Packers in Their Prime: 8 Players That Will Keep the Pack Relevant for Years
In 2010, the Packers shed the title of the NFL's youngest team, which they had held since 2006, and won the Super Bowl.
Now a good majority of Ted Thompson's collection of youthful talent have developed into super star playmakers on both sides of the ball.
There are whispers in Titletown of a new Packers dynasty; cheeseheads are excited again, and hopes are high for keeping the Lombardi Trophy in Green Bay for a few years.
Winning the Super Bowl is one of the toughest feats in all professional sports. So to say the Packers are going to do it again is a bold statement, despite the fact they should be even better in 2011.
No matter if they make it to the big one again or not, there is no doubt that this team will be at the top of NFC in the coming seasons.
Sam Shields, CB
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Sam Shields was an undrafted free agent, who had played most of his collegiate career as a wide receiver, before he became the Packers nickel back.
His ability to catch passes payed off in his best game, the 2010 NFC Championship. He recorded a sack, two interceptions and a forced fumble.
One of the picks sealed the deal for the Pack as they were holding off the Bears last push in the final minutes, securing a Super Bowl berth.
The 23-year-old Shields signed a three-year deal of which he has two more years to play in Green Bay. If he continues playing like at a high level, a pretty extension should be coming his way.
James Jones, WR
Nick Laham/Getty Images
Most Packer fans associate WR James Jones with heart-wrenching drops, and images of potential touchdowns slipping through the 26-year-old's hands flood their mind at the mention of his name.
But James Jones is undoubtedly a solid young receiver despite his shortcomings. In 2010, he picked up 679 yards and reeled in five touchdowns, along with another two in the playoffs.
He is a free agent, but with Donald Driver's production declining, he could battle Jordy Nelson for the No. 2 spot on the depth chart if he resigns.
The Packers would be wise to convince him to remain with what could be the best receiving corps in the NFL for a few years.
Jordy Nelson, WR
Rob Carr/Getty Images
Despite finishing 2010 with less yards (582) and touchdowns (two) than James Jones, Jordy Nelson has proved to be the more reliable receiver.
Although he must have caught a bug from hanging around Jones too much before the Super Bowl because he had three drops in the big game. Nelson still had a career day with 140 yards on nine receptions as he led all receivers.
He only has one year remaining on his current contract, but based on his performance in 2011, the Packers will probably want to keep him around as a No. 2 wide out.
B.J. Raji, NT
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
In his second season, B.J. Raji proved that he was the long-term solution as the anchor for Dom Caper's 3-4 defense.
Raji aka "The Freezer" had 6.5 sacks during the regular season, but his defining play came in the fourth quarter of the NFC Championship.
Instead of rushing the Bears' QB Caleb Hanie, he dropped off into coverage just behind the line, picked off a pass, and returned it 18 yards for the score. He finished off the unbelievable and somewhat humorous play with a comical celebration dance.
Raji may never take another interception to the house, but he'll be a dominant force on the Pack's defensive line for at least the three years left on his rookie contract.
Jermichael Finley, TE
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
After missing the majority of 2010, Finley will be looking to have the breakout season the Packers were expecting him to have in 2011 instead.
He's a talented pass catcher with a deadly combination of size and speed. As one of Aaron Rodger's favorite targets, Finley should become an elite tight end in the league in no time.
Finley had two 100-yard games in his limited time on the field in 2010, and in 2009 he recorded five touchdowns and 676 yards. The Packers can't wait to get him back out there because the sky's the limit for this young tight end.
It will be his final contract year, but he's already declared he wants to catch passes from Rodgers for the next decade. It's definitely a possibility.
Greg Jennings, WR
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Jennings and Rodgers have the potential to be the NFL's next best WR-QB combo. Rodgers is undoubtedly the best young quarterback in the league, and Jennings is becoming a top wide out.
He had over 1,000 yards for the third consecutive season and 12 touchdowns in 2010. Rodgers also connected with Jennings twice in the end zone during Super Bowl XLV.
Jennings won't be leaving Green Bay for a long time, and I won't be surprised if he plays his entire career in Titletown. Look for him to be a Pro Bowler again in 2011.
Clay Matthews, LB
Al Bello/Getty Images
Will Matthews be handing a championship belt to Rodgers again soon?
I can't guarantee that, but we'll probably see A-Rod's celebration in 2011 as often as we'll see Matthews wrestling an unfortunate ball carrier to the ground for a loss. That is, quite often.
Matthews will always give Green Bay's defense a chance when he's on the field. He is involved in nearly every single play; whether assisting in a tackle, delivering a punishing hit, forcing fumbles or batting down passes.
In 2010, he even returned an interception for a touchdown, along with 13.5 sacks and two forced fumbles.
The Packers' OLB coach Kevin Greene motivated the young star before going out on the field in the Super Bowl by declaring, "It is time." He responded by smashing Steelers' RB Rashard Mendenhall in the backfield creating a crucial turnover.
It is Clay Matthews time in Titletown, and he will be a monster on their ball hawking defense until his enormous biceps deflate or he shaves his head, both of which are highly unlikely.
Aaron Rodgers, QB
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
The Packers have the Super Bowl XLV MVP locked up through 2014 after they signed him to a six-year deal back in 2008.
Aaron Rodgers is in his prime, and is virtually unstoppable. He'll be a favorite choice for league MVP in 2011 if he can improve on his already impressive numbers; he's averaged around 4,000 yards and 28 TDs in his three years as a starter.
In 2010, Rodgers survived through two concussions and led his team to a Super Bowl victory without the help of a running game. He has the ability to make everyone around him look like stars because of his own playmaking ability as he impresses with both his smooth pocket presence and pinpoint accuracy.
As long as Green Bay is Aaron Rodgers' neighborhood, the Packers offense will be one of the most explosive in the league. Odds are high that he'll end up being the most adored quarterback in Packer history as he continues to make the fans forget a certain No. 4 who used to play in Titletown.