S Charlie Peprah.
Early Draft Picks:
OT Bryan Bulaga, DE/DT Mike Neal, S Morgan Burnett, TE Andrew Quarless, G Marshall Newhouse, RB James Starks.
RB Ahman Green, DE Aaron Kampman, DE Michael Montgomery, P Jeremy Kapinos.
2010 Green Bay Packers Offense:
If there was any speculation that Aaron Rodgers wasn't one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL going into the 2009 campaign, critics (including one sun-tanned ESPN NFL Draft expert) are now finally silenced. In his second NFL season as a starting signal-caller, Rodgers totaled 4,434 yards, 30 touchdowns and only seven interceptions, culminating with a 28-of-42, 422-yard, four-touchdowns, one-interception performance in a thrilling playoff loss in January.
Rodgers also rushed for 316 yards and five more scores on the ground. Hindsight is 20-20, but it's simply amazing that Rodgers fell to the bottom third of the 2005 NFL Draft. The Browns, Chiefs and several other teams, desperate in need of a quarterback, passed on Rodgers. It's no surprise that those franchises are currently struggling.
Rodgers was actually better in the second half of his 2009 campaign. This was when starting offensive tackles Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher both re-entered the lineup. Following a loss to the Buccaneers on Nov. 8, Rodgers eclipsed the 300-yard and three-touchdown barriers four times in nine games. In that nine-game span, he threw just three interceptions.
Clifton and Tauscher are back, but the two linemen are 34 and 33, respectively. Neither was all that great last year, so it just goes to show how awful Green Bay's other tackles were. This is why the Packers spent the No. 23 pick in the 2010 NFL Draft on Bryan Bulaga, a blue-collar tackle with adequate athleticism. Bulaga was a top-10 prospect, so he's yet another highly ranked player the Packers were inexplicably able to scoop up toward the end of Round 1. It's simply amazing how intelligent NFL franchises continue to take advantage of the dumber teams in the league.
The interior of Green Bay's offensive line is pretty solid. Right guard Josh Sitton is the team's best blocker. Scott Wells is also effective at center. Left guard is a bit of an issue; Daryn Colledge and Jason Spitz will compete for the starting gig. Spitz should be able to claim the job; he was the starting center last year before suffering a herniated disc in his back and missing most of the 2009 season.
Rodgers is extremely talented and should be well protected for the most part, but it also helps that he has tons of dynamic targets at his disposal. Greg Jennings didn't haul in many touchdowns (4), but proved that he's a legitimate No. 1 receiver, catching 68 balls for 1,113 yards in 2009. Tight end Jermichael Finley, an athletic freak, had 55 receptions for 676 yards and five touchdowns in just his second season as a pro despite not seeing much playing time until Week 11. He is so good that Donald Lee has focused solely on blocking this offseason. Finley could easily threaten the 1,000-yard barrier this year.
Donald Driver has been very consistent for a very long time - the last time he failed to log more than 1,000 receiving yards was 2003 - but his production could take a sharp dive this year. Driver, 35, underwent arthroscopic surgery on both of his knees following the team's playoff loss to Arizona. If Driver struggles, James Jones and Jordy Nelson will be asked to step in. Jones, the likely benefactor, is a young and skilled receiver who is more than capable of being a solid No. 2 in this league.
As with the passing game, the ground attack improved when both Clifton and Tauscher were in the lineup. Ryan Grant is as steady as they come; he rushed for 1,253 yards and 11 touchdowns on a 4.4 average. He's not much of a factor in the aerial attack, so rookie James Starks will challenge Brandon Jackson as the team's third-down back.
2010 Green Bay Packers Defense:
The Packers finished the 2009 season seventh in points allowed, second in yardage surrendered, fifth against the pass and first versus the run. This was really surprising because the team transitioned to a new 3-4 look, which didn't even suit its best defensive player, Aaron Kampman.
