Alright, like Clay Matthews in a sombrero, I’m back from my non-football hiatus and ready to get my O-face on. Green Bay Packers training camp opened this morning and intense camp battles and interesting stories abound.
To get you properly prepared for camp, I’m going to tee this whole thing up for you. All you need to do is stride to the plate and crush it like that obligatory clean-up hitter whose parents held him back so he could whip the crap out of smaller kids. As we all know, when it comes to their kids, parents are as concerned with fairness as Darth Vader is with asteroids.
Here is a list of stories we’ll be tracking ranked by interest level.
1. The Running Man — The traditional method to cease-and-desist your franchise QB getting sacked 50 times a season is to acquire players who block better. Well, as Rod Tidwell once said, this is another way to go!
Realizing that, unless you are Brett Favre and Michael Strahan is one sack away from the season record, it is difficult to get sacked on a running play, the Packers look to better protect The Franchise by presenting a running attack that opposing defenses might actually have to game plan for.
This was somewhat made obvious by the drafting of not one but two highly-regarded college running backs. However, it may be even more telling that the Packers pursued and signed a tight end in free agency who is known for his blocking. It is one thing to draft tight ends like Ryan Taylor, who turn out to be mostly blocking tight ends, but it is another thing to target, attract, and pay for one in the open market.
The Packers could have saved some money by just holding onto the blocking tight ends they already had, i.e. Tom Crabtree. The fact that Ted Thompson spent money on a superior blocker should tell you all you need to know. Teddy parts with money about as readily as one of my eight year olds parts with his iPad. Obviously, the Packers plan on running the football.
The intriguing question is WHO? Ironically, with Eddie Lacy, Johnathan Franklin, DeJuan Harris, Alex Green and James Starks, running back may be the Packers deepest position.
2. The Rookie — The new guys are ALWAYS a central story in any Packers training camp. Heading this list is the newly-signed Datone Jones. The Packers had to get quicker and more athletic on their defensive front. Jones is the answer to that. Jones looked great in minicamp, but that was sans pads. Once the pads come on, the Packers will have a better idea of what Jones brings to the table.
We have already mentioned Lacy and Franklin. Most fans will be disappointed if one of them isn’t the starter come Week 1. With little hitting and tackling in practice, the preseason will tell the tale with these guys. Lacy was voted by NFL fans to be the draft pick to have the most impact on his new team. Packers fans can only hope.
Is Micah Hyde just another guy? Or is he a Casey Hayward-like addition to the secondary?
3. The Thin Red Line — The Packers played musical chairs with their offensive line, and we’ll be watching closely to see if this is brilliance or an impending Chinese fire drill. Is Bryan Bulaga truly a left tackle? Will Marshall Newhouse remain at the opposite tackle or will Don Barclay take that spot? Can T.J. Lang rebound from a disappointing season?
To quote the classic “Hot Dog: the Movie” — (asian guy) Whatta da foock is a Chinese downhill?”
4. The Safety Dance — Jerron McMillian and M.D. Jennings maintained their tag-team performance through minicamp. Neither has stepped away from the other, and Packers fans patiently await this event.
The Packers gave Morgan Burnett the golden key to the crapper last week. Even if he continues to improve, the Packers still need a sure-tackling ball hawk on their defense. McMillian or Jennings need to ring that bell.
5. This year, I’m a tight end. Next year, I hope to be a wide receiver — Seemingly gone are the days when the Packers would blitz teams shock-and-awe style with five dangerous wide receivers. The Packers still have three of those, but who are the fourth and fifth WRs? Jarett Boykin and Jeremy Ross have the lead on those spots, partially because the guys the Packers drafted were a no show in minicamp. Injuries in recent years have shown the importance of having depth at this position.
6. Everyone’s favorite player — This year Graham Harrell and B.J. Coleman will battle for the right to hold a clipboard and be photobombed by The Franchise. This battle alone hopefully will make the sad-sack preseason worth watching.
I knock this story down in interest because it is backup we are talking about here. No, not a starter. A backup. Now, I know it’s important and everything, really, I do, but what are we talking about here — a backup. Not a starter, which I die for, but a back p. Are we talking about a backup?
7. The Return of the Mac — Packers fans will be closely watching several players who return to the field after long absences. Andrew Quarless and Nick Perry are the most obvious guys from which much is hoped.
8. INJURIES — If we were ranking this list based off importance, then this would be number one. The over-hyped 49ers and Seahawks have both lost key WRs to injury this offseason. There WILL be injuries. The questions is — can the Packers avoid losing anyone significant?
And so it begins…