Unit by unit analysis: Offense

The 2003 season has ended and the Green Bay Packers are in the planning stages of bolstering their team for 2004. As the Packers prepare to attend next week's NFL Combine in Indianapolis, here is breakdown of the 2003 Packers offense, by unit, according to some published reports:<p>

QUARTERBACK: Starter – Brett Favre. Backups – Doug Pederson, Craig Nall.

Favre had a streaky year. His passer ratings were 67.6 in Weeks 1-3, 107 in Weeks 4-8, 64 in Weeks 9-12 and 105.5 in Weeks 13-18. In all, he finished at 90-8 for 18 games. He was afforded fantastic protection and had the luxury of being able to hand off for the team's best ground game since 1967. At 34, he remains a very good player, but lost mobility (17 rushing yards in 18 games) and a penchant for making the killer interception (18 1/2 of his 22 were his fault) have diminished some of his value. Pederson will be 36 Jan. 31. He still has good athletic ability but probably will be gone if the Packers draft one early. He and Favre and pals. Nall couldn't move by Pederson this year and will get one more long look in training camp.

RUNNING BACKS: Starters – RB Ahman Green, FB William Henderson. Backups -- HB Najeh Davenport, HB Tony Fisher, FB Nick Luchey.

Green fumbled a few too many times (7, lost 5) in the first nine games, but he never fumbled once in his last 246 touches. Vision. Patience. Toughness. Breakaway burst. Discipline. Pass blocking. Much improved hands (two drops). Subtle inside cuts. Body lean. Ability to punish tacklers. Green has it all.

Davenport and Fisher also averaged more than 5 yards per carry. Davenport might be good enough to start on some teams. He runs harder than hard at times and has good speed for his size. He is prone to making bad reads, will fumble (four, lost one) and is shaky in the passing game. Fisher isn't a great talent but he has a knack for making the key first down and is an exceptional receiver and pass blocker. Henderson and Luchey were just about splitting time down the stretch. Henderson will be 33 in February but don't count out his return. Luchey is the more devastating blocker but Henderson misses less and is better in the passing game.

TIGHT ENDS: Starter – Bubba Franks. Backups – Wesley Walls, David Martin.

Most teams running the West Coast offense would prefer a better downfield threat than Franks. The Packers make the best of it, however, because Franks does well in the red zone and is a better blocker than most. He also almost never drops a pass (three drops in the last two years).

Walls is ancient and his legs failed him several times in flat passes on third down. He wants to return but the Packers need better. Martin was used mostly as a lead blocker operating essentially as an H-Back in front of counter plays. A former wide receiver, he now blocks much better than when he arrived. However, he has never played up to his great speed and receiving ability in the passing game. He might be a perennial tease.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters – SE Robert Ferguson, FL Donald Driver. Backups – Javon Walker, Antonio Freeman, Carl Ford.

This was no better than an average group. Driver, supposedly the No. 1, didn't perform as well as Ferguson or Walker. He found a way to be more or less a non-factor in an offense quarterbacked by Brett Favre. Longest play he made all year was 45 yards on a reverse. Didn't make the tough grab in traffic and offered next to nothing (2.78 yards) after the catch. Ferguson battled an assortment of injuries and made significant progress in his third season. Big and gifted, Ferguson still isn't polished but he doesn't make the route-running errors that he once did. He's fast and fearless in everything that he does, including special teams where the coaches felt he was the team's best cover man. Walker ranked second in the NFL in yards per catch (17.5) of those with more than 25 catches. He went up and got six home-run balls in the final eight games after not having any in his first 1 1/2 seasons. He's a long strider who tends to run into defenders and doesn't get free consistently on third downs. Freeman was a positive influence on younger players this time around but had little left to give physically. Ford, a seventh-round pick from Toledo, had a good training camp but spend the entire regular season on injured reserve with a knee injury. He would have made the team and might have contributed.

OFFENSIVE LINE: Starters – LT Chad Clifton, LG Mike Wahle, C Mike Flanagan, RG Marco Rivera, RT Mark Tauscher. Backups – RT Kevin Barry, C-G Grey Ruegamer, T-G Marcus Spriggs, T Brennan Curtin.

This was among the top two or three lines in the NFL. All five started every game, the first time that's happened in Green Bay since 1978. No two scouts from opposing teams could agree on the proper order of the five. There was no weak link, and Rivera was the only player voted to the Pro Bowl.

Rivera played at a very high level for the first 11 games and then was only good in the last seven games. Thick, strong and more athletic than you might think. His pass protection gets better every year. Wahle pulled from left to right on the Power-O, the Packers' signature play on offense all season long. He is a great athlete, improved his anchor against bull rushers and blocked exceptionally well on the run. Flanagan does a great job sorting out the pre-snap frenzy for his linemates and is one of the NFL's best blocking on the second level because he's so quick. He will get hammered occasionally by power nose tackles. Clifton bounced back from the vicious hit by Warren Sapp and started 18 games. He is a highly reliable pass blocker and almost never needs help against anyone. He also was the worst run blocker on the line. Not that he's terrible, because he isn't. But Clifton could be better both at the point and on cutoff blocks. Tauscher wasn't back all the way from his reconstructive knee surgery in October 2002 but sucked it up and started every game. He has the ability to recover in protection when stunned at the line and is a tough run blocker. Barry played about 15 to 20 snaps a game as the second tight end and was the most physical run blocker on the team. He's a body slammer who loves trying to gore people. Ruegamer and Spriggs are just guys that need to be replaced. Curtin put on at least 15 pounds during the season (he was inactive every game) and could factor at left tackle if the Packers can't get Clifton re-signed.

Editor's note: On Thursday, packerreport.com will analyze the 2003 Packers defense, by unit, and special teams.


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