2008 was the first season since his arrival that Brett Favre was not the starter of the Green Bay Packers. Favre had retired and un-retired to join the Jets, but the second half of his season made him regret it. The big question was about Aaron Rodgers and whether or not he could fill the enormous shoes left to him. Rodgers had a good start as he threw 28 touchdowns and only 13 interceptions. Unfortunately, his defense did not show up, so Rodgers’ first season ended at a disappointing 5-11.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers proved that three years of waiting behind a Hall of Fame quarterback paid off. He showed he was the leader of the team as he had no trouble connecting with veteran Donald Driver and rising star Greg Jennings. He also threw for almost 4,000 yards and he kept the touchdown total of Favre, but improved on the interceptions. If this is Rodgers as a first time starter, I cannot wait to see what he will be with a couple more years under his belt.
The receivers had always been the “wingman” to Favre and nothing changed with Rodgers at the position. The Packers lack a deep core, but Jennings and Driver are very durable and both play for like No. 1 receivers. Jennings is the rising star and has the ability to take it to the house on almost every play. Driver is the veteran that still plays like he is 26 and even though his hands will forever carry the marks of Favre’s passes, they still act like magnets around the ball.
Donald Lee is like the next Bubba Franks. He can be the safety net for Rodgers and did a decent job last season. If he can make the tight end position a little more of a threat this season then his receivers could get some breathing room and make the offense even more of a machine.
The defense is questioned this year mainly because it is no longer a 4-3 system but a 3-4. Some also say Aaron Kampman will no longer be the pass rusher he was last season. These are valid concerns, but all will be well.
The defensive line is monstrous with Cullen Jenkins, Ryan Pickett, and first round pick B.J. Raji. That is a lot of beef and most lines will have trouble just blocking these guys and keeping them off the running backs.
While the defensive line blocks out everything including the sun, the strength of the team then goes to work. The linebackers have a nose for the ball and they make sure the ball carrier feels it when they are hit. A.J Hawk is the leader of the group and has not lost a step since coming in to the league. Nick Barnett was the anvil of the group until he went down with a knee injury and had to have surgery.
The pass rushers of the core are Aaron Kampman and the other first round pick Clay Mathews. Kampman was a sack master last season and his numbers should only improve. In a 4-3, he had to deal with the 330 pound tackles and sometimes the tight ends as well. Now, Kampman will see mostly tight ends and running backs trying to block him which is no contest. Matthews will rely on his speed and moves for his one-on-one meetings with the quarterback. These two will be on every offensive coordinator’s radar and provide the consistent pressure that was missing last season.
The secondary is still a strength as well. It’s led by veterans Al Harris and Charles Woodson who have been shutting down receivers for years. Harris is the one who will stay in a receiver’s back pocket the entire play while Woodson has never seen a pass that was not meant for him. With the Lynch-like Bigby and talented Collins patrolling as safeties, this secondary can be compared with the best of them.
The offensive line was not bad last season, but it was trying to learn how to become a line. This year might be another year of getting to know each other as center Scott Wells is recovering from a torn labrum and tackle Mark Tauscher is no longer around. The good thing about the line is there is a lot of depth and youth, so the line will be together for a few years and should become a strong unit.
Ryan Grant could be one of the top running backs in the league, but he can never put a season together. Last season he had contract disputes which played a part in his training camp injury. Also, the past two seasons Grant has had trouble getting the wheels turning as he does not seem to get his motor going until the second half of the season. This season he needs to provide another option for the offense and rush for 1,400-1,600 yards like many know he can.
Aaron Rodgers was a beast last season as he exceeded everyone’s expectations with the 28 touchdowns. He is a top 5 quarterback already and he will only get better with more playing time.
Ryan Grant is a No. 2 fantasy back. He should be and could be a No. 1, but to become a No. 1 he has to play at his highest level for the entire season.
Greg Jennings has emerged as a top 10 receiver. His explosiveness and hands have made him the primary target for Rodgers and owners have been thankful for it.
Donald Driver is a high-end No. 3 receiver. He is not as explosive as he was in his younger days, but he can still put up more than 1,000 yards and 7-8 touchdowns.
Mason Crosby is a top 5 kicker thanks to the Packers’ dynamic offense. He is quite accurate and has a strong leg. It will be tough to match last season, but I am sure no one will mind if he has a repeat year.
The sleeper is running back Brandon Jackson. Most do not realize he even exists, but he was the one who filled in for Grant early last season. He has good strength and decent speed, but it will not take much for him to start if Grant comes out the gates too slow again.