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2006 Team Report: Green Bay Packers

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Starter: Brett Favre
Backup(s): Aaron Rodgers, Ingle Martin [R], Brian Wrobel [R]

Starting QB: We all know what Favre is capable of doing Ė over the last four years, heís thrown for a minimum of 3361 yards (2003), with last yearís showing of 372/607 for 3881 yards, 20 TDs and 29 interceptions marking a 4 year low for TDs thrown and a 4-year high for interceptions. Usually, Favre is closer to 30 TDs and 20 interceptions, rather than the reverse. With Javon Walker moving on to Denver, Favre will have to make do with Donald Driver as a #1 target, unless draftees Greg Jennings or Cory Rodgers explode onto the scene as rookie WRs. Considering that he lost his #1 WR, almost the entire RB stable, and his top TE to injury last season, Favre has nowhere to go but up this year. Hopefully his supporting cast will stay in better health.

Backup QB: Aaron Rodgers has a total of 9/16 for 65 yards, 0 TDs and 1 interception in regular-season NFL action, while Tom Arth was not drafted out of college and did not play in any game during 2005. There isnít much else to say about Favreís understudies Ė they are unknowns at the NFL level, although Rodgers was highly regarded coming out of California during the 2005 draft. 2006 draft pick Ingle Martin (5.15) will carry a clipboard while he learns to play at the pro level.

Running Backs

Starter: Ahman Green
Backup(s): Samkon Gado, Najeh Davenport, Noah Herron
Fullback(s): William Henderson, Vonta Leach

Starting RB: Green is coming off a serious leg injury (ruptured quadriceps tendon) that cost him almost the whole season last year (he only played in 5 games, and failed to rush for 100 yards in any of his appearances). Currently, he is not expected to be ready to practice until sometime in August. Green is only 29, but it remains to be seen if he can regain top form. There are rumors that Green will share some of his carries with last year's phenomenon, Samkon Gado, so regardless of his health, Green's days as a featured back may be behind him.

Backup RBs: Samkon Gado came out of nowhere last year (143/582/6 rushing and 10/77/1 receiving) to provide a legitimate threat to run the ball after Ahman Green and Najeh Davenport (broken ankle) both went down to season-ending injuries. Davenport is expected to miss OTAís and mini-camps this year while he continues rehabilitating his broken ankle. Despite this, he was signed to a one-year deal to stay with Green Bay for this season. The absence of Davenport and Green during the offseason means that Gado is likely to see lots of carries during mini-camps, which may cement him as the #2 RB on the team. Noah Herron is the emergency back Ė the Packers hope they donít have to dig that deep into their bench this year.

Fullback: William Henderson failed to score a receiving TD last year, after 3 straight seasons with 3 TD catches, but he was still an important role player for the Pack in the short passing game (30/264/0 during 2005). Henderson has snagged at least 24 passes per season over the last 4 years, and is also a solid run-blocker. Leach is a fantasy non-entity at this point in his career (0/0/0 rushing and 5/19/0 receiving last year).

Wide Receivers

Starters: Donald Driver, Robert Ferguson
Backups: Rod Gardner, Marc Boerigter, Greg Jennings, Leo Bookman

Starting WRs: Javon Walker took a walk to Denver, leaving Donald Driver as the only clear-cut returning starter Ė heís put up 1200+ yards for 2 straight seasons (86/1221/5 during 2005), and has snagged 9 TDs during 2 of the past 4 seasons (2002, 2004). Robert Ferguson had an injury-shortened 2005 season, but figures to enter training camp as the #2 WR. His hold on the #2 spot is tenuous at best Ė the battle for #2 in Green Bay will be a major fantasy storyline during training camp.

Backup WRs: Green Bay bolstered their WR stable with a late-season acquisition of Rod Gardner (December 2005) and picked up Marc Boerigter during the off-season (free agent). In the draft they grabbed Greg Jennings from Western Michigan. Jennings is from a lower-tier college program Ė heíll need to work hard to break into the starting lineup. Boerigter has disappointed fantasy owners since his strong rookie season (20/420/8 during 2002, 19/277/0 combined during 2003 and 2005), and Gardner hasnít been a top fantasy performer since his strong 2002 season (71/1006/8). Hopefully they will benefit from the new scenery during 2006, but we arenít holding our breath. Leo Bookman is a huge question mark.

Tight Ends

Starters: Bubba Franks
Backups: David Martin, Donald Lee

Bubba Frankís production dropped significantly during 2005 (he suffered a neck/back injury that landed him on IR to close the season) Ė 25/207/1 was a far cry from what his fantasy owners expected after his 2004 campaign (34/361/7). Hopefully, Franks will bounce back during 2006. David Martin elevated his game during 2005, with 27/224/3, as did Donald Lee (33/294/2) giving the Packers more flexibility at the position heading into 2006.

