Green Bay Packers' Offseason State of the Union
The offseason for the Green Bay Packers is in full swing with OTAs finished and training camp rapidly approaching. So naturally, there isn't a better time than now to address the state of the union in Green Bay.
Just like the State of the Union the president gives each year, this report for the Packers will address the current state of the Packers organization. It'll look at all the position battles on both offense and defense. It will also give an overall look for both sides of the ball as a whole.
There will also be some news thrown in concerning the organization, specifically concerning the current quarterback and his predecessors.
With training camp just a little over a month away, there is still plenty that can change. However, as of today, what follows is the Packers' offseason state of the union.
A Quarterback Sit-Down?
Let's start with some news concerning the Packers organization as a whole.
Current starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers has openly talked about the possibility of sitting down with Bart Starr and Brett Favre and talking about their collective experiences. When speaking to ESPN's Rob Demovsky, Rodgers had this to say:
I've always thought it would be fun to do something, the three of us, some sort of sit down where we could all talk about our experiences. I'm sure that's three interesting perspectives on this place and the appreciation for it. But Bart's been a great mentor and a great guy. It was a blast to win his award, and I think Brett's ready to be welcomed back the way he deserves to be welcomed back, and that will be exciting.
Just let this sink in for a moment.
How incredible would it be to have Rodgers, Starr and Favre, arguably the three greatest quarterbacks in franchise history, sit down all together? Furthermore, is there any other franchise that could put as much talent and knowledge at the quarterback position together today?
This is a great idea for the Packers, and one that the franchise should be fully invested in making happen.
Is There a Concern About Depth at Running Back?
If you haven't heard yet, the Packers have officially released running back Johnathan Franklin due to a career-ending neck injury. While Franklin was expected to be a huge part of the offense this year, he was likely to be the No. 3 back on the depth chart.
However, now the only experienced Packers running backs on the roster are Eddie Lacy, James Starks and DuJuan Harris. The potential problem with sticking with those three is that both Starks and Harris have struggled with injuries throughout their careers.
Both are healthy now, but it's hard to imagine the Packers being fully confident in both of them remaining that way for all 16 games. If both were to get injured during the regular season at the same time, Green Bay would be in some serious trouble.
To prepare for that potential problem, the Packers would need to keep four running backs. This would mean an undrafted free agent, such as Rajion Neal, or a former practice squad member, like Michael Hill, would need to make the final 53-man roster.
As of right now, the Packers still need to feel good about the running back position, even with the loss of Franklin. However, should another key member of the group go down during training camp, it will be time to panic in a major way.
Tight Ends Galore, but No Clear Starter Yet
One of the deepest and most mysterious positions for the Packers this offseason has been the tight ends.
When you look at the group of Andrew Quarless, Brandon Bostick, Richard Rodgers and Colt Lyerla, it's hard to not get excited about the possibilities. However, none of the above players have separated themselves as the true starter in Green Bay.
That leaves the two rookies, third-round pick Rodgers and undrafted free agent Lyerla. There's no doubt that people see these two players as the ultimate future at the position. However, both are still quite raw at the position, even if they are making plays during practices.
So, while the Packers have plenty of talent at tight end, the question to ultimately answer is who will sit atop the depth chart once the regular season starts?
This will be one of the major positional battles to watch during training camp. Don't be surprised if this battle doesn't get decided until the end of the preseason.
Have the Packers Finally Found a Center?
One worrisome position heading into the offseason for the Packers was center. It's an extremely important position for Green Bay, and they lost last year's starter, Evan Dietrich-Smith, to free agency.
However, one of the potential centers has started to separate himself from the rest. That player is JC Tretter, a fourth-round pick in last year's draft.
Tretter has been so impressive both on and off the field this offseason that the center job is basically his to lose, according to Tyler Dunne at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Both head coach Mike McCarthy and offensive line coach James Campen have been pleased with Tretter so far this offseason.
Now Tretter still may get some competition, mainly from rookie Corey Linsley. However, it seems that it's really just a matter of time before Tretter is officially labeled as the starting center.
State of the Offense as a Whole
The state of the union for the offense is in great shape, mostly due to the man pictured above. As long as Rodgers is on this offense, all things will be good.
With that said, this may be one of the most balanced and talented offenses that the Packers have had in years. With Rodgers leading the way in the passing game and Lacy wearing out defenders on the ground, opposing defenses are going to have a hard time slowing Green Bay down.
Now there still are some minor issues that need to get figured out before the regular season. However, even if the Packers struggle to find a quality center or starting tight end, they have enough talent elsewhere to make up for it.
With No. 12 at the helm, everything will be just fine for the Packers offense.
What Will the Packers Do at Inside Linebacker?
The Packers' biggest remaining problem lies on the defensive side of the ball. To get even more specific, the biggest issue is the inside linebackers.
Both A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones are mediocre players at best. They finished the year graded as the 28th- and 48th-best inside linebackers in the league last year, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
Unfortunately, the Packers really don't have anyone to replace either one as of right now. Jamari Lattimore is an option, but he needs to prove he can be more consistent first.
Then there's fourth-round rookie Carl Bradford. However, he'll be making a position switch to inside linebacker, so it's hard to imagine him being ready to go when Week 1 rolls around.
What Packers fans need to hope happens is that somebody steps up in a major way during training camp or the preseason. If the Packers are forced to move forward with both Hawk and Jones, it could be quite detrimental to the defense as a whole.
Is Time Running Out for Nick Perry?
Nick Perry was supposed to wreak havoc on opposing defenses with fellow outside linebacker Clay Matthews. After that didn't happen, he was supposed to have a breakout campaign last year.
Unfortunately, that didn't happen either. Now Perry has missed every practice this offseason with an undisclosed injury, according to Rob Demovsky of ESPN.
Things are simply not looking good for the third-year player.
What the Packers ultimately need at outside linebacker is a player who can stay healthy. Even Clay Matthews has struggled with that aspect of the game during his career. However, Matthews has already proved that he's an elite player. Perry has barely made an impact on defense.
While the Packers won't release Perry anytime soon, time is definitely running out for him to be an impact player on this defense.
Are Safety Shenanigans in Play?
The Packers drafted safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix with their first-round pick in this year's draft. Safety was their biggest position of need, and Clinton-Dix was widely regarded as the best available.
So, of course Clinton-Dix would be starting with the first-team defense during OTAs, right? Well, not so fast.
Instead, the Packers rolled with Micah Hyde, a second-year cornerback making a switch to the safety position. And Hyde playing with the starters didn't just happen for one or two practices; it's remained that way throughout the whole offseason so far.
So, how long are the Packers going to pretend that Clinton-Dix isn't really the starter at free safety? I understand that they want him to "earn" the job, but when is it time to just give the rookie the job?
Don't be surprised if Hyde gets a few more reps as the starting safety before Clinton-Dix officially takes over with the first-team defense.
State of the Defense as a Whole
Let's just start by saying that the state of the union of the defense at this point is much better than it was last year. And that's at any time during last year: offseason, preseason or regular season.
There's more talent overall on this year's defense than on any in recent memory. That's mostly due to the free-agent signing of Julius Peppers and the drafting of Clinton-Dix.
However, the Packers have also got a healthy Casey Hayward and a player in Hyde who can play all over the field. Simply put, things are looking good on defense.
The biggest remaining problem right now is getting everyone healthy. Perry and Matthews have both missed every practice so far this offseason, which is not a good thing. If they can get back to full strength for training camp, it won't matter, but right now, it's a pretty big issue.
Look for the defense to continue to form and take shape throughout the remainder of the offseason and for this group to finally get back to being a dominant defense.