Originally posted on The Sports Post  |  Last updated 8/20/13
The defending NFC North champions are looking like a much different team after a long offseason. They added running-backs Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin through the draft, as well as a potential difference maker on defense in versatile defensive end Datone Jones. They lost receiver Greg Jennings, but still have several weapons at Aaron Rodgers's disposal. Losing tackle Bryan Bulaga for the year is a huge blow to an already weak offensive line, which begs the question: can they protect Rodgers all season? Can they establish a balanced attack on offense? Can the defense rebound after an embarrassing display against the San Francisco 49ers' in the playoffs last year? Let's start at the quarterback position. Rodgers is arguably the best quarterback in the NFL, but will need to be protected to avoid a major injury. He was sacked an incredible 51 times last year; the offensive line needs to get their act together. He will be fine as long as he stays healthy.  The back-up situation is very worrisome right now. Vince Young was signed off the street to be a veteran presence behind Rodgers, but hasn't shown anything in the preseason thus far. He might make the team by default because B.J. Coleman and Graham Harrell are awful. Young is capable of winning games if he's asked to, and has by far the most experience behind Rodgers. At running back, DuJuan Harris finished the season strong last year, but will now serve as a change of pace back. Eddie Lacy is expected to be the starter and has looked sharp so far in training camp. He debuted in his first preseason game on Saturday and totaled 51 yards in limited action. He's capable of having a huge year and is their most talented back since Ahman Green.  Johnathan Franklin was expected to split carries with Lacy, but might not be on the active roster once the regular season starts because he has failed to impress so far. Alex Green and James Starks are still around, but aren't expected to make much of an impact this season. Green Bay needs a strong running game to finally bring balance to their offense. They would not have won the Super Bowl three years ago if it wasn't for a strong running game in the playoffs. The receiving corps lost Jennings to the Vikings, but is still a very dangerous unit. Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson and James Jones are the best trio of receivers in the league outside of Denver. Nelson just had surgery on his knee and is iffy for the season opener, but he's expected to play Week 1 if he has no setbacks. Still, he needs to come back strong and healthy in order for this group to thrive.Cobb is capable of catching 100 balls, and Jones is Rodgers's favorite red zone target.  Jarrett Boykin might get extra snaps this year with Jennings gone. Jermichael Finley is in his last year of his contract and will have to step up his game in order to receive the big contract. He's an athletic freak with big upside, but has mental lapses every now and then. He dropped too many passes last year, but he should have a big year with Jennings gone. He and Rodgers are displaying great chemistry in camp so far. Backup tight end Andrew Quarless is injury prone and can't be counted on for much this year. The offensive line is a key group for this offense. Bryan Bulaga's injury is a major loss. He was one of their best blockers and a veteran presence on the line. This unit was shaky already and now got that much worse. Josh Sitton is their best lineman. T.J. Lang has improved greatly the past few years. They'll need to be on their "A-game" this year if they want to win the Super Bowl. Rodgers can't get sacked 51 times again this season. [Do you want to put your NFL knowledge to the test with weekly fantasy football? Sign-up for FanDuel.com using promo code TSP for a 50% deposit bonus!] The defensive line received a much needed boost when they selected Datone Jones in the first-round. B.J. Raji will thrive with Jones on the line, and Ryan Pickett should also benefit. Jones is a major difference maker.  Clay Matthews is back and healthy, strong and hungry for another ring. He's made the Pro Bowl every season and is the leader of this defense.  The secondary lost their leader in Charles Woodson, but it was time to pass the torch. Morgan Bennett is their best safety and can make a similar impact that Woodson made. Tramon Williams, Casey Heyward, Sam Shields, and Davon House need to display more consistency this year, They looked lost at times last season. On special teams, Mason Crosby looks as if he will be the starting kicker once again this year. He had a horrendous season last year, but is capable of having a great year. Randall Cobb might be taken off of returning duties to avoid a major injury. The Packers look like a strong team once again this year. Winning the division for the Packers has become an expectation at this point, and I expect nothing less. By: Joe Kleiber Twitter: @Chibeman
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