Place Kicker

Dave Rayner : The Packers lost Ryan Longwell to free agency, and lost out on their bid for Adam Vinatieri to the Colts (and their dome and powerful offense). They signed former Cowboy Billy Cundiff during the off-season, however he was released midway through the preseason. The Colts drafted Dave Rayner (Michigan State, sixth round) last year to handle kickoffs, and possibly replace Mike Vanderjagt this year. However his kickoffs were merely average, so they replaced him with Jose Cortez after week 14. The Packers are still likely to bring in another free agent. Whoever ends up with the job joins a team that plummeted to 29th in kicker scoring last year, after a long reign of success (top ten in six of eight prior years).

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Ahmad Carroll; Will Blackmon; Robert Ferguson

The Packersí difficult 2005 extended to kickoffs, where 12 different players had returns. CB Ahmad Carroll led the way with 19 returns and a 20.5 average. WR Robert Ferguson had an increased role on offense and a reduced role on returns in 2005 (2 returns, 22.0 avg.). He also missed games last year, and has not played a full 16 games since 2002. The Packers used the draft to hopefully fix the return position. Joining the backups is fourth round draft pick CB Will Blackmon who returned both kickoffs (22.2 avg.) and punts (8.3 avg.) for Boston College last year.

Punt Returners: Charles Woodson; Greg Jennings; Will Blackmon; Robert Ferguson

Free agency took the Packers punt returner, Antonio Chatman who had returned nearly every punt for them the last three years. That left them very thin at this position prior to the draft. Free agent acquisition CB Charles Woodson occasionally returned punts for the Raiders (3 returns, 6.7 avg. last year). The Packers used him on punt returns in minicamp, upon his request, and he entered training camp atop the depth chart. Second round draft pick WR Greg Jennings averaged 8.6 yards returning punts for Western Michigan last year, and scored twice during his career. Robert Ferguson hasnít returned a punt since his rookie year.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: RT Mark Tauscher, RG Junius Coston, C Scott Wells, LG Daryn Colledge [R], LT Chad Clifton
Key Backups: G/T Will Whitticker, C/G Jason Spitz [R], G Wayne Lucier, G/C Chris White, T Tony Moll [R], G/T Adrian Klemm [IR], T Kevin Barry [IR]

Oh how the mighty has fallen over the past two seasons. New OL Coach Joe Philbin, formerly the TE coach will have his work cut out for him. The once elite offensive line of the Packers has fallen on hard times and this group should be considered one of the weaker units in the NFL. The good news is that both Mark Tauscher and Chad Clifton are returning and both are good players. Tauscher has been a starter since the 2000 season and has both heart and aggression that helps make up for marginal athletic ability. Clifton does well in all aspects of the game although he could be more explosive at the point of attack. After those two players though the wheels fall off for the Packers Scott Wells may develop into a good center in time but the former 7th round pick is still learning his craft and isnít ready to lead this team. Rookie Jason Spitz may push him for playing time but he has marginal athleticism. The Packers are high on Junius Coston and heíll likely slot in at guard this year. At the other guard spot, rookie Daryn Colledge from Boise State has essentially been handed the job thanks to Adriem Klemm's season-ending injury. Colledge has the makings of a very good player with his excellent quickness and athleticism but must improve his power and size going forward. If the young talent develops, the unit may be better by 2007 but expect another below-average season this year.

Team Defense

Although the Packers struggled defending the run last year, they finished with the #1 ranked pass defense. There have been several changes this year, most notably the loss of defensive coordinator Jim Bates, but he was replaced with linebackers coach Bob Sanders so the system will remain in place. Up front, the Packers re-signed Aaron Kampman after a great season and brought in Ryan Pickett from the Rams to replace an aging Grady Jackson. They made major improvements to the linebacker group when they spent their 1st round pick (#5 overall) on AJ Hawk and a 3rd round pick on Abdul Hodge. Hawk is one of the most highly regarded linebacker prospects in years and should instantly upgrade the overall play of the defense. Finally, they brought in two key veteran free agents in Marquand Manuel and Charles Woodson, who should improve the coverage in the secondary. The Packers now appear to have two quality defensive ends who can put pressure on quarterbacks, two very good linebackers, and two potential shutdown cornerbacks. This unit doesnít have great depth, but if the starters remain healthy they should be good enough to keep them in most games.

