Packers' top 10 concerns

Javon Walker holdout threat heads list as team enters training camp

With training camps throughout the NFL ready to open over the next week, it's time to turn our attention to the Green Bay Packers as they start their quest for a fourth straight NFC North title.

For that to happen, however, the Packers must deal with 10 concerns surrounding the organization as it enters the "dog days" of summer. Heading the Packers' list of questions is wide receiver Javon Walker and his likely holdout.

1. Javon Walker: With two years left on his deal, Walker wants a new deal. As much as Packers fans are disgusted with this move, this needs to get resolved soon. Walker showed last season he has more big-play ability than any receiver on the team — by far.

Can the Packers live without him? Yes, but the offense will suffer. Something needs to be done, but giving in isn't the answer.

2. Grady Jackson: Like Walker, Jackson switched agents and is now represented by slime-ball agent Drew Rosenhaus. Jackson's holdout stems from, other than Rosenhaus, he is in the waning years of his career and wants one more big payday. Jackson is key to the defense, filling the middle, but he's not a Pro Bowler and he's not 25. Still, the Packers need him inside, since they have nothing else there.

3. Mike Sherman: The former coach/GM is now just the coach, but for how long? Sherman has one year left on his deal, and at least publicly there are no signs new GM Ted Thompson will do anything before the season starts. So this means Sherman is a lame-duck coach. Teams can go two directions — players can play their tails off because they like the coach, or if the season starts slowly, they can go through the motions and get the coach fired. Personally, I'd like to see Sherman stay. He has won three straight division titles, and although he has stumbled in the playoffs, he has done enough not to have a rope being sized for his hanging.

4. Aaron Rodgers: The Packers' top pick won't play a meaningful snap this season (hopefully), but as a the heir apparent to Brett Favre, the former California QB must get into camp on time to learn the Packers' system. Ask the likes of Favre, Donovan McNabb and Michael Vick how long it takes to learn the West Coast offense, and all will say at least three years, if not more. Rodgers likely will be under center in three years, if not earlier, so the more time he has in training camp – where Favre won't take a ton of reps – the better it is for the organization in the long run.

5. Secondary: Only one thing is for sure here – Al Harris starts at one cornerback position. The other three starting spots are up for grabs, which isn't good. This means nobody has stood out in the off-season. It's likely safety Arturo Freeman will grab a starting spot, as he's following new defensive coordinator Jim Bates from Miami. The other two spots, who knows? Second-year corners Ahmad Carroll and Joey Thomas will fight each other (hopefully just on the field this year) to start opposite Harris. At safety, Nick Collins is a second-round pick, and with no real depth here he should compete. However, he was a major reach. There are questions all over this area, which isn't good in this pass-happy era.

6. Punter: It's do or die for B.J. Sander. The third-round pick in 2004 will be given every chance to be the team's punter, and after a season in NFL Europe, he should be ready. Still, what if he struggles? The Packers, and Sherman, can't afford that to happen. He needs to live up to his draft status, whether it's fair or not.

7. Offensive line: Gone are guards Marco Rivera and Mike Wahle. Replacing them will be two of these three – Grey Ruegamer, Adrian Klemm and Matt O'Dwyer. Guard is the least important offensive line position, so if the Packers can find adequate replacements, they'll be OK. They don't need Pro Bowl-caliber players like Wahle and Rivera, although it would be nice.

8. New defense: Bates has said this off-season the Packers defense has similar talent to the top-notch units he coached in Miami. OK, what's the punch line? So far, there hasn't been one, but it will come at the start of the regular season if Bates is wrong. The good thing here is the defense couldn't be much worse than 2004. The bad thing, what have the Packers done to improve it, besides fire Bob Slowik and hire Bates?

9. Wide receiver depth: Without Walker, this is a concern. Robert Ferguson and Donald Driver are starting-caliber receivers, but they're also injury prone. Knowing their history for getting banged up, the Packers need reliable players behind them, but who are they? Second-round pick Terrence Murphy? Remember Ferguson as a second-rounder? Remember Derrick Mayes as a second-rounder? What about Anontio Chatman? Yeah, what about him? Favre's talent and Ahman Green should lessen this concern, but if there's an injury …

10. Tight ends: As of this posting, Bubba Franks was still unsigned, although that does seem a matter of time as he is a transition player. Assuming Franks signs, what do the Packers have as depth? David Martin? Gulp! Ben Steele? Gulp! Gulp! The tight end position doesn't have the same role it had when Mark Chmura and Keith Jackson were in Green Bay, but you need the opponent to respect you, and after Franks what's to respect? The Packers need Franks in camp, and they need him to be his usual self – stay healthy and make some TD grabs. If that happens, the Packers will steer away from a problem here.

Doug Ritchay

Editor's note: Doug Ritchay is a longtime sportswriter and former Packers beat writer for the Green Bay News-Chronicle. E-mail at

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