Behind Enemy Lines: Packers

The Bears are heavily favored to win their third consecutive NFC North title this season, but could one of their division rivals prove up to the challenge? Packers expert Todd Korth drops by BearReport.com to detail everything that has happened in Green Bay this offseason. Will Aaron Rodgers ever play? Who can replace Ahman Green? How does Justin Harrell look so far? Find out the answers inside.

John Crist: I'm not going to ask if this is Brett Favre's last season because I've grown tired from asking it five years in a row. But along the quarterback front, is Aaron Rodgers the next starting QB in Green Bay and could it be as early as 2008?

Todd Korth: Rodgers might be the starter later this season if the Packers are not headed for the playoffs. Favre is expected to break some major NFL records, like total touchdowns and most victories by a quarterback early in the season. If the Packers struggle this season and are out of the playoff picture, it is very possible that coach Mike McCarthy will insert Rodgers as the starter to help the team prepare for the 2008 season. If Favre and the Packers offense comes to life and they make the playoffs, it all depends if the future Hall-of-Famer chooses to return to play another season in 2008.

One thing is for sure – Rodgers is the next starting quarterback for the Packers. He is ready and anxious to lead the team. It may happen as soon as this season, but most likely next season.

JC: Review Green Bay's offseason for us. Who was brought in, who was shipped out, and who might be missed?

TK: The Packers had a very quiet offseason to the dismay of many fans. Their big free agent pickup was (drum roll, please) Frank Walker. Who? That's right, Walker, who was buried on the New York Giants depth chart last year and will serve as Green Bay's nickel or dime defensive back this season.

The Packers allowed Ahman Green to go to Houston and did the same with injury-prone tight end David Martin, who signed with Miami. Many fans were hoping the Packers would make a trade with Oakland for Randy Moss, but New England edged them out for the disgruntled wide receiver on Day 2 of the NFL Draft.

JC: Green was solid if not spectacular last season, but he was signed away – and probably overpaid – by the Texans. Is Vernand Morency capable of being the featured runner and carrying the ball 20-25 times a game, or should we expect to see Brandon Jackson starting in the backfield at some point this year?

TK: Houston did overpay Green, and Packers general manager Ted Thompson wisely did not get caught up in a bidding war. Green has one or two more seasons in him at best.

Morency will be the starter in the team's offense when the season begins, but the Packers selected Jackson in the second round and aren't about to keep him on the sideline. Jackson, who has better quickness and burst than Morency, will get some carries. If he does well, he may wind up replacing Morency as the starter later in the season. Morency, however, is up for the challenge, realizes his opportunity is now, and is ready to make the most of it.

Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

JC: Defensive tackle Justin Harrell was not the most popular first-round pick because the prevailing sentiment was that Favre needed more weapons. What have you seen out of Harrell so far, and who else from the draft class aside from Harrell and Jackson could make an impact right away?

TK: Harrell did not participate in any team drills during the offseason mini camps and Organized Team Activities practices due to a biceps injury that he sustained while at Tennessee last year. The medical staff wants to be extra cautious. He is expected to practice in team drills in training camp, but we'll see a lot more from him as he battles veteran Corey Williams for the right to start. The Packers feel Harrell can be a disruptive force on the line, much like the Bears' Tommie Harris.

Other draft picks that will have a chance to contribute immediately for Green Bay include wide receiver James Jones (third round), safety Aaron Rouse (third round), and possibly kicker Mason Crosby (sixth round).

JC: The Bears have won back-to-back NFC North titles and done so fairly easily, but a lot of experts feel that Green Bay is the team that could challenge them for the division. Can the Packers be a playoff team again, and what below-the-radar factor will be key to their success or failure?

TK: I am predicting that the Packers sneak into the NFC playoffs for the first time since 2004.

The Packers defense improved throughout the season last year and is expected to be the strength of the team this year. The offense lacks playmakers, and younger skill-position players like running backs Morency and Jackson, wide receivers Jones and Greg Jennings, and tight end Donald Lee will have to make an immediate impact for the Packers to earn a playoff berth. Behind an offensive line that improved throughout last season, the Packers should be able to score more points and win enough games to qualify for the postseason.

To read Part II of this series, where John answers five questions from Todd, Click Here.

John Crist is the Editor in Chief of BearReport.com. Todd Korth is the Managing Editor of PackerReport.com.


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