Offense: Good not good enough

The Packers ranked fifth in the NFL in scoring offense in 2008 yet figure to have as many as five new starters. With the offseason workouts complete, we take a two-picture view of the looming battles, with this piece focusing on the offense.

The Green Bay Packers ranked fifth in the NFL in points scored last season but 22nd in points allowed.

So, it might come as a surprise to know that there could be four new starters on offense — with changes at five positions — compared to only two new few faces on defense.

We'll go into much greater detail in these looming position battles as we get closer to training camp — and the Training Camp Preview edition of Packer Report magazine will include breakdowns on 15 position battles — but for today, here's a Cliff's Notes version of the possible changes on offense. For a similar story on the defense, click here.

Offensive overview

Given its productivity last season, it's clear that coach Mike McCarthy thinks this unit is capable of more because he's not sticking with the status quo or simply counting on that improvement coming from a more experienced quarterback. Most of those changes are aimed at improving a run game that churned out only 4.1 yards per rushing attempt.

The new faces

— Right tackle: With Mark Tauscher — and his 120 starts — still unsigned and apparently not healed after suffering a torn ACL on Dec. 7 against Houston, the Packers had no choice but find a new starter. The favorite will be Allen Barbre, who did everything asked of him while taking all of the reps with the starting offense during the offseason. If Barbre falters, Breno Giacomini (missed offseason practices after ankle surgery), T.J. Lang (fourth-round pick) or Tony Moll (filled in at left tackle for Chad Clifton this offseason) will be waiting in the wings.

— Center: Versatile Jason Spitz, who has spent most of three seasons starting at right guard, has been moved to center, where he'll challenge four-year starter Scott Wells. Wells missed all of the offseason practices while recovering from offseason surgery, but offensive line coach James Campen disagrees that the position is Spitz's to lose. Swapping Spitz for Wells would add 1 inch and 7 pounds to the position. Spitz started three games at center in 2008, with the Packers going 2-1. He started three games at center in 2007, and the Packers went 3-0. If both falter, the Packers signed Duke Preston in free agency.

— Right guard: With Spitz out of the way, the position is Josh Sitton's to lose. Sitton appeared to have won this job last year until a knee injury sustained in the preseason. He weighs about the same as last year, but he's reshaped his body in the weight room this offseason. Swapping Sitton for Spitz adds no height but 15 pounds. If Sitton falters, Spitz, Lang, Moll and Preston are options.

— Fullback: Fifth-round pick Quinn Johnson was the third-string fullback throughout the offseason. But the expected strength to his game is run blocking, and that aspect of his game couldn't be displayed in noncontact offseason practices. He caught only two passes during his senior season at LSU but he had no problem catching the ball on the move during the offseason. While he won't be taking first-team reps when training camp begins, he's probably the favorite to win the job. He's bigger (6-foot-1, 255) and more explosive than incumbent Korey Hall (6-0, 236) and John Kuhn (6-0, 250).

— Tight end: Donald Lee has been a capable starter, but Jermichael Finley was arguably the offense's top player this offseason. Either the Packers' defense can't cover a tight end, or the 6-foot-5 Finley's combination of size and athleticism makes him an impossible matchup. Time and again, Finley won his matchup when the featured receiver, and when Aaron Rodgers was scrambling from the pocket, Finley presented himself as an outlet receiver. If he can block when the pads go on, he'll win the job.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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