The 5 Most Positive Developments of the Green Bay Packers Offseason
The Green Bay Packers' 2011 season ended on a sour note, but the 2012 offseason has been full of positive developments.
Many of the team's weaknesses were exposed in its only playoff game against the New York Giants, and that resulted in a 37-20 loss.
But management has spent the last several months improving the team and getting ready for another championship run.
Here are the most positive events from the offseason thus far.
5. Bringing Back Donald Driver
Donald Driver may not be a vital part of the Green Bay Packers offense anymore, but he's an important presence in the locker room and a fan favorite.
He's the franchise leader in catches and receiving yardage and has been a productive receiver for 13 seasons with the Packers. He restructured his contract in order to return to the team for this next season.
An example of what Driver means to the Wisconsin community was provided at Driver's charity softball game this summer. After the event, he tossed one of his cleats to a young boy in the crowd, but a woman ripped the shoe from the child's hands.
Driver caught wind of the incident, tracked the boy down and loaded him up with autographed memorabilia.
Driver's giant toothy smile would certainly have been missed had he not been brought back. He will likely be the best fifth-string wide receiver in the league next season and will continue to contribute on and off the field.
4. Replacing Scott Wells with Jeff Saturday
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After the Green Bay Packers won the Super Bowl, Cullen Jenkins walked away in free agency, and no one was brought in to replace him. This time around, general manager Ted Thompson did not make the same mistake.
Jenkins' departure led to a woefully ineffective pass rush. The inability to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks led to the Packers' historically bad season in pass defense.
This offseason, the key player to depart in free agency was Pro Bowl center Scott Wells. But Thompson wasted no time and immediately signed free agent Jeff Saturday.
Saturday is a four-time All-Pro, and the Packers will not miss a beat with him filling in for Wells.
3. All the Injured Players Are Now Healthy
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The offseason is a time for rest and rehabilitation, and the several Green Bay Packers who suffered injuries last year will be healthy heading into 2012 season.
In the running game, James Starks was hampered by minor injuries and promising rookie Alex Green suffered a season-ending knee injury early in the year.
Lineman on both offense and defense had their problems as well. Bryan Bulaga missed time, as did Ryan Pickett. Both A.J. Hawk and Desmond Bishop had to sit out games as well.
Unfortunately, the most devastating injury was to safety Nick Collins, and he will not be back with the team.
But the rest of the players will recover from injuries of various degrees of severity and be ready to make an impact this season.
2. Young Players Continuing to Improve
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A Super Bowl in 2010 and a 15-1 record in 2011 masks how young and inexperienced many of the Green Bay Packers players are.
The team will be counting on several fairly green players to play important roles this year, and they will benefit from having a full offseason to prepare.
On offense, Marshall Newhouse saw his first games as a starter and showed both positive and negative signs. Randall Cobb proved to be an explosive player but failed to break into the passing game on a regular basis. Lastly, Jermichael Finley struggled with drops, but this past year was really only his second season as a starter, and he's just 25 years old.
On defense, Sam Shields failed to live up to expectations in his sophomore campaign and Morgan Burnett showed some promising signs but was ultimately part of a secondary that ranked dead last in the league in terms of yardage allowed.
All of these players will have a full offseason and training camp to improve areas of weakness and have career years in 2012.
1. Loading Up on Defensive Talent in the Draft
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The Green Bay Packers defense was atrocious last season. The front office recognized the problem and loaded up on talent in the draft.
The team used its first six picks on defensive players.
First-round pick Nick Young will likely feature heavily in his rookie season. The Packers failed to get production from the outside linebackers who played opposite Clay Matthews, and Perry can be a difference maker from that spot.
Second-round pick Jerel Worthy has the size, strength and athleticism to fill some of the void that Cullen Jenkins left, and he too will see the field often in his first year.
Other players like Casey Hayward, Mike Daniels, Jerron McMillian and Terrell Manning will all be able to make contributions in certain packages and on special teams.
The team plugged holes and added depth on defense through the draft. This was undoubtedly the most positive development from the offseason.