Kampman was supposed to be one of the rush linebackers, but eventually was phased out because of a lack of production and a torn ACL. Instead, a pair of rookie defenders, Clay Matthews and Brad Jones, manned the two rush linebacker positions. Considering how young and inexperienced they were, they did a phenomenal job. Matthews, a Pro Bowler, logged 10 sacks, including six from Week 12 on. Jones didn't enter the starting lineup until Week 10, but notched four sacks in a four-game span between Weeks 13 and 16.
Green Bay's secondary has its concerns, so Matthews and Jones will need to keep bringing pressure. Of course, Charles Woodson is a stud, but he turns 34 in October. How much longer can he keep playing on a Pro Bowl level? It's difficult to doubt someone like him, but all athletes erode eventually.
Al Harris would be the starter across from Woodson, but he's coming off a severe ACL tear. Tramon Williams will start instead. Williams became infamous for drawing all of those penalties against the Ravens in a Monday night contest, but quietly played very well in the weeks afterward. Unfortunately, Williams' promotion to the starting lineup comes at a price. The Packers don't have anyone else who can be an effective nickel corner. Jarrett Bush maintained that role after Harris' knee injury last year, and was alarmingly terrible. Will Blackmon, the other option, also recently tore his ACL.
Making up for this, Nick Collins is one of the better free safeties in the NFL. However, Atari Bigby, stationed at strong safety, isn't nearly as good. Bigby is threatening to hold out, so it's a good thing the Packers spent a third-round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft on Morgan Burnett. Burnett has been handling most of the first-team snaps in minicamp.
One player who made a great transition into the 3-4 was inside linebacker Nick Barnett, who probably should have made the Pro Bowl. However, Barnett had his knee scoped this offseason and hasn't participated in minicamps thus far. Barnett's availability will be huge because A.J. Hawk didn't take as well to the 3-4 switch. Hawk is set to make $10 million in 2011, so unless he has an All-Pro season, this will be his final year in Green Bay.
Barnett and Hawk are protected well by a sound defensive line. Second-year nose tackle B.J. Raji will now be the starting nose tackle after spending time at defensive end last year. Former nose tackle Ryan Pickett will switch to end, joining Cullen Jenkins, who had 4.5 sacks and three forced fumbles in 2009.
2010 Green Bay Packers Schedule and Intangibles:
Green Bay is 108-37 at home since 1992 - the year Brett Favre first became a Green Bay Packer. Aaron Rodgers was just 4-4 as a host in 2008, but helped rekindle some of the old Lambeau mystique last season by going 6-2 as a host. If the Packers have homefield advantage in the playoffs, they'll be very difficult to beat.
Something else Rodgers will have to do is obtain the same clutch ability Favre had early in his career. The Packers are a depressing 0-8 in games decided by four points or less the past two seasons.
Moving on to special teams, Mason Crosby has never hit at least 80 percent of his field goals in his career. Last year, Crosby was 27-of-36, including 2-of-6 from 50-plus and 4-of-7 from 40-49.
The Packers had major punting problems once again in 2009. Jeremy Kapinos wasn't retained, so the starting punter position will be decided between Chris Bryan and Tim Masthay.
Green Bay's special teams desperately need to improve. Jordy Nelson does a great job running back to the 20 yard line and falling into a large pile of tacklers. The team didn't surrender a score, but was outgained on both kickoffs and punt returns.
While the Vikings have a brutal early-season schedule, the Packers have a chance to start hot. Following a game against the Eagles, they play the Bills, Bears, Lions and Redskins. However, the next six games will prove to be taxing: Dolphins (home), Vikings (home), Jets (road), Cowboys (home), Vikings (road), Falcons (road).
2010 Green Bay Packers Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
2010 Green Bay Packers Analysis: Outside of special teams and secondary depth, the Packers have no weaknesses. They possess one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL, talented skill-position players, an adequate offensive line and a defense that ranked top seven of the four major categories.
Green Bay is undoubtedly one of the favorites to win the Super Bowl this season.
I don't think you can ask more from a draft if you're a Green Bay fan. Ted Thompson took the best player on his board and filled four of the team's top five needs: left tackle, strong safety, offensive line depth and defensive line depth. Only cornerback was ignored.
