Packers Summer Break: Taking Inventory

 

Green Bay Packers right tackle Bryan Bulaga is still experiencing firsts heading into his 10th season.  After last week's mini camp wrapped up, Bulaga told reporters that it's the first time leaving the spring that he feels that the team's defense is ahead of the offense.

It leads to the question of how the team is looking right now and with training camp still six weeks away.

There are many easy reasons to point to for Bulaga's sentiment.  There's a new head coach and a new offense being installed.  Obviously, there will be some bumps to work through.  Defensively, coordinator Mike Pettine and his approach are not unfamiliar to his returning veterans so their showing so far is not that unexpected.

Oh, and not a single player has put on pads yet or faced any competition other than themselves in a controlled environment.

It's too early to know what the 2019 Packers will be or even look like when they line up on opening night.  But there are at least some samples now to start to form the answer.

Defensively, the Packers added two first-rounders who appear to be showing well so far.  Linebacker Rashan Gary won some of his one-on-one reps and safety Darnell Savage made such an impression on star receiver Davante Adams that Adams said "He's going to be that guy".

Add Kenny Clark, Jaire Alexander, Blake Martinez and the host of other veterans and this Packers defense has the makings of a top-half unit this season.  With an almost entirely new staff, Pettine can run the show without any shadows of a long-term regime hanging over him.

Offensively and despite the slower start previously mentioned, Aaron Rodgers is still the quarterback until further notice.  Many get tired of hearing that and the idea that the Packers can lean on the future Hall of Fame quarterback if all else fails, but it hardly appears that there will be many failures around him.

Most of the offensive line is back, the receivers are a year wiser, the running backs are reportedly in great shape and the tight ends should get the muzzles of last year removed.

Rodgers praised Aaron Jones, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Jake Kumerow specifically and coming from a guy like Rodgers who knows everyone is hinging on his ever word, that wasn't just glitter being tossed around.

In the kick return game, there's a slew of guys who are currently vying for a spot, among them receiver Trevor Davis, which could lead to an interesting decision on how many receivers to carry come cut down time.

There's even a healthy competition at kicker where long-time stalwart Mason Crosby has been going toe-to-toe with Sam Ficken.  Even though several NFL kickers have made a name for themselves kicking well into their 40's, the Packers aren't taking anything for granted after last season and in watching some of the other kicker struggles around the league (cough, cough, Chicago Bears, cough).

Head coach Matt LaFleur has taken off the training wheels and he's in full command of the ship now.  He was seen in demonstrative conversations with his players and staff last week, a sign that it's time to go to work.

There's a lot yet to come but for a brand new coaching staff, it's not a bad start.  How are you feeling about this year's team so far?

 

 

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Jason is a freelance writer on staff since 2012 and also co-hosts Cheesehead TV Live, Pulse of the Pack and Pack A Day podcasts.  You can follow him on Twitter here

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Comments (40)

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Nick Perry's picture

June 17, 2019 at 06:34 am

In all seriousness, it's hard to "Feel" any different right now after the OTA'S and Mini-Camps than I did before them. ON paper this team looks as good or better than any in the division from top to bottom. I fully expect this defense to take a HUGE leap forward with all the additions to the pieces already here.

I guess the biggest for me is ESB... I haven't heard his name as much as I thought I would or maybe hoped I would. I expected to hear good things about MVS and Kumerow, but I also thought ESB would be right there with them.

Another biggie for me was there wasn't a fluke injury other than the HC...(WTF?)... Disappointed Kevin King was STILL being brought along slowly. I suppose it was smart but holy crap, the dude has rested most of his career so far. IT'S TIME as Kevin Greene would say to stay healthy and stay on the field.

Last thing... I'm REALLY pulling for Crosby this year. He knows how to kick in Lambeau and was still can kick it from over 50 without an issue. BUT I also think if Crosby was released he'd be in a Bears uniform faster than you could say double doink.... NOOOOO!!!

Come back healthy and ready to go. Hopefully, they stay IN the playbook for the next 6 weeks. IMO they can't be in them enough.

GO PACK GO!

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dobber's picture

June 17, 2019 at 08:05 am

If Crosby gets beat, he gets beat. Keep the best kicker. If you cut a better kicker to keep Crosby, aren't you worried the better kicker ends up in a Bears uniform, instead? Keep the players that give you the best chance to win, and never worry about the players you cut.

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Since '61's picture

June 17, 2019 at 09:26 am

Cookie! Thanks, Since ‘61

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Coldworld's picture

June 17, 2019 at 02:47 pm

Definitely Dobber!

