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Five Concerns for the Packers Coming Into 2011

By Billy Needham

Every year, each team in the NFL has its weaknesses and/or concerns. The Packers are no exception for the upcoming 2011 season. I have reviewed the roster, the management, and the upcoming season, and have come up with my top five concerns for our Packers.

1. The September 8th game vs. the New Orleans Saints! This is our first title defense, and against the Super Bowl Champions from two seasons ago. These Saints are coming off what I consider one of the most embarrassing playoff exits in recent history. These guys let the Seahawks carve them up like a Thanksgiving turkey, and then Marshawn Lynch goes all Jim Brown on us, bowling over Saints defenders like they were the local JV high school team. Being from Mississippi, and despising the Saints, I had more fun watching that run over and over, I really got behind on prepping for the Pack playing the Eagles the next day. In all honesty though, the Saints have a All-Pro QB with a good set of receivers, and a underrated defense. Then again, we have a dual threat All-Pro QB with great receivers and a fantastic defense! By the way, their top DE will be suspended for this game for using diuretics like three years ago, so yaaahh for the good guys! 31-21 win, wish it were colder when they visited but a win is a win!!!

2. Linebacker Depth! It has been well documented, how the Packers have let Nick Barnett and Brandon Chillar go in free agency, one due to salary, and one apparently due to a possible lingering injury. I think we all expected Barnett, who gave us seven good years, to go, but our next top backup, Chillar, was a surprise to me. He was touted as a great cover LB, even though the only INT he had all season was a tipped pass against Detroit, but regardless, all of our experience has left the building. Now, if either A.J. Hawk or Desmond Bishop go down, who do we have coming onto the field? Well, we have a young Robert Francois, who had 3 tackles last season, we have our 6th round pick D.J. Smith from Appalachian State, and we have a few undrafted free agents fighting for roster spots, uuuggghhhh! Hawks’s hyperbaric chamber and Bishop’s whatever better hold up because those other options make me want to run and sign my 181 lbs. up, the new CBA is paying good minimum salaries. No injuries, no foul!

3. Free Agency Decisions! Wow, what a long week and some change it has been since this free agency has kicked off! We lost a starter on each line, a few former starters, a multiple key reserve players. Then, we counter our losses with resigning one of our three FBs from the team last season, and one of our five WRs from our stellar receiving corp, and our kicker. Well, shoot, TT has done it again, building strictly through the draft, and never sticking so much a toe in the shark infested free agency waters. Mike Neal and/or CJ Wilson are expected to replace Jenkins on passing downs, with Howard Green filling in on rushing situations, and T.J. Lang or our first round pick Derek Sherrod are expected to man the LG spot, and all the other remaining openings created by players leaving are going to be filled with rookies or second year guys. That is what the draft is for, replacing aging vets with cheaper rookies, but it still does not mean I would not like some proven guys to be brought in. Free agency is not over yet, and TT does get some cheap reserves every now and then, but I do not ecpect more than maybe one player brought in that is not already on the roster. A proven ILB would be my choice, I think we will have the LG spot filled through competition in camp. In TT we trust!

4. Superbowl Hangover! This is a term that I find utterly ridiculous, but the proof is out there, it is very hard for the reigning champs to repeat. The last team to do it was the 2004/2005 New England Patriots. The fact is that is has been done eight separate times though, and I see no reason why our Packers cannot make that nine. They were heavy favorites to repeat in 1998 against the Broncos but we were beaten worse than the score actually showed. We have most of our core intact, while adding a few playmakers via the draft. We have a large number of players returning from Injured Reserve that did not get to fully experience the success, and the veterans on the team seem very grounded and hungry for another. The city of Green Bay is not a giant party palace, and the players should not have all the distractions a big city may offer. The town bleeds green and gold, and demands football excellence. I do not see this affecting the guys like other teams, no problem!

5. Building a Dynasty! We have a team to be very proud of! Green Bay has a golden opportunity to stay in the Superbowl hunt for years to come. We have an excellent QB with explosive playmakers around him. We have a fairly new 3-4 defense that has improved each season, that should be top five again. We do, however, have some interesting calls to make on upcoming free agents like Jermichael Finley, Josh Sitton, Jordy Nelson and Ryan Grant. We also need to pay up Clay Matthews III and B.J. Raji. I do not see how we can retain everyone…. Finley can become the most dominating TE in the game and provide matchup nightmares for any team but has injury problems, Sitton is an absolute beast, but TT has a history of not paying Guards their due, Nelson had a MVP type performance in the Super Bowl, but Jones just got a three year deal, and the team may not be able to pay out that much cash to the WR position. Unfortunately, I think Driver is gone after this season, even though he wants to play to 40, he cannot keep up with the young guys. I also think Grant is as good as gone after this season due to age, injuries, and two young bucks on the team who are expected to take over. Matthews and Raji are as good as signed, there should be no way TT lets them play out their rookie contracts without extensions. Those two have made our transition to a 3-4 defense go as smooth as possible. I fully trust TT will make the best decisions for the team, and lock up one or two before the season in even underway, since he has cleared around 15 million already, we should have a bright future in that beautiful little city of Green Bay, Wisconsin!

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