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2007 Season Previews
Green Bay Packers (Last Year: 8-8)
Veteran Additions:
CB Frank Walker.
Draft Picks:
RB Brandon Jackson, RB DeShawn Wynn, WR James Jones, WR David Clowney, TE Clark Haris, OT Allen Barbre, DT Justin Harrell, OLB Desmond Bishop, MLB Korey Hall, S Aaron Rouse, K Mason Crosby.
Major Subtractions:
QB Todd Bouman, RB Ahman Green (HOU), FB William Henderson, TE David Martin (MIA), DT Kenderick Allen, OLB Ben Taylor.

Offense This Year: I was really excited at the prospect of the Packers being a sleeper team in 2007. Green Bay won its final four games and had tons of cash to spend this offseason. It needed a younger, talented running back, an upgrade at the tight end position and a better, proven No. 2 receiver for Brett Favre. That's three crucial requirements, but the organization had the funds to take care of those issues. Just one problem - I didn't take into account the ineptness of the front office.

The first need may have been taken care of. And I'm stressing the "may have." Ahman Green rushed for 1,059 yards last season, a far cry from the 1,883 yards he produced in 2003. At age 30 and two years removed from a serious injury, Green was no longer a reliable starting running back in the NFL. The Packers let him go, which was the right move. However, their plan to draft Marshawn Lynch in the first round blew up in their face when the Bills snagged him with the 12th overall pick. Green Bay panicked and chose Brandon Jackson in the second round, even though Jackson was a third- or a fourth-round prospect. Jackson might succeed, but it's unclear because he's merely a rookie. The Packers should have either traded up for Lynch or signed Travis Henry via free agency. There are rumors that Corey Dillon may sign with the team, but he's even older and more fossilized than Green is.

With Lynch out of the picture, I thought the Packers would trade down and grab Greg Olsen, or simply take Zach Miller in the second round. Instead, they waited until the seventh round to select Clark Harris. Thus, Green Bay has not found an upgrade over Bubba Franks, who seems to be getting worse every year. Franks has just one touchdown the past two seasons, and hasn't registered more than 400 receiving yards since 2002.

As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, receiver is a problem as well. Favre wanted Randy Moss. Instead he got James Jones and David Clowney, two rookies selected in the middle of the draft. Donald Driver (92 catches, 1,295 yards, 8 TDs) remains Favre's only potent weapon. Greg Jennings (45 receptions, 632 yards, 3 TDs) showed some promise as a rookie last year, but he'll be entering his second season and isn't a proven commodity just yet. A wild card is No. 3 receiver Ruvell Martin, who came out of nowhere to catch seven passes for 118 yards the final week of his rookie campaign.

You can see why Favre's numbers have been down the past two years. I can't even imagine how frustrated he is right now. Thankfully his offensive line is exceptional - it yielded 24 sacks in 2006. Otherwise, he'd probably ask general manager Ted Thompson to trade him to an organization that actually spends its money and is dedicated to winning.

Defense This Year: If you looked at the "veteran additions" portion of this season preview at the top of this page, you know that Green Bay's unfulfilled needs aren't limited to the offense. I can't believe the team signed one veteran free agent this offseason. One stinkin' veteran. And he's not even that good.

There's no reason not to start up front. The Packers did an exceptional job putting pressure on the quarterback last year, thanks to Aaron Kampman's 15.5 sacks. It's almost unbelievable how much Kampman has improved over the years. He's one of the top defensive ends in the NFL, yet no one really talks about him. Cullen Jenkins and Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila chipped in with six sacks each, so defensive end definitely wasn't a problem. The interior of the line was, however. Tackle Ryan Pickett proved to be worthless, and was largely responsible for the fact that Green Bay was ranked 15th against the run. The organization drafted Justin Harrell in the first round, though he was an enormous reach at No. 16. The Packers could have traded down and few slots and still obtained him. Harrell is a promising prospect, although like Brandon Jackson, he's merely a rookie. No one really knows how well he'll play in this league.

Last year's first-round selection turned out to be pretty good, wouldn't you say? A.J. Hawk started all 16 games, recorded 3.5 sacks, recovered two fumbles and intercepted a pair of passes. Not bad for a 22-year-old. Hawk played next to middle linebacker Nick Barnett, who was second on the team with 105 tackles. The third leg of the linebacking corps left much to be desired, however. Brady Poppinga (60 tackles, one sack) is not even close, talent-wise, to Hawk and Barnett. Poppinga would make a solid reserve on defense, but he definitely shouldn't be starting in this league. Again, this is another area that Thompson failed to address despite having the resources to do so.