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Nick Perry's picture

June 18, 2019 at 04:54 am

Well then bring in someone other than Sam Fricken. If you REALLY want to have competition then bring in a kicker better than Sam Fricken.

Of 75 FG attempts at Penn State 10 were blocked because he kicks with such a low trajectory...TEN. He also is considered to have a weak leg by NFL standards. Just 30% of his kickoffs were touchbacks with just a 3.6 second hang time. Wow, can you imagine some of those kickoffs at Lambeau come December?

That info was just on one draft profile BTW.

Oh, and he's 1 of 3 in FG attempts. Just get some REAL competition then. Hell, the guy in 2013 was better than this dude.

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stockholder's picture

June 18, 2019 at 06:32 am

Send them to Detroit to practice. He may own the grass. But he sucked in Detroit. Artificial Turf must be a factor in the decision now.

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RCPackerFan's picture

June 17, 2019 at 09:40 am

As far as EQ and others, I wouldn't put a ton of stock into how much you hear about them this time of year. Wait till pads go on to really start seeing how they are. EQ emerged as the season went on. He may be a guy that needs time to catch up with the offense. Last year he came on later in the year. Might be similar this year?

I really hope we can stay healthy this year. I think our team will do well if we can stay healthy.

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Coldworld's picture

June 17, 2019 at 06:34 am

June is always a time for optimism. As you put it, “not a single player has put on pads yet or faced any competition other than themselves in a controlled environment.”

That said, there are some grounds for optimism in terms of depth, potential and development: that we are finally heading into a camp where it seems both the players and fans have a reason to believe that we will be better than last year.

Once the players start to actually contest plays, we will see who really is able to help take that step forward and ready to consistently raise the standard. So far, nothing except attitude, playbook learning and athleticism have been demonstrated. Soon the real practice starts.

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RCPackerFan's picture

June 17, 2019 at 11:31 am

Always reason for hope and optimism in the offseason.

But the truth is the Packers went out and got 4 immediate upgrades in FA. Both Smiths are big upgrades over what we have had at OLB the last few years. Now I really liked Mathews, but he wasn't as good the last few years. He was a better run stopper then pass rusher the last few years. But Perry was terrible mostly because he was always hurt.
At safety they got a safety who was one of the most reliable/safest safety's in the league. Huge upgrade from a year ago when 2 starters were gotten rid of.
And from where we were at OG, Turner is an improvement and appears to be a perfect fit for the new scheme.

Lets look at the players we have returning too. Rodgers is now healthy. We have Aaron Jones who looks to be receiving a larger role. Graham and Lewis could have better roles in the new offense. We have Adams, who is one of the best in the league. Bulaga is another year removed from his torn acl. Getting a healthy Clark and Daniels. Martinez is a tackling machine. Alexander looks like he could have his own island soon.
While we don't know exactly how the offense will run, we do know it will be less predictable from previous years. That alone could really help things.

There are a lot of reasons for optimism. I don't think its false hope either. I think its legitimate reasons to be excited!

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Lare's picture

June 17, 2019 at 07:23 am

A lot of unknowns this season, especially with everything new on the offensive side. I also have to wonder if Pettine was being held back last season by the old regime and some of the players and assistant coaches left over from McCarthy's staff.

We shall see.

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PeteK's picture

June 17, 2019 at 08:14 am

You keep referring to this McCarthy person, who is he?

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Coldworld's picture

June 17, 2019 at 01:42 pm

If nothing else the lack of general depth even before injuries, players that fitted his desired scheme and holes at key positions.

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Cubbygold's picture

June 17, 2019 at 02:08 pm

He was definitely held back by a lack of talent and injuries. For example, week 13, GB played without:

Breeland
King
Daniels
Perry
Dix
Ryan
Wilkerson

Can't remember if Clay was playing injured, but he was only credited with one assisted tackle that game. Either way, that's 7/8 guys the team planned on getting significant contributions from during the year that weren't on the field. I think Pettine, with a healthy and more talented group, will surprise many viking and bears fans with how good this defense can be.

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nostradanus's picture

June 17, 2019 at 07:45 am

QB - Rodgers is going to be on a mission to prove he wasn't the problem last year. Will the "Golden Boyle" beat out the Kiser?

RB - Jones is due for a huge breakout year in the outside zone scheme, Dexter Williams is going to be alot of fun to watch!

