Key free agent signings:
Key free agent departures:
B.J. Raji decided to leave the NFL after recovering from injuries and personal issues. Whether he will return to the NFL next year is still in question, but what is certain is the gap in the defense he will leave. At 6-foot-2, 337 pounds, he had a huge impact on the field and helped the Packers win the Super Bowl in 2010, where he recored 6.5 sacks that season.
Top 3 Impact Rookies:
The Green Bay Packers made waves in the draft, acquiring some great impact rookies. First-round pick Kenny Clark is a great replacement for big man Raji. At 6-foot-3, 314 pounds, Clark is a great run stopper who can clog up the middle and opposing interior offensive lineman will have their hands full with his strength. Clark has been tested in top level PAC 10 competition as a UCLA standout and should transition well to the NFL. It could take a season or two to develop, but the potential is high for the rising DT. He is more athletic than B.J. Raji and finished his junior year at UCLA with 5.5. sacks and 7.3 tackles.
Jason Spriggs is a crucial second round pick who may called into action with an injury prone Bryan Bulaga struggling with balky knees throughout his career. He needs to develop his game to be an effective OT in the NFL, but has all the physical attributes that teams look for with his 6-foot-5, 305 pound frame. He can play anywhere on the line and his athleticism allows him to be extremely versatile.
Kyler Fackrell is hoping to build spot as a third round pick, adding to an already revamped defensive unit built by GM Ted Thompson. With the departure of OLB Mike Neal, Fackrell's call to action will be sooner than later and it will be imperative that he adjusts to the NFL game quickly. The transition should be smoother than most considering Fackrell played a big role in Utah State’s 3-4 defense which is similar to the Packers scheme. The one concern with Fackrell is potential knee problems after tearing his ACL, however that did not prevent him from starting all 13 games as a senior at Utah State. With his experience at Utah State and keen football knowledge, 25 year old Fackrell must come up big to fill the hole at OLB for the Packers defense.
Biggest offseason addition:
Green Bay is known for their excellent player development system and they have continued to make most of their moves personal in the draft just as they always do. However, one key free agent that GM Ted Thompson has added is TE Cook. Cook, an experienced pass catcher, provides more ammunition for gun slinger Aaron Rodgers and the lethal Packers West Coast Offense. Cook provides the Packers with a guy who can matchup well on most opposing defensive ends on run plays and allows Rodgers a security blanket to throw to, most notably in the red zone. His 6’5 stature allows him the ability to go up and win the majority of jump balls against most defenses. Cook should make an immediate impact and add to the threats provided by Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson, and the rest of the upcoming Packers receivers.
Most intriguing storyline heading into training camp:
When healthy, Jordy Nelson is as good as they come, but heading into training camp, the entire NFL is keeping an eye out on how effective he can be coming off of a torn ACL which he suffered in the 2015 season. Before his injury, Nelson was arguably a top 5 pass-catching threat and was Rodgers’ favorite target. With his keen route running ability and sticky glue-like hands, Nelson had a niche for making big plays and looked unstoppable at times. After the devastating injury, all eyes will be on Nelson to see how the knee has recovered and whether or not he will be able to withstand the grind of a full NFL season. Head Coach Mike McCarthy and the rest of the Packers will be on the edge of their seats every time Nelson makes a cut or exerts any pressure on his fragile knee.
Under-the-radar storyline heading into training camp:
In Green Bay, McCarthy has built a no nonsense type of culture with limited off field distractions and years of constant success. This season may be slightly different as questions have risen about star linebacker and captain Clay Matthews and his potential involvement with performance enhancing drugs. The report came as numerous athletes, including Matthews, have been named in the Al-Jazeera report. As part of the most recent collective bargaining agreement, both the NFL and NFLPA have created stricter penalties against those who use PEDs and if Matthews is proven to have taken these drugs, the Packers can be without their star linebacker for quite a while, hurting their chances to make a deep run into the playoffs. As the heart and soul of the Packers defense, it is crucial that Matthews stays on the field for McCarthy and company.
Key Injuries heading into training camp”
As previously mentioned, when healthy, the Packers have an extremely dangerous receiving core that creates havoc for opposing defenses. However, due to injuries, the lethal weapons for Rodgers may be subsidized. The newest casualty for the group is receiver Randall Cobb who is currently nursing a punctured lung which he suffered in the Packers NFC playoff divisional game against the Arizona Cardinals. Cobb, perhaps the most versatile weapon for the Packers, is hopeful that he can get back on the field and be a playmaker for the offense. As Jordy Nelson continues to recover from his torn ACL and gets back into game form, all eyes will be on Cobb to see how well he has recovered from the punctured lung. If both Cobb and Nelson are not at full strength, QB Aaron Rodgers will need to shoulder the load without two of his most explosive weapons heading into training camp.