by Matt Soltysiak
Struggling to 6-10 to finish, the 2008 season is not what the Packers or their fans expected after a great 2007 campaign. Of course all the “Brett Favre talk” last season didn’t help things much, and that same thing’s happening this year (except Favre might actually play against his old team if he comes back this time).
This off-season has been relatively quiet for the Packers. Their biggest move was re-signing wide receiver Greg Jennings to a four-year contract extension.
In the NFL Draft they focused on defense with their two first round picks by grabbing Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji and USC defensive end Clay Matthews. The team offense was quite effective last year (5th in points), but the defense couldn’t stop the run (ranked 26th) and gave up too many points (ranked 22nd) to be competitive.
What to watch for in training camp
Greg Jennings figures to be their top receiving target, but after that the picture gets cloudy. You still have old timer Donald Driver, who had 74 catches for 1,012 yards last year, but it’s also the second straight season his numbers declined. Jordy Nelson was a second round pick last year and was third on the team in receiving yards with 366. James Jones had a great rookie season in 2007 (47 catches for 676 yards), but was injured for a good portion of last season, having just 20 receptions. One of these three guys could be a great receiver to have on your depth chart if they can claim the number two job this year.
Of course don’t forget about their tight end Donald Lee, his numbers were down, but he still got into the end zone five times. Watch how the Packers plan to use him.
The quarterback position is solid and the running back spot appears to be the same, but keep an eye on the ball carriers. Ryan Grant did manage 1,200 yards last season, but he averaged more than a yard less per carry than in his rookie season (5.1 in ’07 vs. 3.9 in ’08). Grant also had a difficult time finding the end zone (just four rushing scores). The Packers didn’t bring anyone in to compete, so it’ll mostly be him and Brandon Jackson. Grant’s job appears to be safe, but four scores from the ground when you are a starting tailback doesn’t cut it.
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