TE - Graham also has something to prove this season, Sternberger will be interesting to watch develop, he could be the seam buster the Pack has been missing!

WR - This is a good stable of young talent, I think they keep 7 (with Davis as KR/PR) Will Moore sink or swim?
Watch for Teo Redding, this guy makes some amazing catches!

OL - This is the most depth and talent the Packers have had in the O. Line in some time! The additions of Jenkins, Turner and Madison has put the holdovers on notice! Let the competition begin!

DL - The addition on Keke, the development of Mount Adams and the surprising play of Lancaster make this a really deep group. This should be a great camp battle as well.

OLB - The free agent additions of the Smith Bros. as well as the drafting of Gary have put a high expectations on this group. Having Fackrell as a part time pass rusher should keep the heat on opposing QB's all game long!

ILB - Martinez looks primed for a big year and the Packers coaches have high hopes for Burks (as do I).
It will be fun to see how Ty Summers (Alies: Capt. America) and James Crawford develop. At worst these two should be a dynamic duo on special teams!

CB - The continued development of Alexander, King and Jackson give this group an extremely high ceiling! Having T. Williams as the steady vet of the group is like a coach on the field and the physical play of Tony Brown last season as well as the impressive physical tools of Ka'dar Hollman make this a young and dynamic group to root for! Fingers crossed for good health.

S - The Safety makeover has us all excited in Packer land.
The addition of Amos and Savage is going to be very exciting to watch develop. I am a huge fan of Raven Green who has come in "jacked up" and ready to take the backup job and bust some heads on Special Teams. It also sounds like former Badger Natrell Jamerson has come to compete!
The only sour apple is Josh Jones who I think has written his ticket out of Green Bay if Gutey can find a trade partner.

Sp. Teams - Rookie Punters usually take their lumps but Scott showed impressive leg strength, he needs to improve his ball placement and snap holds in year two. Bradly as a Long Snapper was also inconsistent with his snaps and needs to make the second year jump. Crosby should be around for one more season but the young Ficken could give him a run for his money. Either way the whole unit must improve (as well as the return and coverage units) This group couldn't do any worse than last year (or could they?) I am betting the whole unit will make major strides forward under the new S. Teams coach!

Coaching - This is a young and energetic group starting with peg leg LaFluer, I am sure there will be times this group is out-coached by many of the more seasoned staffs but that is to be expected with a first year Head Coach, lets hope this unit gels quickly and overcomes some of this with youthful enthusiasm and energy.

I hope you are all as excited for training camp and the 2019 NFL season as I am! This should be a fun ride!

Enjoy your summer my Packer brethren!!

GO PACK!!

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carlos's picture

June 17, 2019 at 07:51 am

Wow, Nos. Well said. You could write for Cheese Head All well put. But, Nick, I beg to differ with you. I see a ton of different, positive things with the 2019 Green Bay Packers. I love your feedback Nick, but sense some good positive changes that I hope lead to success. Time and injuries, as always, is key. King and Alexander must stay on the field on defense. O line and Rogers on offense. Go Pack. 6 weeks to enjoy summer in the great UP.

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PatrickGB's picture

June 17, 2019 at 10:48 am

Nos, most of what you wrote reflects my opinion as well. However, I did not see much from M. Adams last year and do not expect much this year. I also don’t have much faith in the backups at QB. I hope to never have to use them except in garbage time. Yet Rodgers is not an Ironman so even with the improved line he may end up dinged up or worse. ILB is not very deep as well as is the safety position. Still it seems good that I am fretting over the backups instead of the starters.

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Packer Fan's picture

June 17, 2019 at 12:48 pm

I think you wrote a better article. Everything is looking good now, Last year wasn't much different, but I do believe more of the holes have been filled. It all depends on when the pads go on. And how many injuries will happen. Which players don't improve as much as expected. All these questions will need to be answered. And so far, I like what I see more than I did last year.

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Cubbygold's picture

June 17, 2019 at 02:13 pm

What do you consider to be a breakout year for AJ? 133 caries last year with 728 yards. Figure a considerable bump would be 200 carries and 4.5 YPC would be successful with the increased volume. That gets him to 900 yards.

Or are you more optimistic than that?

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arthurl's picture

June 18, 2019 at 08:46 am

What an enjoyable read!!! Thank you, laughed when reading "peg leg Lefluer".

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Tarynfor12's picture

June 17, 2019 at 08:40 am

Everyone,player and coaches, is in a prove it situation and whatever proof each is able to muster begins in Aug when each has to face a real opponent on the other team. Until then, it's nothing but nice speak about each other.

