As far as the 2009 version of the Green Bay Packers, things couldn’t look rosier.
Aaron Rodgers has had as close to a perfect preseason as you can, throwing six touchdowns and zero interceptions.
The transition to the new 3-4 defense has gone off smoother than anyone thought, with the starting defense forcing multiple turnovers in each game thus far.
While the team looks ready and raring’ to go, there are a few things we should be looking for as the regular season starts to get under way:
1. Aaron Rodgers for MVP?
If the preseason is any indication, it looks like Rodgers is ready to make his first Pro Bowl in 2009. With his sound decision making and still unappreciated deep ball, Rodgers looks like he is ready to become one of the NFL’s elite this season.
However, questions linger about his ability to pull out wins late, and he hasn’t had the chance in the preseason except in practice.
With the Chicago Bears coming to town in Week 1, he should get the chance early. He answered questions about his durability last year, but now he needs to show he can remain healthy consistently from year to year.
2. Defensive dominance for real?
The performance of the number one unit has raised the eyebrows of many a Packer fan this preseason. But who knows if they can put together a full four quarters of a dominating performance?
They struggled with a big receiver like Larry Fitzgerald, but compared to last year, it seems like great leaps have been made. They’re swarming around the ball and Aaron Kampman doesn’t seem like he has missed a step in his move to linebacker.
3. A.J. Hawk’s last stand?
The Packers’ first round draft pick from 2006 is facing a crucial season.
When the Packers decided to go from a 4-3 to a 3-4, many figured Hawk would be one of the biggest beneficiaries.
Well thus far, in the preseason, and with Nick Barnett finally about to return from off-season knee surgery, Hawk could be one of the odd men out in a deep linebacker corps. It is rumored, according the Green Bay Press-Gazette, that the Packers are considering Barnett and Brandon Chillar for their inside linebackers for the nickel package, forcing Hawk into a reduced role.
For someone who was considered “the sure thing” in the 2006 draft, Hawk’s performance has been underwhelming for sure. He needs to change that this season.
4. Is Ryan Grant back to 2007 form?
Despite rushing for over 1,200 yards last year, there is no doubt RB Ryan Grant’s holdout for a new contract at the beginning of training camp, plus a lingering hamstring injury at the start of the season caused him to stumble out of the gates.
Grant has now gone through a full training camp and appears to be in the best shape of his life. He was the most dominating back in the NFL at the end of the 2007 season, and if he can return to that form it will take that much pressure off Rodgers and the passing game.
5. Return of the Lambeau Mystique?
There’s no doubt that Mike McCarthy puts this one near the top of his list of things to do this year.
Packer fans expect their team to win every single game at home like they did during their run of glory in the mid-1990s.
With the fans now solidly behind their new quarterback, thanks to the antics of their old one, opposing teams could fall victim to what NFL Network called the best home field advantage in the NFL. With a tricky home schedule, especially later in the year, winning games at home will be key to the Packers’ playoff chances in 2009.