There's no reason Bryan Bulaga should have dropped to No. 23. The Packers somehow obtained a top 10 talent late in the first round. When this happened Aaron Rodgers thanked Thompson via Twitter.
The Packers are a much better team right now. They've improved in the trenches, and sixth-round pick James Starks should be a good weapon behind Ryan Grant. The only pick I didn't like was Andrew Quarless; he's a poor-character, low-effort guy who didn't fill a need.
Overall 2010 NFL Draft Grade given on 4/26/10: A-
2010 NFL Draft Individual Grades:
23. Bryan Bulaga, OT, Iowa
The Packers fill their biggest need with the best player available. Great job. (Pick Grade: A)
56. Mike Neal, DE/DT, Purdue
This is not a big need, but that doesn't matter to the Packers; they take the top guy on their board. Personally, I don't see the value here, but maybe I'm wrong. (Pick Grade: C)
71. Morgan Burnett, S, Georgia Tech
The Packers had to address the safety position at some point in the 2010 NFL Draft after that ugly loss to the Cardinals. Morgan Burnett is a solid prospect who fits this range. (Pick Grade: B)
154. Andrew Quarless, TE, Penn State
Andrew Quarless is a first-round talent, but had tons of off-the-field issues. He also doesn't seem interested in playing football. Maybe he'll turn his life around, but I doubt it. (Pick Grade: D)
169. Marshall Newhouse, G, TCU
I had this guy going earlier in my mock than he should have just because of Al Davis. But Marshall Newhouse is really good value here, as the Packers continue to bolster their offensive front. (Pick Grade: A)
193. James Starks, RB, Buffalo
I love James Starks as a mid-round prospect; he would have gone higher had he not gotten injured last year. He should be a great complement for Ryan Grant. (Pick Grade: A)
230. C.J. Wilson, DE/DT, East Carolina
This doesn't fill a big need, but that's not what the Packers are all about. They take the best player on their board, and it shows; C.J. Wilson was a Round 5-6 prospect. (Pick Grade: A)
A tale of two seasons for the Packers - they began the year 4-4, losing twice to Brett Favre and suffering an embarrassing defeat at winless Tampa Bay. After a players-only meeting, Green Bay rolled off seven victories in its next eight games. Though they ultimately lost in the playoffs to Arizona, the Packers' late-season emergence bodes well going forward.
Packers re-sign SS Atari Bigby
Packers re-sign CB Tramon Williams
Packers re-sign DE/DT Johnny Jolly
Packers sign QB Graham Harrell
Packers re-sign G Daryn Colledge
Packers sign S Charlie Peprah
Packers re-sign FB John Kuhn
Packers re-sign C/G Jason Spitz
Packers re-sign TE Spencer Havner
Vikings re-sign DE/DT Michael Montgomery
Packers re-sign CB/KR Will Blackmon
Packers re-sign OT Mark Tauscher
Packers re-sign FS Nick Collins
Jaguars sign DE Aaron Kampman
Packers re-sign OT Chad Clifton
Packers cut DE Michael Montgomery
Packers franchise NT Ryan Pickett
Packers re-sign S Derrick Martin
Left Tackle: Chad Clifton brought some stability to the left tackle position and was a major reason why Green Bay was able to win seven of its final eight games. However, Clifton turns 34 in June and is no longer capable of blocking elite pass-rushers. The Packers must use their first-round pick on a blind-side protector for Aaron Rodgers if someone like Charles Brown is available. Drafted Bryan Bulaga; re-signed Chad Clifton
Cornerback: Al Harris, 35, had ACL surgery in November. Charles Woodson won Defensive Player of the Year, but he'll be 34 in October. Tramon Williams played well in relief of Harris, but the Packers will need to add another talented young corner to the mix. Luckily, the 2010 NFL Draft is deep at that position.