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IceBowl's picture

June 17, 2019 at 08:51 pm

Every team, every year, every position.

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4thand1's picture

June 17, 2019 at 08:53 am

What do we have? We don't know, and won't know until the real football starts. It may take 4 or 5 weeks into the season for the Pack to gel. Even Pettine with another year has a lot of new faces to deal with on defense. The biggest thing in the Pack's favor is they don't have a rookie or young QB under center.

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PeteK's picture

June 17, 2019 at 08:58 am

It shouldn't be a surprise that the D is ahead because we"re installing a new offense with a zone blocking scheme. We are deeper in many positions than previous seasons and are better prepared to possibly withstand some injuries.

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RCPackerFan's picture

June 17, 2019 at 09:38 am

This is the 2nd year with Pettine as the D coordinator. Pettine has come out and said that the 2nd year will be much improved as players will have a great understanding what he wants to do with the system. The defense should be ahead at this point especially since there is a new offensive system being ran.

For most players, year 2 is when they take their biggest jump. But for others a lot take a big jump in year 3. On defense there are a lot of guys in year 2 that could take a big jump. Alexander, Jackson, Burks, Tony Brown, Fadol Brown, Greene, Jamerson, Lancaster, Looney, Donnerson are all 2nd year guys that could take a big jump. Year 3 guys are Montravious Adams and Kevin King. Josh Jones who knows at the point.

If those guys take a step, and add in the Smiths and Amos, to go along with Gary and Savage, we have the makings for what could be a really, really good defense.

On offense while it may take longer for the system to take off, we have 12. If anyone can make an offense go without missing a beat it is 12.
Much like on defense we have 2nd and 3rd year players that are looking to take a big step.

MVS, EQ, Moore all are going into their 2nd year. All 3 coudl take big steps. Technically Kumerow is in his 2nd year. He could be another guy to watch. Aaron Jones and Williams are going into year 3. Both could be looking at a bigger role with the new offense geared more towards running the ball. Some others that could emerge are Cole Madison, Allen Lazard, Teo Redding.

There are a lot of things to be excited about this season. While we won't truly know how this team will be until games start, I really do like the looks of this roster.
The greatest jump will take place with the new offensive scheme, the 4 guys they signed, 2-1st round picks, and the returning players taking a jump.

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egbertsouse's picture

June 17, 2019 at 09:49 am

The Hype Train has converted from steam to Japanese high-speed rail.

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Packmaniac's picture

June 17, 2019 at 10:17 am

Lots of excellent comments (I’ve posted only a few over the years but read the articles and comments here religiously)...For me, the biggest positives among many, begin with Ted now being two preseasons in the rear view mirror and Mac one. Both gave the impression of sleepwalking down the stretch of their Pack careers....As for the rest, you guys and Jason covered it all very well.

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Since '61's picture

June 17, 2019 at 10:27 am

While I am looking forward to seeing what appears to be our improved roster for 2019 I am also reaching the conclusion that following the draft we should rename the off season. The new name for the period between the draft and TC should be the Hype Season.

We are looking good at this point but then again so is every team in the league. Biggest issue between now and the end of the preseason is to remain injury free. Then we see what we have and manage our expectations accordingly. Thanks, Since ‘61

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Swisch's picture

June 17, 2019 at 10:46 am

In a subconscious way, Rodgers may have begun to like playing hero ball a little too much over recent seasons, with his scrambling feats of elusive escapes and dramatic darts downfield.
He may have to readjust his adrenaline rush and go back to playing a more controlled approach that isn't nearly as sensational but is much more efficient and effective.
Let Rodgers remember that all QBs will eventually be forced into opportunities for the heroic highlight play -- but those should be few and far between.
Generally, the humbler way will get to the team success that will truly add to the legacy of Aaron Rodgers.
Let's hope he embraces the hidden discipline of the little things, while still retaining his flair for the fantabulous.
Rodgers can be his unique and authentic self within a spectrum between Bart Starr and Brett Favre (and more to the former).
That's a delicate of balance of exceeding difficulty that is likely to pay off in personal greatness and common success.
It's win-win -- but it requires the challenge of always putting the team first, trusting that the individual satisfaction with follow.
I'm hopeful that Aaron Rodgers is up to this high calling. I'm rooting for him!

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EddieLeeIvory's picture

June 17, 2019 at 03:54 pm

I'll give a Packers prize to the winner of this contest.

