The 2005 Packers ranked 30th in rushing yards per game and 31st average yards per rush. You won't win many games when you average 84.5 yards a game rushing with only a 3.4 yard average. The Packers are hopeful an improved offensive line, especially in the middle, will enhance the run production in 2006. That, and instituting a new zone blocking scheme that has been very successful for teams like the Denver Broncos and Atlanta Falcons. The RBs will have to choose the right hole quickly and get past the first and second level. Vince Lombardi called this "running to daylight." Staying healthy at the running backs position would be nice as well.
That lack of a running game affects the passing game. Ask Brett Favre. It is no wonder that Favre threw 29 interceptions last year, the most in the league. Favre had porous blocking up the middle in both the run game and in pass protection. When the running game isn't consistent and a team is always behind in the score, a QB will throw a lot of passes trying to bring his team back. The passes are also usually higher risk passes because of the score and situation. Invariably, interceptions will occur under those conditions.
The 2006 Packers will try and establish a power running game that will make play action a legitimate weapon again. With play action comes hesitation from the defense. Favre does not need much room to complete a pass. Play-action passes create open seams for a QB to make a throw. Head coach Mike McCarthy is also going to use a more classic version of the West Coast offense which relies on a lot of shorter and medium range passes. High percentage passes. Passes that give the WR, TE or RB an opportunity to make big yards AFTER the catch. Never fear, Favre will still go deep, but the bulk of the passing game will occur in the middle of the field.
Green Bay's special teams unit weren't so special last year. In fact, they were putrid. Just look at these statistics. The Packers ranked 32nd in kickoff return average (18.9 yards a return), 31st in gross punting average (38.9 yards), 32nd in net yards punting (33.5 yards), and finally 28th in extra points percentage and 27th in field goal percentage. I'm surprised the Packers weren't 0-16 with that production. For the 2006 Packers to be successful, the Green Bay special teams have to improve. Significantly.
The biggest area for improvement for The Packers in 2006 has to be turnover ratio. The Packers were tied for 31st in the NFL in this statistic. Green Bay was minus-24 in this huge stat. The Packers hope that the new offensive scheme will decrease the number of turnovers with that unit. The defense is hoping that the additions of A.J. Hawk, Ben Taylor, Charles Woodson and Marquand Manuel and others will create more turnovers.
The bottom line is that it all starts in the trenches. The Green Bay offensive and defensive lines must control the line of scrimmage. The playmakers on both offense and defense, have to make plays when they are there to be made. The special teams need to be special. The fortunes of the Green Bay Packers in 2006 will depend on it.
Bob Fox is a longtime Packers fan and frequent contributor to PackerReport.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.