by Mark Metzler
It’s time for the Packers to play football, and soon we’ll get to see the whole team playing. So, while we did get a lot of answers during the off-season, there are still a lot more questions to be answered. We should have a good idea in just a few days.
We’ve had no exposure to Aaron Rodgers running the new offense. So we have to believe what new head coach Matt LaFleur and Rodgers tell us. Of course, they are going to tell us that everything is great. The same is true about the much-talked-about relationship between the two. We hear it’s great. We’ll see.
Overall, the team looks improved, but how can you not improve from last year? The defense promises to be better. There will be a better pass rush, and the secondary looks stronger. On the offensive side, the line is shaping up, and I expect that the running game will be better, as well.
The big question marks are inside linebacker and the receiving game. Inside linebacker is looking pretty bleak right now because of injuries, but I do expect some creative play calling from defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there is still a trade for a linebacker. Watch for safety Raven Greene to play a big role.
As far as receivers go, we’ve seen better than average work from the wide receivers. They are good, but we need to see if some of them can make the jump to great. Davante Adams is already there, but the team needs others to make that mark. The best candidates are Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Geromino Allison. The scuttle is the tight ends are playing better and last year’s bust — Jimmy Graham — had a good training camp. It’s another one where we will have to wait and see. They have a number of options at tight end, but I think the surprise could be Robert Tonyan. With the new offense, the key to receiving will be the running backs. Aaron Jones is important here. He has good hands. If uninjured, I expect that he will be one of the top running backs in the NFL.
Time chases us all down (except for maybe Tom Brady), and it will be interesting to see what Rodgers has left after injuries the past few years. Remember, he’s broken his leg, his collarbone, and he’s had a number of concussions. The team has improved around him, and he understands that the next few years will cement his legacy.
According to the odds makers, it’s a toss-up in the NFC North with the Packers, Vikings and Bears all having an equal shot. It will be interesting to see if the Bears’ season was a fluke or the start of its future. I think they will be strong. The Vikings? Well, they are an enigma. They promise to have an excellent defense again this year. They have very good receivers. Dalvin Cook is explosive when he plays, and the offensive line is improved. It all comes down to Kirk Cousins, and I think a lot of Vikings fans wish the team wouldn’t have signed him.
Thursday night’s game against the Bears will tell us a good deal about the new offense and the health of Aaron Rodgers. No one expects him to do what he did last year in the opener against the Bears, but if he is close to form, the Packers should win in Chicago. The game will tell us a lot about what the future holds. Remember, the first five games are very tough: Bears, Vikings, Broncos, Eagles and Cowboys. I’d be happy with 3-2 from that start and an overall record of 10-6, which would win the division.