that fit every scenario will make a huge difference. Philbin should enjoy his weapons this year!

That's what I want to see.

Jamie Freier's picture

King hung right in there with Julio. I’m excited about the secondary for the first time since Sir Charles was here. And I’m very excited about our D line. Go Pack Go!

Bure9620's picture

I'm really excited to see this defense as well, I am wondering how much Pettine will employ the 4-3 under alignment, which would likely feature Perry as a rush end and, (best fit for him IMO), and likely CMIII and Burks in coverage, Seattle did this quite a bit. Can Mo Wilk be dominant? If so, Clark and Daniels will not be doubled as much. If we can be a top 12 or 15 unit this team can contend.

Also there is no reason this team cannot be dominant in the red zone. Rodgers throwing to 6'7 Jimmy Graham, 6'6" Marcedes Lewis, 6'3" Moore, 6'3" Allison, Equinemious at 6'5", 6'4" MVS, and the little guy Davante Adams at 6'1" oh yeah and Cobb, and Montgomery, and the running game.

Spock's picture

Bure9620, "Can Mo Wilk be dominant? If so, Clark and Daniels will not be doubled as much."
^^THIS^^ This is why I'm excited about Pettine's system. Clark and Daniels, if not doubled, will DOMINATE! IMHO, of course. :) I also agree about your red zone comments (and the Pack was already good there!) and RB's. This year just 'feels' different, in a good way.

4thand1's picture

I am eagerly waiting to fire the mash unit. Also balance on offense, I've heard some of these so called experts say GB has no running game, WTF? We ran pretty dam well with the gum smacker at the helm, so with AR the running game should be a huge plus.

Barnacle's picture

Wow, lots of questions. However, I would prefer seeing some insights and opinions.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

There are at least a couple of opinions in JS' post, even if they are implied. Brice was bad before he got hurt, so just returning to his old hard-hitting self isn't going to be enough for me. Whitehead started to play pretty well at the end, with Marwin Evans tailing off. I am still hoping no one wants to pay Tre Boston and we can get him cheap later this summer. Same for Eric Reid.

I think GMs should turn their attention to less glamorous positions at some point, probably when the 5th round rolls around. Take a look at fullbacks, guards, centers, nose tackles with no juice, and punters. Scott was the 35th pick in the 5th round, almost a 6th, so I am okay with that.

Archie's picture

If the WR & TE can produce this year, it should be a fine year.

Best Decision Of 2017/early 2018: To hire Gute as GM.

Worst Decision Of 2017/2018: To keep MM as HC.

Same guy made both decisions.

Barnacle's picture

Archy, I agree 100%, great post!

elisawise's picture

You have provided an nice article, Thank you very much for this one

RCPackerFan's picture

I'm trying to plan a trip to go to Training Camp.

My list of 5 things that I want to see are:

1. CB's - I can't wait to see how the 2 rookies look. As well as how Kevin King looks in his return from having to have surgery on his shoulder. Also with the return of WIlliams and House back we have a really nice collection of veterans and young players. A few others that I'm anxious to see is Pipkins, Rollins and Waters.

2. WR's - It will be the battle I'm most intrigued in watching. The WR's vs CB's. Adams the clear #1 WR, and Cobb as #2, there is a huge battle for spots 3-6/7. Clark and Yancey returning for their 2nd year will be fun to see if they made improvements. And it will be fun to see this trio of Rookies. With whom have great size. Its going to be fun to see who is ready to contribute early.

3. TE's - First getting Graham was a really good move. In Green Bay's offense with McCarthy, it should be a perfect fit. McCarthy knows how to use TE's like Graham. Finley and Cook are prime examples. I thought adding Graham to pair with Kendricks was a really good move. And then they go out and bring in Lewis. I think they knocked it out of the park getting both of these guys. Lewis while older is the best run blocking TE in the league and still offers a lot in the passing game. Combining Lewis and Graham it gives them a TON of flexibility in the offense. Kendricks is kind of the forgotten man. Last year he never really had much of an opportunity to show what he could do. Early they mostly used 1 TE sets and that was with Bennett. After his departure Rodgers was out. Having a 3 TE set could create a lot of mismatches. Not many teams can use that formation. I'm looking forward to seeing if Byrd can force them to keep a 4th TE or possibly take one of the veterans spots.

4. New look defense and offense. With new coordinators I can't wait to see what changes they make.

5. JK Scott - Its not very often that I say I can't wait to see a punter. But knowing what kind of difference he made at Alabama and hearing early reports of how he looked in minicamp, he could be a true weapon for us. I know we feel like the offense is unstoppable, but sometimes they do stall out. Having a guy that can flip the field position can make a huge difference. If he is the guy we all hope he is. He can help bail out the offense and help the defense.

Tundraboy's picture

Keep us posted RC!

RCPackerFan's picture

I'm hoping to make it. Not sure with my schedule.

camike's picture

Let me offer you my congratulations on your success.

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