Defensive Line

Starters: RDE Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, LDE Aaron Kampman, DT Ryan Pickett, DT Cullen Jenkins
Backups: DE Kenny Peterson, DE Mike Montgomery, DT Corey Williams, DT Kenderick Allen, DT Colin Cole, DT Donnell Washington

Starting DL: Although he doesnít help much as a run defender and would probably be better used as a situational pass rusher, Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila has been one of the best pass rushers in the league with 57 sacks over the last five seasons. His streak of four consecutive seasons with double digit sacks ended last year, but he only needs 10 more to tie Reggie White for the Packers all-time sacks record. Aaron Kampman began to emerge in 2004, but he really broke out last season with 60 solo tackles and 6.5 sacks from the LDE spot. Heís an active player who defends the run well and is still improving as a pass rusher. Grady Jackson had done a good job at NT the past few years, but at 33 years old the Packers decided to bring in somebody younger. Ryan Pickett was the Rams best defensive lineman last year and should bring more quickness to the NT position. After those three defensive linemen, there are a lot of question marks. Currently penciled in as the starter at the other DT spot is Cullen Jenkins, the younger brother of Panthers DT Kris Jenkins, but heíll most likely be part of a rotation with several players. Jenkins is a former undrafted free agent who developed in NFL Europe and now has 7.5 sacks over the last 2 years.

Backup DL: The Packers continue to have solid depth on the defensive line, but most of these players are DT/DE tweener types who defend the run well but donít offer much as pass rushers. Kenny Peterson is a very strong young player who recorded 3 sacks in limited playing time last year. Mike Montgomery was a 6th round pick last year who got some playing time as a reserve DE late in the season. Corey Williams is an athletic and versatile player entering his third season, but he hasnít made much of an impact yet. Kenderick Allen was signed in free agency after spending the past two years as a backup for the Giants. Colin Cole is a former undrafted free agent who worked his way up from the practice squad to earn regular playing time last season. Donnell Washington was a 3rd round pick in 2004 who has yet to play a single snap, spending nearly the entire 2005 season on the inactive list.


Starters: WLB AJ Hawk, MLB Nick Barnett, SLB Roy Manning
Backups: OLB Ben Taylor, ILB Abdul Hodge, OLB Brady Poppinga

Starting LBs: AJ Hawk is a LB with no real flaws in his game who was considered to be one of the safest picks in the draft. He combines great speed, toughness, and playmaking ability all into one very intense package that should provide an instant upgrade to both the run defense and pass rush. Nick Barnett is a former 1st round pick who has led the team in tackles for three straight seasons and been a very consistent fantasy performer. Although undersized for the MLB spot, Barnett is a reliable tackler with great range and good coverage skills who should combine with Hawk to form a very effective tandem in the teamís nickel package. Several players are expected to compete for the starting SLB job this year with Roy Manning looking like the early favorite. Manning signed as an undrafted free agent last season and quickly established himself as a valuable contributor on both defense and special teams. He started at SLB for Michigan his senior year and has a very combination of size and speed.

Backup LBs: Ben Taylor was signed as a free agent from the Browns and is expected to compete with Manning for the starting SLB job right away. He was effective as a 3-4 ILB for the Browns last year, but also has prior experience playing OLB in a 4-3. Abdul Hodge was an extremely productive MLB in college who the Packers drafted in the third round this year. He doesnít have ideal height but plays with a lot of energy and could compete for playing time early on. Hodge will begin as the backup at MLB, but the Packers may consider moving Nick Barnett over to SLB in order to open up a spot for him in the starting lineup. Brady Poppinga was a 4th round pick last year and a former defensive end who collected 2 sacks in limited playing time and contributed on special teams before suffering a torn ACL late in the season.

Defensive Backs

Starters: CB Charles Woodson, CB Al Harris, SS Marquand Manuel, FS Nick Collins
Backups: CB Ahmad Carroll, CB Will Blackmon, FS Marviel Underwood

Starting DBs: The Packers were not as aggressive in free agency as their fans wanted them to be, but they did wind up making two pretty important free agent signings to upgrade their secondary in Charles Woodson and Marquand Manuel. Woodson established himself as one of the best cornerbacks in the league early in his career, but he has been slowed by a series of injuries the past four years. It is a risky signing given his injury history, but if healthy, he can be a shutdown corner and a physical presence. The other starting CB, Al Harris, continues to be one of the most underrated CBs in the game. Harris is a smart and tenacious defender who thrives on the challenge of defending the teamís #1 WR each week. The other key signing made by the Packers this year was Marquand Manuel, who did a great job filling in for Ken Hamlin during Seattleís run to the Super Bowl last year. Manuel is not a big hitter, but heís a smart player who doesnít make many mistakes. Nick Collins was considered a reach by many observers last year when the Packers took him in the second round, but he adjusted quickly to the speed of the NFL and won the starting FS job early on.

Backup DBs: The signing of Woodson should actually upgrade two positions for the Packers as it will push Ahmad Carroll back to the nickel back spot, where he should be more effective. Carroll has blazing speed, but is too small to match up with bigger WRs on the outside and often gets burned playing out in space. The Packers donít have much depth behind Carroll and may need to rely on rookie Will Blackmon if anyone gets injured. Blackmon is an impressive athlete who the Packers drafted in the 4th round but he was moved to WR his senior year of college and may be a little rusty on defense. Marviel Underwood was a 4th round pick a year ago who contributed on special teams but will likely need more time to develop before challenging for extensive playing time.

Last modified: 2006-09-03 06:39:45

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