Going into the 2011 off-season, the Super Bowl Champion Packers were viewed as a young, talented team with virtually zero major weaknesses. Although the storm of post-lockout free-agency moves throughout the league did strike Green Bay, the Champs managed to escape with only minor damage to their championship roster.
Arguably the biggest off-season departure for the Packers was starting left guard Daryn Colledge, who signed with Arizona. His absence has left a gaping whole in the offensive line and an even bigger opportunity for rookie Derek Sherrod and third-year pro T.J. Lang. Although Sherrod had every opportunity to start the season at guard, his poor play has opened the door for Lang, who barring injury will roll with the first unit opening night.
Another pivotal move was the decision by the Packers' front office to not re-sign defensive end Cullen Jenkins. Jenkins went on to sign with the Philadelphia Eagles who have been dubbed the "Dream Team" and will undoubtedly be a major road-block in the Packers' quest to repeat as champions. Second-year pro Mike Neal will try to fill the pass-rushing void left by the talented Jenkins. Neal's biggest obstacle will be his health. In his limited time in Green Bay, Neal has had major difficulty staying on the field and has already been hampered by a shoulder injury this preseason. Look for the Packers to use multiple sub-packages this season in order to compensate for the lack of stability at the defensive line position.
What key move will have the biggest impact on the Packers' season?
Talented players leaving Green Bay hasn't been the only story this preseason. The Packers' championship run was defined mostly by injuries. The return of Jermichael Finley and Ryan Grant from injured-reserve will be a huge boost to the roster. Second-year safety Morgan Burnett is set to return from injury to the starting lineup as well. Burnett has looked great this preseason, flying around, knocking people around and looking like the player everyone hoped Atari Bigby could have been.
As well as injured-reserve the Packers acquired talent from the NFL Draft. Randall Cobb, the receiver from Kentucky has looked nothing short of spectacular in limited time this preseason. He will be a dangerous weapon for Aaron Rodgers this season, who has looked particularly sharp so far as well.
With the 2011 off-season come and gone, only time will tell if the young and talented Packers have what it takes to weather the storm and repeat as champions.