With a season under his belt, can Rodgers be even better? Can the Packers be a better team this season? Are they a contender or pretender?
I'll answer every one of those questions to give you a full breakdown on how well the Packers will be this season.
Aaron Rodgers threw for 4,038 yards, and 28 touchdowns last year. Only Kurt Warner threw for over 4,000 yards in his first season as a starter. Rodgers has nowhere to go but up, and he has the playmakers around him to do so.
He has Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, James Jones, Jordy Nelson, Ruvell Martin, and Donald Lee to throw to. Jennings is Rodgers' No. 1 target and Jennings had a career year last season, proving that he is one of the NFL's up and coming young players.
Rodgers has a young running and offensive game, but they are more experienced with another year under them. Ryan Grant will be the starting running back, and he needs to run well to take pressure off Rodgers. If that happens, the run game can open up the passing game.
The offensive line needs to protect Aaron Rodgers. The line has experience with Scott Wells, and Chad Clifton. Daryn Colledge, Tony Moll, and Jason Spitz are also experienced.
The defense struggled last season, and this time around, they're switching to a 3-4 scheme. Newly hired defensive coordinator Dom Capers brought in the idea, and will look for it to be successful this season.
First, he had to move Aaron Kampman to outside linebacker from defensive lineman.
No problem, right? Well, he's been a defensive end his entire NFL career, but in college he did play linebacker at Iowa. So we'll see.
At outside linebacker, Kampman will remind me of Demarcus Ware, an intimidating pass rusher at Dallas. In his last three seasons, he has averaged more than 9.5 sacks a season. So, as a linebacker now, he could be an intimidating pass rusher. With switching to linebacker, he will also be called on to record more tackles, because he is now in the middle of action.
Kampman will lead a linebacker corps of AJ Hawk, Nick Barnett, Clay Matthews, and Brady Poppinga. Time will tell when Matthews will start. He must have a good preseason and training camp to show the Packers that he is capable of starting in the NFL. He impressed the Packers, who took him in the first round, by how well he played in the Rose Bowl, and at USC during his career.
The rest of the Packers' defense is not that new: Ryan Pickett, Johnny Jolly, Cullen Jenkins, and first round pick BJ Raji. With the 3-4, only three can start. Raji and Pickett are built for the nosetackle, but one will have to play end. Jenkins and Jolly will fight for the other end position. I am sure their will be a lot of substitutions so everyone can get a shot a playing.
The Packers' secondary must stay healthy this season. Al Harris and Charles Woodson were ravaged by injuries last season. When those two are on, they can be the best cornerbacks in the league. Atari Bigby must stay healthy, too. With Bigby, and rising star Nick Collins, the secondary could have a breakout season.
If our defense plays to its fullest expectations, we could see a very good Packers team this season. The offensive line must play well to take pressure off Aaron Rodgers, and give him time to put points on the board. Then, the defense has to hold teams, or create turnovers, so the Packers can win games.
In my opinion, if all this works, I see the Packers being a contender. But if they suffer from injuries, their year might be over a lot quicker.
All in all, I think the Packers will be a sleeper this season, and surprise a lot of people by being a contender.