Lay of the Land
Given that the season is only a few days away, let us take a look at the roster. First the offense:
Brett Favre still has it and as long as he stays upright, which is not guaranteed, he is good enough to still win games. His only weakness is his propensity for comitting turnovers and if he can limit that, the Packers have a chance.
Favre's quick release and escapability will be needed because the with young running backs and a young interior offensive line, he will get some heat. Aaron Rodgers looked good in action this summer, but hopefully he will carry a clipboard for at least another year.
The Packers will more than likely start two rookies, Brandon Jackson and a converted linebacker Korey Hall on Sunday. Running back is the one position where a rookie can make an immediate impact but this is not ideal. Are any of the teams that the Packers play going to worry about Jackson or Vernand Morency (assuming he shakes his injury)? It is axiomatic that you cannot win in the NFL with a subpar running game. To have more than a mediocre season, the Packers will have to improve here.
Pass protection is one of the things that young running backs struggle with. Keeping in a tight end like last year to help on passing downs really limits the offense's opportunities.
Bubba Franks looked better than in the past in the pre-season and Donald Lee shows flashes here and there, but this is still an area of weakness until Franks or Lee proves otherwise. I assume that they will add another body here. Franks is still solid as a blocker.
The tackle positions are pretty good with Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher. I like Scott Wells. Daryn Colledge and Jason Spitz should get better, but the Packers inability to run the ball falls on the line's shoulders as much as the backs. I have heard the explaination that the game plan was vanilla and once the regular season starts, they should do better but I will wait and see. I do not see alot of depth, so pray for healthy guys. Like I wrote above, Favre makes these guys look good in pass pro with his amazingly quick release.
Assuming Donald Driver is healthy, this could be a position of strength. Driver is as good as they come. Greg Jennings was sort of invisible during the preseason, but he should show up and James Jones looked very good in all four games.
Favre is still a top quality NFL QB and the receivers will be more than adequate. If Coach McCarthy can work in the tight end, anything is possible. The running game will hold this team back unless the young guys develop, but even then, adequate is about all a fan can hope for. It looks like the team will have to throw the ball to be comptetitive and to paraphrase Woody Hayes, "When you throw the ball, three things can happen and two of them are bad."
Being one dimensional is never a good thing to be and if the pressure gets to Favre, he tends to press and that is when he takes too many chances.
Editor's note: John Lombardi is the grandson of legendary coach Vince Lombardi. His football experience includes stints with two teams in the World League (now NFL Europe); in the scouting departments of the Cleveland Browns and Tennessee Titans; and graduate assistant coach and director of football operations at Vanderbilt. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.