#1- how many games will Kevin King finish this season

#2- what week will he first miss a game due to injury

#3- which body part will cause him to miss his first game missed:
-shoulder
-hammy
-groin
-head (concussion)
-knee
-other

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4thand1's picture

June 17, 2019 at 07:29 pm

Way to stay positive. If it wasn't for pissing and moaning, you'd have nothing to add to the conversation.

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EddieLeeIvory's picture

June 17, 2019 at 08:34 pm

Don't be so sensitive 4th. You don't have to guess or you can guess. It's your call. If I complained like u did, about every comment I had no interest in, I'd comment 100x as much as now.
I think King is brittle & want to see what & when some y'all think she'll be out. Remember Terry Glenn & Bill Parcells?

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4thand1's picture

June 17, 2019 at 09:30 pm

I'm the sensitive one? hmmmmm

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IceBowl's picture

June 17, 2019 at 09:45 pm

Feathers and talcum.

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IceBowl's picture

June 17, 2019 at 08:54 pm

EddieLeeIvory'

#1, 16

#2, 0

#3, hangnail.

No one is hurt now, there is no reason to break their bones.

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PeteK's picture

June 17, 2019 at 06:25 pm

Might as well throw in Bulaga in the contest. I really hope I'm wrong , but it doesn't look good that he's still nursing last seasons injury. 11- week 9- hammy. LOL

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IceBowl's picture

June 17, 2019 at 09:33 pm

PeteK ,

Bulaga? Crap, name any player.

Some will get hurt, maybe all. For all teams. That projecting who gets hurt is even crazier than trying to guess who gets drafted/picked up.

This is not specifically pointed at you, but the notion is just crazy. 200-350 lb. players crashing into each other is not a recipe for health.

I do not believe players are injury prone. The NFL is an injury waiting to happen. Every play. Every day. Even just practicing!! Very few avoid injuries.

Armchair QB's, as you can read above, blab much criticism and have all (none) of the answers. But mostly junk and media hype (injury prone).

People get hurt stepping off the sidewalk, or getting out of bed. The NFL is a little tougher.

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PeteK's picture

June 18, 2019 at 08:09 am

All true ,but we're talking about a players history. However, some athletes are just more flexible than others and do not get injured. I am not going to mention the Packer players that are veterans and have no injury history because I don't want to jinx them. By contrast, Bulaga, Jones, and King have been injured most of their careers.

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Lphill's picture

June 18, 2019 at 05:39 am

I’m sure players on every team make comments about how good their team looks , I doubt anyone is going to say wow we look terrible in camp , but the difference is with the Packers the free agents as well as the first rounders and coaches brought in I don’t think any other team went through such a drastic makeover and other teams should be worried . Go Pack Go !

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PackEyedOptimist's picture

June 18, 2019 at 07:29 am

I'm cautiously optimistic, but I have concerns:

1. I'm not sold on our RBs for the outside zone: Jones-injury prone? J Williams-not a great outside threat. D Williams-Count me unimpressed with his college tape (but his offensive line looked GREAT)

2. I think Rodgers will be mentally/emotionally in the right place, but I'm concerned about his throwing and moving. Hopefully, he will be completely recovered by the start of the season.

On the other hand, I'm quite excited about the defensive roster, and I think it is going to be a very effective group (if the offense can regularly put together some decent drives).

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greengold's picture

June 18, 2019 at 09:40 am

All I know is this is one of the biggest, most talent filled inventories that I can recall in GB in recent memory. Not a bad way to be rolling into TC.

There is so much yet to prove, but, we fans have gotten a glimpse from the many reports on OTAs, etc that there is a lot to be positive about.

For me? I'd say my two biggest take aways are:
1. We have a HC in LaFleur who will insist on running the ball, and we have some great personnel to do just that.

It will save Aaron Rodgers in the long run, and I just hope that he sees that. Plus, it will open up so many more opportunities, not just in the passing game, but in adding Ws throughout the season.

2. We have what I believe will be an overwhelming Defense for opposing teams to contend with. Pettine finally looks to have the pieces assembled to run his scheme. He did not have that, even last year.

Add those two things together? WOW. A solid running game, and a solid defense will control games more often than not, they save a QB from injury, and when combined, they usually bring championships.

With the new staff comes a change in our STs, and that will only help, as will what I believe will prove to be an exceptionally deep corps. of WR and TE talents as targets for Rodgers. Really, this appears to be a thrillingly deep team in terms of talent. We will just have to wait and see, but, it is looking better than I can remember in quite some time.

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