GREEN BAY (WITI) — In eight Sundays, the Packers will be at San Francisco for a matchup of NFC heavyweights in the first week of the NFL’s regular season. As hard as it may be to believe, football is almost here!
Six months after last playing a game, the Green Bay Packers are now merely days away from checking back into Green Bay for their next go-round.
Coach Mike McCarthy frequently says that if you aren’t getting better, you’re getting worse.
So is this squad improved and ready to begin a march toward Super Bowl 48 in New York City?
The Packers’ best player is still quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who is now the senior member of the team, and also the financial leader of the team, thanks to a whopping new contract finalized as the NFL Draft was starting. After posting the best passer rating in the NFL last season, Rodgers says he won’t lose any motivation.
“I have a good memory and I’m driven to be the best. Obviously there’s a couple less critics out there now, but I still put a lot of pressure on myself to achieve the goals I set for myself every year, and enjoy trying to meet the challenge that those goals bring and also — opposing teams bring,” Rodgers said.
Maybe this is the year that opposing teams have to worry about Green Bay running the ball more effectively as well. Eddie Lacy was drafted out of Alabama in the second round, and Johnathan Franklin from UCLA in the fourth round.
Coach McCarthy is on record as saying there will be more ground focus in the future.
However, rushing success and Rodgers’ safety depend on the offensive line doing its job. What’s right is left from last season and vice versa. Relatively untested Evan Dietrich-Smith is the center, while the tackles and guards are being flip-flopped from their previous positions.
“It’s like a lefty switching batting to a right-handed batter and not being ambidextrous. You’re flipping sides. You’re flipping footwork,” Bryan Bulaga said.
Bulaga and his offensive line mates aren’t being flippant though, when they claim they’ll be fine by the time the regular season opens.
Green Bay’s defense ranked better than its offense in total yards per game, and money has been spent on the best player on that side of the ball, too — linebacker Clay Matthews. The Packers chose defensive lineman Datone Jones in the first round and will at least bring defensive lineman Johnny Jolly to camp after his drug-related inactivity dating back to 2009.
“To be honest man, from the day that I got suspended, I always knew that I would get back, but I never knew when. I never thought it would be three years,” Jolly said.
Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, Charles Woodson and Desmond Bishop spent a combined 34 years with the Packers, but are all gone now — and Coach McCarthy feels the team is moving forward.
“We’re an athletic football team — there’s no doubt about it. We’re a tough football team. We’re a versatile football team. I think that was reflected in the way we played last year, and I think we’ll have more flexibility this year,” McCarthy said.