Another issue the Packers have is their aging cornerbacks. Charles Woodson and Al Harris are exceptional, but they turn 31 and 33, respectively, during this upcoming season. I wanted Green Bay to draft a young corner who could eventually be a starter for the team. All Thompson could come up with was free-agent Frank Walker, who's currently listed behind Will Blackmon and Jarrett Bush on the depth chart. Strong safety is also a problem; Marquand Manuel just doesn't have what it takes to start in the NFL. Green Bay selected Aaron Rouse in the third round, but many fans fear that he is a tweener - a player too slow to be a safety, but too small to be a linebacker. The Packers better hope he's not if they want someone promising to play next to Nick Collins in the future.

Schedule and Intangibles: I have to admit that I was wrong about Mike McCarthy. I thought hiring him was a huge mistake because he was fairly unsuccessful as San Francisco's offensive coordinator. However, he managed to get the most out of the Packers last season, so he deserves a lot of credit. ... Green Bay is 90-30 at home since 1992, but the team is only 15-17 at Lambeau the past four years, including 3-5 in 2006. Furthermore, the Packers are just 1-2 in home playoff games since 2002, after going unscathed in franchise history. What happened to the Lambeau mystique? ... Kicker Dave Rayner missed four field goals inside 40 yards, which is why Thompson drafted Mason Crosby. That's definitely an instant upgrade. ... The Packers were brutal on returns. They averaged about three yards less than their opponents and surrendered one touchdown. ... Three of Green Bay's first five contests are against Philadelphia, San Diego and Chicago, so we'll quickly see how good this team is. While Denver, Carolina and Dallas also loom on the schedule, the Packers' slate isn't all that bad. Washington, Kansas City, Oakland, Minnesota, Detroit and the New York Giants could prove to be punching bags.

Additional Reading: Some Packers Fans Upset With This Season Preview

Positional Rankings (0-4 stars):
Quarterbacks
Offensive Line
Secondary
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams
Receivers
Linebackers
Coaching


Divisional Rival History:
Chicago Bears: Brett Favre dominated the Bears for years. That's not the case anymore. Under Lovie Smith, Chicago is 4-2 against the Packers.
Detroit Lions: The Lions' ineptness has no limit. The Packers have won 11 of the last 13 meetings.
Minnesota Vikings: If Favre can't win in domes, how did Green Bay sweep Minnesota last season? There has actually been a sweep in this series the past three years. The Packers did it in 2006 and 2004, and the Vikings managed to do so in 2005.

Fantasy Football:
Brett Favre: Brett Favre's touchdowns are down (20 in 2005, 18 in 2006) and his interceptions are up. Is it age (Favre turns 38 in October), or is it the lack of talent around him? Could be both, but I have a feeling it's the latter.
Projected Stats: 3,900 passing yards. 20 passing TDs. 30 rushing yards. 0 rushing TD.
Projected Fantasy Points: 318.

Brandon Jackson: Will Brandon Jackson start right away? How talented is he? Will he fit into Green Bay's system? These are questions no one has answers to. He's a worth a shot if he falls, but I wouldn't take him early.
Projected Stats: 1,100 rushing yards. 100 receiving yards. 6 total TDs.
Projected Fantasy Points: 156.

Bubba Franks: Read the offensive portion of my season preview if you're thinking about drafting Bubba Franks.
Projected Stats: 225 receiving yards. 1 TD.
Projected Fantasy Points: 28.

Donald Driver: Other than Brett Favre, the only Packer worth taking in fantasy football. Donald Driver is perennially underrated, so you may be able to obtain him a little bit later than when he should be drafted.
Projected Stats: 1,275 receiving yards. 8 TDs.
Projected Fantasy Points: 175.

Greg Jennings: I like Greg Jennings, although the following stat concerns me: Jennings caught only nine passes in December after registering 10, 11 and 15 receptions the previous three months. Rookie wall, or defenses finally catching on?
Projected Stats: 700 receiving yards. 4 TDs.
Projected Fantasy Points: 94.

Ruvell Martin: Came out of nowhere to catch seven passes for 118 yards the final week of the season. A sign of things to come? Keep him on your radar screen.
Projected Stats: 450 receiving yards. 2 TDs.
Projected Fantasy Points: 57.

James Jones: I wouldn't expect much from James Jones this season. I thought he was a reach in the third round.
Projected Stats: 125 receiving yards. 0 TDs.
Projected Fantasy Points: 12.

Mason Crosby: I wouldn't draft a rookie kicker in my fantasy league, but that's just me.
Projected Stats: 24-30 FG (1-2 50+). 31 XP.
Projected Fantasy Points: 112.

Green Bay Defense: Not a bad defense to have in a big league. The Packers recorded 46 sacks and 23 interceptions last year. They also held three teams to less than 10 points.
Projected Fantasy Ranking: Top 15 Defense.

Analysis: What could have been... I was ready to anoint the Packers as my sleeper team in 2007. That was before they refused to spend any money in free agency. Another mediocre season could be on the horizon.

Projection: 8-8 (2nd in the NFC North)


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