2015 Season Preview: Green Bay Packers

In 2015, like most recent years, the road to the playoffs in the NFC North is through the Green Bay Packers. This is a difficult task. As long as the Packers have the duo of Mike McCarthy at Head Coach and Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, the Packers will always be at or near the top of the NFC North. While the club may have some weaknesses, they are strong where they need to be strong. Quarterback At this stage of his career, Aaron Rodgers is one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL. Other than durability, there isn’t a weakness to his game. He is athletic with excellent arm strength, and his ability to read defenses is second to none. Add that to uncanny accuracy, and it would be hard to find someone better. The problem Green Bay has at the quarterback position is that they don’t have much behind Rodgers. This has been proven several times in the past when Rodgers has gone down. Scott Tolzien can’t be expected to win games. Rookie Brett Hundley from UCLA is an athlete with an excellent arm. It ends there. His game actually regressed from 2013 to 2014. While he has some excellent physical traits, he is not a good decision maker and lacks good instincts. Running Back The duo of James Starks and Eddie Lacy has been very productive for the Pack. Lacy is an excellent between-the-tackles power runner, while Starks provides some big play ability. Both are very good receivers out of the backfield. The Packers are one of the few teams that utilize a fullback and John Kuhn is one of the best. As good as Kuhn is, rookie Aaron Ripkowski will challenge Kuhn for a roster spot. Ripkowski was one of the better run blockers in college football a year ago. Receivers The two starting receivers are excellent and know and understand the Green Bay system. Jordy Nelson is a big, physical guy with excellent hands and run-after-catch skills. Randall Cobb has the speed to get deep and, like Nelson, is excellent after the catch. Last year’s second round pick Davante Adams played well and had 38 receptions. He should take a jump in 2015 after being in the system a year. The tight end position has always been strong in Green Bay. Right now, I don’t feel it is. Second-year man Richard Rodgers came on in the latter part of 2014, but I don’t see him as having anything special in his game. Andrew Quarless and Justin Perillo are just journeyman. Offensive Line The Packers have their entire starting five back from a year ago. The tackles are Bryan Bulaga and Davis Bakhtiari. The guards are T.J. Lang and Josh Sitton, and the center is Corey Lindsey. While the group isn’t physically imposing, and there isn’t a real dominating player among them, they play very well together, and all can pass block. Sitton is the most consistent and productive member of the O-Line. Third year man J.C Tretter from Cornell was supposed to start last year at center but a preseason injury allowed Lindsey to play, and he isn’t about to give up his starting position. Tretter has position versatility and will be the first man in if any of the interior guys get injured. Don Barclay is the main tackle reserve. Defensive Line The Packers were in danger of losing some key defensive lineman to free agency, but they were able to re-sign the key players. Nose tackle B.J. Raji is excellent versus the run but doesn’t give much as a pass rusher. Letroy Guion is very consistent as an end and is equally good versus both run and pass. The best player on the defensive line is undersized Mike Daniels. Though he is only six feet tall, he plays hard and is very productive. He has 12 sacks over the last two seasons. Datone Jones plays mostly in pass situations and has been effective as a pass rusher both inside and out. Mike Pennel and Josh Boyd will battle it out for the backup nose tackle position. Linebackers Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers uses his linebackers in a variety of ways, and he is capable of lining them up anywhere. The lead player of the group is of course Clay Matthews. Matthews has spent most of his career outside but was moved inside midway through the season and played exceptionally. He brought more speed and athleticism to the position. Even when inside, he was still used as a pass rusher on passing downs. No one quite knew how Julius Peppers would adjust to playing linebacker. While it took him a few games to adjust, he was his usual self the second half of the season. While he may be in his feet for base downs, he is still playing down in pass rush situations. The starter opposite Matthews inside will be either Sam Barrington or Carl Bradford. Barrington started and played well at the end of last year. Rookie Jake Ryan from Michigan also has to play into the equation as he is very instinctive and productive. He could move ahead of Barrington or Bradford. The other outside linebacker looks to be Nick Perry. The Packers did not pick up the fifth year option on his rookie contract so this is a make or break year for him. The key reserves who will get playtime are Mike Neal, who is very versatile, and Andy Mulumba. If Ryan plays up to his potential, it may allow Capers to move Matthews back outside opposite Peppers, and that will really help the Green Bay pass rush. If that is the case, Ryan would start with either Barrington or Bradford inside. Secondary The secondary lost some key people during the off season, and it remains to be seen how much of an effect it will have. Gone are former corner starter Tramon Williams and backup Davon House. The replacement for Williams will most likely be Casey Hayward. Opposite Heyward may be one of two rookies. Top pick Damarious Randall played safety at Arizona State but has corner traits and played a lot of corner during OTAs. Second round pick Quinton Rollins from Miami (Ohio) also got some reps with the ones. Rollins, though inexperienced as a player, has great ball skills. Veteran Sam Shields also has to be in the equation. At safety, the Packers have last year’s top rookie Ha Ha Clinton-Dix at strong safety and Morgan Burnett at free. Green Bay would like more production from Burnett and one of the rookies (Rollins, Randall) could challenge him as they can also play safety. Outlook The Packers may have lost some key players, but they still have a strong roster. Still, the key to their success will be the health of Rodgers. As long as he is the quarterback, the Packers will rule the division. Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe

