September 8th, 2008 the Green Bay Packers start their 2008 season on Monday Night Football against their division rival, the Minnesota Vikings. Brett Favre has dominated the Packer headlines, but let's not forget the Packers have a defense that finished 11th in the league last year.
This is part 1 of 2 of my Green Bay Packers season preview. I will cover the defense as well as special teams, breaking down their players and rating the positions with A's, B's, C's and so forth. Starting with the defensive ends....
Projected Starters: Aaron Kampman, Cullen Jenkins
Green Bay boasts one of the NFL's most dangerous pass rushes with Pro Bowler Aaron Kampman and the often overlooked Cullen Jenkins. With Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila ready to come in and make a big play, this line is never weak on the field. Kampman and Jenkins have improved their run stopping every year, and I look for them to continue that trend during the 2008 campaign.
Projected Starters: Ryan Pickett, Johnny Jolly
The DT position is a young postion, with the exception of eight-year veteran Ryan Pickett. There were times last year when the DT's did not rise to the occasion and were ran all over. There were also times when teams couldn't get past the line of scrimmage on them.
I am not sure what to expect from this lineup, as it has lots of young players. Defensive Coordinator Bob Sanders does an excellent job of substituting players to keep them fresh, and that often makes the difference in a game.
Projected Starters: A.J. Hawk, Nick Barnett, Brady Poppinga
This linebacking corps is one of the fastest that I have seen in awhile in Green Bay. A.J. Hawk may be one of the purest linebackers in all of football. Nick Barnett has really flourished since being taken in the first round six years ago. He as led the team in tackles multiple times.
There were lots of question marks about Brady Poppinga going into last year, but he answered many of them by mirroring Hawk and Barnett. Poppinga has now solidified himself as the starting Sam linebacker. I am extremely excited to see how he progresses this season.
Projected Starters: Al Harris, Charles Woodson
One of the most recognizable tandems in the NFL, Harris and Woodson have made a name for themselves with their physical play at the line of scrimmage. Woodson's knack for the big play is evident as he tallied 4 interceptions and 2 defensive touchdowns.
Harris may not have the big numbers like Woodson, but he is one of the best lockdown corners in the NFL. In 2005, he did not allow a touchdown until week 13. However, since then his play has slowly diminished. The way Plaxico Buress handled him in the NFC Championship game made that clear. Still at the ages of 33 and 31, respectivly, these two veterans have a knowledge of the game that no young talent can replace.
Projected Starters: Atari Bigby, Nick Collins
This may be Green Bay's weakest position on defense. Collins had a big rookie season and looked only to be improving. However, a mediocre 2007 season raises some questions about his ability at the Free Saftey position.
Atari Bigby showed he can hit like a saftey, but like most big-hitting safties, he tends to break the rules. Bigby's pass interference calls have become infamous in Green Bay. If He wants to take his game to the Pro Bowl level, he has to eliminate those stupid penalties.
There is no doubt that Mason Crosby is the long term kicker of the Green Bay Packers. His combination of power and accuracy is a weapon the Packers have come to rely on in the clutch.
Tramon Williams is a returning star that is slowly coming out of his shell. I expect him to break out big this coming year. The Packers have always been good at keeping returners from breaking free for big gains, and I don't see that changing this year.
Aaron Kampman, DE
A.J. Hawk, LB
Atari Bigby, SS
Mason Crosby, K
Make or Break year
Atari Bigby, SS
Ryan Pickett, DT
Nick Collins, FS
Will Blackmon, CB
As the 2008 season draws near I will bring part 2 of this Green Bay Packers preview. Part 2 will break down all the offenses positions. Including a Favre-less quarterback position.