Packers in need of a weapon

PackerReport.com's Doug Ritchay explains why it is important for Packers general manager Ted Thompson to focus on obtaining playmakers for the offense this off-season.

Regardless if Brett Favre is the Packers' quarterback next season or Aaron Rodgers, this is true: the offense needs a weapon.

After watching Donald Driver and a solid running game carry the offense to an 8-8 season, the Packers need to become more explosive to make the offense more dangerous, thus taking some pressure off the quarterback.

Driver is a Pro Bowl player, while Ahman Green and Vernand Morency comprise a good backfield, but none of these players possess consistent game-breaking talents. Consider the Super Bowl teams this year: Chicago has Bernard Berrian, who is a good deep threat when Rex Grossman decides he wants to try. Meanwhile, the Colts have Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne outside to wreak havoc.

The Packers need to add some "spice." I know they have Greg Jennings, who I'm a big fan of, but even if Jennings avoids injury next year, unlike 2006, the weapons at the quarterback's disposal aren't a dime a dozen.

Last year, when looking at the draft, I was hoping the Packers would draft tight end Vernon Davis for the above reason I mentioned. They picked linebacker A.J. Hawk, who's a future Pro Bowler. Nothing wrong with that. But with Hawk's play and the improved play of the defensive line, with Ryan Pickett, Aaron Kampman and Cullen Jenkins, the Packers need to take some pressure off the defense and address the offense this off-season. Last year, GM Ted Thompson obviously believed it was paramount to improve a defense, which Jim Bates did magic with in 2005. He added Hawk, and through free agency Charles Woodson, Ryan Pickett and Marquand Manuel, although Manuel was as useful as a $3 bill.

The point is, Thompson addressed the team's weakness, and now his attention must flip to the other side of the ball.

"I think you're always looking for playmakers," coach Mike McCarthy said. "I don't think you can ever just say we have enough playmakers. It's no different than the way Ted always talks about the draft. Anytime you have a chance to add a playmaker, or a good football player to your football team, you have to look into that. And that will always be the case here."

Not that the Packers' offense is Baltimore Ravens-like, but Thompson needs to add firepower. What happens if Driver gets hurt? Might as well run the wishbone. The passing game is fine as long as Driver is fine, but you need depth through the course of a season.

Also, beyond Driver and Jennings, who do the Packers have at wide receiver? Former Notre Dame quarterback Carlyle Holiday and Ruvell Martin. To quote former Packers GM Ron Wolf, They are "just guys" until they prove otherwise.

Koren Robinson? Can't trust him.

Robert Ferguson? Can't play in a wheelchair, can you?

Not knowing how free agency will play out - until teams sign or designate players "transition" or "franchise" players - the draft could be the best way for the Packers to address these needs.

According to "NFL Draft Expert" Mel Kiper, California running back Marshawn Lynch could be available when the Packers pick 16th in the first round. Lynch is the No. 2 back in the draft behind Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson and has great potential. But if the Packers are able to re-sign Green and team him with Morency, that's a sign Lynch won't be a Packer.

Therefore, we look to wide receiver. Georgia Tech's Calvin Johnson will be picked quicker than a hiccup on draft day, while Ohio State's Ted Ginn Jr. is likely a top 10 pick. This leaves the Packers hoping they could pick the No. 3 receiver in the draft, who may be USC's Dwayne Jarrett, Tennessee's Robert Meachem or South Carolina's Sidney Rice. All look good in college, but who can make the NFL transition the best? The next few months will tell us as players go through workouts.

"I think our personnel department does a great job of staying on top of everybody that's available, who possibly can be available," McCarthy said. "Those are things we'll always look at, and we can point to red-zone production as a need, but there's other factors too involved in that. But we'll always try to upgrade our playmaking ability."

So let's suppose the Packers address the offense – add a wide receiver and find a tight end or rediscover "the old" Bubba Franks. All of a sudden the offense becomes better balanced and more of a worry for defenses.

Nothing helps a solid defense more than an offense which "turns" numbers on the scoreboard. Everything becomes easier, including for the quarterback, who then doesn't feel he has to do it all. Favre has fell into that trap the last two seasons.

I firmly believe a key, maybe the biggest key to having success in 2007, is improving the offense. And this becomes even more of an issue if an untested Rodgers takes over for Favre.


Doug Ritchay

Doug Ritchay is a frequent contributor to PackerReport.com and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at dritchay@sbcglobal.net.


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