Strong Safety: Atari Bigby isn't a bad player, but he has missed 13 games in the past two years and always seems to be banged up. Green Bay needs some stability here. Like the corner position, this upcoming draft class is loaded at safety. Drafted Morgan Burnett
Offensive Line Depth: Jason Spitz is slated to start at left guard next year, but is coming off back surgery. A mid-round pick could be used for insurance. Drafted Marshall Newhouse
Defensive Line Depth: Move this up if Johnny Jolly and/or Ryan Pickett aren't re-signed. There will be plenty of 3-4 ends worth grabbing in Rounds 2-3. Drafted Mike Neal
Rush Linebacker Depth: Clay Matthews and Brad Jones look to be the starters going forward, but there isn't much behind them. The Packers should look into adding a rush linebacker in the middle rounds of the 2010 NFL Draft.
Return Specialist: There's nothing more depressing than watching your kick returner continuously run out to the 20 and dive right into a pile of players. Jordy Nelson must be upgraded on special teams.
Running Back Depth: Brandon Jackson has been a bit of a disappointment, and the Packers will be looking for depth behind Ryan Grant. Drafted James Starks
Punter: Jeremy Kapinos had a 43.8 punting average, but hit just 15-of-66 attempts inside the 20.
2010 NFL Free Agent Signings:
Charlie Peprah (RFA), S, Falcons. Age: 27. -- Signed with Packers
Green Bay Packers Free Agents:
Salary Cap (As of Feb. 11): No cap.
Nick Collins (RFA), FS, Packers. Age: 27. Re-signed with Packers (4 years, $27 million)
One of the top free safeties in the NFL. If the Packers can't re-sign him to a long-term deal, they'll give him the highest tender possible.
Aaron Kampman, DE, Packers. Age: 30. Signed with Jaguars (4 years, $26 million; $11 million guaranteed)
Aaron Kampman compiled 38 sacks between 2006 and 2008, but struggled to transition into Green Bay's new 3-4 last year. Kampman is one of the top unrestricted free agents on the market, and the only reason why he's not a 5-star player is because he's coming off a torn ACL (though he claims he should be fine for training camp.)
Tramon Williams (ERFA), CB, Packers. Age: 27. Re-signed with Packers (1 year, $3.1 million)
The Packers lost nothing when Al Harris went down because Tramon Williams was great toward the end of the season.
Johnny Jolly (RFA), DE/DT, Packers. Age: 27. Re-signed with Packers (1 year, $2.5 million)
Despite never playing the 3-4 end position before, Johnny Jolly had an exceptional season and was instrumental in Green Bay's quick transition into its new defense.
Ryan Pickett, NT, Packers. Age: 30. Franchised by Packers
Ryan Pickett thrived in Green Bay's new 3-4. He'll be a hot commodity; talented nose tackles are rare and always in demand.
Jason Spitz (RFA), C/G, Packers. Age: 27. Re-signed with Packers (1 year, $1.7 million)
Jason Spitz was starting at center in 2009 before a season-ending back injury. He's expected to step in at left guard next year.
Mark Tauscher, OT, Packers. Age: 33. Re-signed with Packers (2 years)
Given up for dead after a nasty knee injury, Mark Tauscher sat at home eating Cheetos until the Packers called him up. He played brilliantly during the second half of the season.
Chad Clifton, OT, Packers. Age: 34. Re-signed with Packers (3 years, $20 million; $7.5 million guaranteed)
Chad Clifton was great at left tackle for the Packers this year - or maybe it just seemed that way because everyone else Green Bay tried failed miserably. Unfortunately, Clifton is 34 and has an extensive injury history.
Divisional Rival History: Chicago Bears: Lovie Smith was 7-3 against the Packers entering the 2009 season. He's now 7-5 after a pair of close Packer wins. Detroit Lions: The Lions' ineptness has no limit. The Packers have won 17 of the last 19 meetings. Minnesota Vikings: The Packers had won five of six in this rivalry - until their old quarterback betrayed them. Minnesota swept the series this season.
Features to be Posted This Offseason:
2010 NFL Draft Grades (Pick-by-Pick NFL Draft Grades as well - Live on Draft Day!)