Upcoming Games

Nov 1st, 1:00 PM

Pittsburgh +4 -110

Baltimore -4 -110

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Nov 1st, 1:00 PM

Minnesota +6.5 -110

Green Bay -6.5 -110

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Nov 1st, 1:00 PM

NY Jets +20 -110

Kansas City -20 -110

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Nov 1st, 1:00 PM

Indianapolis -3 -120

Detroit +3 -120

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Nov 1st, 1:00 PM

Tennessee -7 -110

Cincinnati +7 -110

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Nov 1st, 1:00 PM

Las Vegas +2.5 -110

Cleveland -2.5 -110

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Nov 1st, 1:00 PM

New England +4.5 -110

Buffalo -4.5 -110

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Nov 1st, 1:00 PM

LA Rams -3.5 -110

Miami +3.5 -110

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Nov 1st, 4:05 PM

LA Chargers -3.5 -110

Denver +3.5 -110

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Nov 1st, 4:25 PM

San Francisco +3 +100

Seattle -3 +100

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Nov 1st, 4:25 PM

New Orleans -4 -110

Chicago +4 -110

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Nov 1st, 8:20 PM

Dallas +11 -115

Philadelphia -11 -115

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Nov 2nd, 8:15 PM

Tampa Bay -12.5 -110

NY Giants +12.5 -110

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Nov 5th, 8:20 PM

Green Bay 0 -110

San Francisco 0 -110

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Nov 8th, 1:00 PM

Carolina +10 -123

Kansas City -10 -123

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Nov 8th, 1:00 PM

Detroit +1.5 -110

Minnesota -1.5 -110

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Nov 8th, 1:00 PM

Chicago +6.5 -110

Tennessee -6.5 -110

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Nov 8th, 1:00 PM

Seattle -1.5 +100

Buffalo +1.5 +100

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Nov 8th, 1:00 PM

Denver +3.5 -110

Atlanta -3.5 -110

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Nov 8th, 1:00 PM

Baltimore -4 -110

Indianapolis +4 -110

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Nov 8th, 1:00 PM

Houston -4 -110

Jacksonville +4 -110

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Nov 8th, 1:00 PM

NY Giants +3.5 -110

Washington -3.5 -110

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Nov 8th, 4:05 PM

Las Vegas +2.5 -120

LA Chargers -2.5 -120

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Nov 8th, 4:25 PM

Miami +5 -110

Arizona -5 -110

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Nov 8th, 4:25 PM

Pittsburgh -9.5 -111

Dallas +9.5 -111

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Nov 8th, 8:20 PM

New Orleans +4 -110

Tampa Bay -4 -110

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