In search of more playmakers

As the Green Bay Packers coaches evaluate the 2006 season, and prepare to improve the team for 2007, there are at least three areas that they must find more talent. PackerReport.com's Todd Korth breaks it down:

Here are three positions where the Packers need help, and why:

Tight end
In training camp, Bubba Franks was excited about the upcoming season. He and David Martin figured to be a big part of the team's offense, but it didn't turn out that way. Aside from blocking to assist the team's rookie linemen, Franks disappeared in Mike McCarthy's version of the West Coast offense and didn't have a touchdown catch for the first time in his seven-year career. Meanwhile, Martin continued to miss games because of nagging injuries.

Franks dropped an estimated eight passes and his 25 catches matched a career low. Hardly what he or McCarthy had in mind.

Martin did not suit up for five games and only played parts of other games. He again flashed his potential with 12 catches and two touchdowns in a four-game stretch, but he is not dependable.

The Packers should make every attempt to obtain Kansas City Chiefs Pro Bowl tight end Tony Gonzalez in free agency, and draft a tight end at the end of April as well.

Safety
Marquand Manuel cashed in on Seattle's Super Bowl season of 2005, and got a five-year, $10 million deal from the Packers in free agency. But Manuel missed a number of off-season practices and training camp, which put him far behind the rest of the secondary. He often was lost in coverage and was inadequate against the run, especially early in the season.

General manager Ted Thompson might feel inclined to keep Manuel around because of his deal, but the Packers need more help. Marviel Underwood is coming off a knee injury that he sustained in training camp, and Tyrone Culver are expected to push for starting jobs next season against Manuel and free safety Nick Collins.

A couple of other options: The Packers could move veteran cornerback Charles Woodson to safety in the off-season and draft a cornerback to compete against Will Blackmon and Patrick Dendy in training camp.

Wide receiver
Donald Driver carried this position on his back. He was the team's only consistent play-maker in 2006.

Greg Jennings flashed his potential early on, but an ankle injury he sustained on Oct. 22 bothered him in the second half of the season. He has a bright future as a starter in the league.

Since there is no guarantee Koren Robinson will come back clean and sober early next season after serving a one-year suspension. And it appears that Robert Ferguson's days in Green Bay are about over. He played in four games and caught five passes before going on injured reserve with a foot injury, so the Packers will need more help.

Ruvell Martin and Carlyle Holiday are up-and-comers and performed well against the Bears last Sunday, but will need to show more in training camp and in the preseason.

Other needs
The aforementioned are the Packers' top needs, but they also could use a young offensive tackle to learn behind veterans Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher; a young quarterback to compete against Ingle Martin; and a cornerback/return specialist in case Blackmon continues to struggle with injuries.


Todd Korth

Todd Korth is managing editor of PackerReport.com and Packer Report. E-mail him at packrepted@aol.com.


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