Favre is still the man and there has not been a significant drop in his production. Couch could be the QB of the future, depending on his patience.
He signed a one-year deal to back up Favre. Favre could very well play for at least three more seasons. It is doubtful that Couch would remain with the Packers that long. Pederson provides another security blanket in terms of being a back up QB and also as a holder. Pederson's strong friendship with Favre doesn't hurt, plus he is like another coach with his knowledge of this offense. Craig Nall has not shown enough progress to warrant a roster spot.
It's basically status quo from the 2003 squad. Why mess with such outstanding production? Green is truly one of the top 5 backs in the NFL. He has aspirations of gaining over 2,000 yards in 2004. That will be difficult because of the outstanding depth behind him. Green, Davenport and Fisher all averaged over 5 yards a carry last year. Davenport brings a bruising, physical style to complement Green's ability to score from anywhere on the field. Fisher always knows his assignments and is probably the best blocker and receiver at HB. Henderson held off Luchey last year at FB and had a very solid year. Luchey brings great ability, but tends to play too heavy.
WR (6): Javon Walker, Robert Ferguson, Donald Driver, Carl Ford, Scottie Vines, Antonio Chatman Walker, Ferguson and Driver are solidly set as the top three options for Favre. Walker and Ferguson both made big strides in their development last year. 2004 should be even bigger for the pair. Driver was injured early and never really returned to 2002 form. Driver will be healthy in 2004 and his production should also be improved. The other three roster spots at WR are a bit murky. Carl Ford showed great ability in training camp last year before going on injured reserve with a knee injury. Ford has not looked as solid in the 2004 mini camps. Vines has great size. Chatman can play WR in a pinch, but would strictly be a PR more times than not. There is a real possibility that the Packers will bring in a veteran WR with West Coast offense experience to be the number four option. Also, Chatman's status would be in jeopardy if the Atlanta Falcons release KR/DB Allen Rossum. The Packers never wanted Rossum to leave and would probably jump at the chance to bring him back.
I know what your thinking. Walls isn't even on the roster. I just have a feeling that the Packers will bring him back. Walls was fairly productive once he overcame early injuries in 2003. Favre also has a nice comfort level with Walls, not to mention a great friendship. Speaking of comfort level, in the red zone there is no bigger threat to score than Franks. Franks' production dropped some last year but is still very reliable, especially as a blocker. Martin showed enough last year to get another look in 2004.
This might be the finest offensive line in the NFL. The great production that the offense had in 2003 started right here. The starters are back for one more year. That might change in 2005 with Wahle and Rivera possibly being gone due to cap restraints. Therefore, it is imperative to develop quality depth. Rivera and Flanagan went to the Pro Bowl. Wahle and Clifton deserved to be there as well. Barry is superior run blocker at RT and might have a chance to move inside. If there is an injury at G this year, Tauscher has the ability to move inside to G. Curtin has shown good feet at the tackle position. Wells is solid in all areas and hopefully can play G as well as he anchors the C position. Morley has great size and also might be versatile enough to play both G or T.
The deadwood is gone with the release of both Joe Johnson and Jamal Reynolds. The starters should be KGB, Hunt, Jackson and Kampman. New defensive coordinator Bob Slowik will substitute liberally to keep the troops fresh. All of the backups have the versatility to play inside or outside. The competition will be fierce as the coaching staff will really push this unit hard to be more productive.
The starters return. Barnett was a stud as a rookie and will only get better. Diggs played well when he wasn't nicked up at weak side LB. Navies was solid manning the strong side. Both OLBs need to take their game up a level. If that happens as Barnett matures, this unit will be very formidable. Marshall returns as a key back up who needs to continue improving his play. Look for Spearman and Jones to make the club as well. Spearman was a favorite of Mark Duffner in Cincinnati who brings nice size and versatility. Jones is an undrafted free agent who also has good size and has the ability to play inside or outside. Jones also has good speed. Expect Marshall, Spearman and Jones all to be terrors on special teams.
CB Mike McKenzie still has not ended his hold out. My guess is that he will return. If he does, the Packers will have the best depth that they have had in years at DB. McKenzie and Harris both are very physical corners who will have to tone down that style this year because of new rules that prohibit overzealous coverage. S Darren Sharper is a Pro Bowler who needs someone to help free him up to be the playmaker he is. Mark Roman may be that guy. Roman will battle Marques Anderson for the S spot opposite Sharper. The nickel and dime coverage units should be much improved with the additions of Ahmad Carroll and Joey Thomas in the draft. Michael Hawthorne started in place of an injured McKenzie a couple of times in 2003 and played solidly. Bhawoh Jue has had his moments with the Packers, both good and bad, but his ability to play both CB and S is a plus that will get him the nod over other DB candidates.
LS (1): Rob Davis
Davis had another very solid season in 2003. The Packers will have a rookie P in 2004 and possibly a new holder. That means that the consistency of Davis will be more important than ever.
K (1): Ryan Longwell
Longwell is now the all time leading scorer in the history of the Packers. Longwell had another very solid season in 2004. Although Longwell is not great on kickoffs and has limitations with some distances on field goals, his overall consistency has been outstanding.
P (1): B.J. Sander
The rookie Sander replaces Josh Bidwell. Sander doesn't have the leg of Bidwell, but he has much better ability to place a punt inside an opponent's 20 yard line. Sander also has excellent hang time with his punts and may cause returners some problems with his left-footed delivery that spins the ball differently than most punters.
– Bob Fox is a freelance writer from Tampa, Fla.