Don Beebe

When you look at the 2002 Green Bay Packers, defense is going to have to be No. 1. You have to have a great defense to win a Super Bowl, and the Packers have a great defense.<p>

There really are not any weak positions on Green Bay's defense. Joe Johnson and Hardy Nickerson were big pickups, good veteran guys that really make plays. The health of Gilbert Brown is crucial in the fact that when he is in there, not many teams will be able to run against the Packers. All four of the defensive backs are legit Pro Bowl guys. Mike McKenzie and Tyrone Williams are great cornerbacks. Darren Sharper, as he has shown in the preseason, is already playing at a Pro Bowl level. He's going to pick up where LeRoy Butler left off. Antuan Edwards is a young Darren Sharper. He has a lot of athletic skills, but just has to learn the game. I think Edwards is going to have a breakthrough season. As the year go on, he is going to get better and better, and that defense is going to be tough to score on.

The question on offense is the wide receivers. If they can get some cohesiveness with Brett Favre, look for big things from the offense. I think Bubba Franks and Ahman Green will have huge years, all predicated if they stay healthy.

I see Green catching 80 to 90 passes. If Glenn stays healthy and plays every game, Green's numbers will be down, but I'm not sure this will happen. As far as the rest of the receivers, if Brett has confidence in you, he'll keep going to you until the defense stops it. And they all have the ability to make big plays. Based on what I've seen this preseason, though, I think Green and Franks will serve as Brett's outlets. They are going to be like Dorsey Levens and Mark Chmura. The West Coast offense is always dictated around that kind of dink and dunk, and then – boom – we hit you with a home run. I really think Green will catch 80, 90 maybe 100 balls. I would say Bubba is going to have a minimum of 50, 60 maybe 70 balls.

I would like to see Franks catch more balls down the field. If Bubba can stretch the field, down the seams, and make some plays that's going to be huge for the offense.

As far as the receivers, Glenn is the No. 1 guy. I would go with Donald Driver as the starter opposite Glenn because he's a veteran, he does make plays and has confidence. This will be a big key, especially early in the season. But as the year goes on you're probably going to see Javon Walker starting. That guy can play. He's probably going to be "the guy" down road, no question. Robert Ferguson and Charles Lee will be more than capable backups.

Aside from the progress of the receivers, an even bigger question mark in my mind is special teams. They need to have somebody step up like Desmond Howard. Darrien Gordon is going to have to step up and make some big plays on special teams. As far as the coverage teams, they are going to have to solidify those units, too.

Remember this: The number one thing that wins championships, that wins football games, that gets you into the playoffs, and gets you into the Super Bowl is turnover ratio. Granted, great defenses win championships, but the reason they are great defenses is because they are causing a lot of turnovers. And this being the most important stat of all. If you look at the good teams and the bad teams from recent seasons, I guarantee the good teams were on the positive side of the turnover ratio and the bad teams were on the negative side.

If I was coaching I would stress that we need to get the football and to protect the football. If you go back to our Super Bowl year, we were phenomenal on turnovers. Not only were we phenomenal on getting turnovers, we were turning them into touchdowns. It's all a matter of getting turnovers and helping the offense in that manner, and then protecting the football. A lot of coaches stress run and stop the run, make few mental errors, and we must be a good practice team. These are all very important ingredients, but the most important thing is turnover ratio.

Prediction: I think the Packers will be better than last year for a couple of reasons. Defensively they are better. The offensive line is better. Franks is a better player. Green is going to have another great year and Brett is Brett.

Defense always wins Super Bowls. Look at last year, you have one of the best offenses of all time in the St. Louis Rams getting beat by the New England Patriots. If you look on paper, the Patriots shouldn't have even been on the same field. But because New England's defense was so much better and controlled the football game, they ended up winning the Super Bowl.

When you look at our team in 1996, it was probably one of the best teams all around. The reason why we kind of just walked through the season and the Super Bowl is because we had a great defense, a great offense and great special teams. We had all three phases of the game.

There's no question in my mind that the Packers can go 13-3, and possibly better than that.

Again, the question mark is special teams. Green Bay's defense is great. The offense can be great. I'm not sure about special teams. If Gordon comes even close to what Desmond Howard did in 1996, they could go 14-2. If special teams have trouble, they could go 11-5.

I'm already booking my hotel room for San Diego. The Rams will be tough and so will Tampa Bay. But our defense is much better than the Rams and our offense is better than the Bucs. It's probably going to be the Packers and the Rams in the NFC Championship game, hopefully this time in Green Bay. Home-field advantage will be big for the Packers in the playoffs. It's a lot like turnover ratio.


Packer Report Top Stories