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2011 Team Report: Green Bay Packers

Quarterbacks

Starter: Aaron Rodgers
Backup(s): Matt Flynn, Graham Harrell

Starting QB: Aaron Rodgers just missed repeating his status as #1 Fantasy QB in 2010, in part because he missed a game for the first time since he took over starting duties in 2008. even missing time, Rodgers totalled 3,922 yards with 29 touchdowns and just 11 interceptions. Although this past year saw better play by the offensive line (Rodgers was only sacked 38 times, down from 51 the season prior), it shouldn't surprise anyone that Rodgers missed a game due to concussion, as he has been hit frequently. He's healthy now and adding rookie OT Derek Sherrod should continue to improve the line. Mark Tauscher looked much more reliable last season and once rookie Bryan Bulaga stepped in, he helped alot. Rodgers' stats are also impressive when you consider he lost TE Jermichael Finley and RB Ryan Grant early and Donald Driver suddenly looked old. He gets all his weapons back healthy this season, so Rodgers has every chance to put up monster numbers again in this high powered offense.

Backup QB: There was a lot of chatter that Matt Flynn would be traded this off-season but since they didn't add any QBs in the draft, it's safe to assume Flynn goes nowhere, though until the lockout ends we don't know for sure. Assuming he stays and if Rodgers goes down (Packer faithful just had a heart-attack), Flynn should be able to step in and hold things together, but he won't put up the points Rodgers would have in the same games. Harrell saved himself at the end of camp last year and was added to the 53 man roster. If Flynn goes away, Harrell will be the #2. He's a decent quarterback but not polished and his presence in the starting lineup might really make it hard on fantasy owners of the rest of the offense.

Running Backs

Starter: Ryan Grant
Backup(s): James Starks, Brandon Jackson, Dimitri Nance, Alex Green [R]
Fullback(s): Korey Hall, Quinn Johnson, John Kuhn

Starting RB: Grant went down after a whopping eight carries in the first game of the season with an ankle injury which ended up needing surgery and landing him on the IR. He comes back to his reclaim starting gig to find second year running back James Starks cutting into his carries. Grant has to prove he's healthy and past his ankle injuries if he is going to hold off Starks. He exploded in the latter half of 2009, but that cooled off during the playoffs. He returns to a revamped offensive line and the usual dynamic passing attack, so he should find room to run. The question is, was late 2009 just a flash in the pan and can he stay healthy?

Backup RBs: Starks had a solid playoff run but he remains an unproven commodity, even though the team is high on him. He averaged 4.73 yards against the Steelers in the Super Bowl so while his yardage total wasn't impressive against a stout Steelers defense, he found room to run. So while Grant should retain his job, Starks will push him. Arriving to push Starks is Alexander Green, rookie running back from Hawaii. Green is a versatile back who can catch the ball well, but goes down too easy at times and had success in part due to Hawaii's spread offense. If he can adjust and Starks regresses, he brings an interesting dynamic to the offense. He'll have to adjust quick though and if the lockout continues and there's no camp, it will hurt Green a lot. Brandon Jackson is a free agent and it remains to be seen if he will be brought back. If so, he'll likely be buried on the depth chart as he's been a disappointment. Dimitri Nance is an afterthought.

Fullback: John Kuhn emerged as a big, pounding force in short yardage but it never translated to fantasy points unless your league requires a fullback. Quinn Johnson and Korey Hall are beyond afterthoughts and not worth rostering in even that scenario.

Wide Receivers

Starters: Greg Jennings, Donald Driver
Backups: Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Randall Cobb [R], Brett Swain

Starting WRs: Greg Jennings had an outstanding 2010, totaling 1,265 yards (his second highest total ever) with 12 touchdowns (tied for his best). This despite Jermichael Finley's injury and the severe decline of Donald Driver. Driver's production was halved in 2010, as age seemed to finally catch up with the veteran. While Driver has somehow defied claims he would slow down year after year, it appears as if he has finally begun to decline.

Backup WRs: Jordy Nelson had a tremendous Super Bowl and appears poised to take a step forward if he can be a little less streaky then he was in 2010. His value is hurt though, but the return of James Jones who has signed a three year contract after both Driver and Aaron Rodgers went to bat for him. Likely both will do all right from a NFL perspective, but hurt each other from a fantasy point of view. Incoming rookie Randall Cobb is a versatile receiver who can get good separation and runs fearless routes across the middle. Cobb may not do a lot this coming season, but he could very well emerge as the eventual replacement for Driver. Brett Swain isn't much of an option either for the Packers or fantasy owners.

Tight Ends

Starters: Jermichael Finley
Backups: Andrew Quarless, Spencer Havner, Tom Crabtree, Ryan Taylor [R], DJ Williams [R]

The Packers played rotating tight ends when Jermichael Finley went down early in the season with a torn meniscus in his right knee. Finley is a talented receiver and is impossible to cover and it appears he will be healthy for the season. He could easily be a top 5 tight end in this offense. With Ryan Taylor and DJ Williams coming in, Quarless, Havner and Crabtree will be battling for less roster spots. All of them would be marginal starts at best if Finley can't stay healthy.

Place Kicker

Mason Crosby : The Packers enter camp with three specialists, all the same starters as last year. Brett Goode is back at long snapper and punter/holder Tim Masthay is coming off a 2010 season where he finished strong during the playoffs. Kicker Mason Crosby became a free agent under the new CBA; however the team quickly re-signed him to a new 5-year deal. ST coordinator Shawn Slocum said of Crosby, "Mason's been very solid. The one quality I think is really good is he rarely misses two in a row.... He needs to take the next step in his future making walk-off field goals. I would like our kicker to be 90%.... We have a difficult place to kick in Lambeau." After four straight years in the top ten, the Packers slipped to 15th in kicker scoring opportunities last year.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Alex Green, [R]Randall Cobb [R], Pat Lee, Sam Shields, Jordy Nelson

Rookie RB Alex Green is being given the first shot at the kickoff returner role during camp and preseason. Jordy Nelson (22 returns for 22.5 average) and Sam Shields (21 returns for 21.5 average) took most of the returns in 2010 and did well, though they never brought one to the end zone. Nelson hadn't returned kicks before 2009 but has excelled in the role. Randall Cobb was a tremendous kick returner at Kentucky and will get the opportunity to return some kicks if he proves he can in preseason.

Punt Returners: Randall Cobb [R], Tramon Williams, Jordy Nelson, Shaky Smithson [R], Diondre Borel [R], Charles Woodson

Special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum said of Cobb, who is also listed as the primary backup on kickoff returns, "He's a good catcher of the ball. He has ability as a punt returner to get vertical quickly. I rarely saw him get hit very hard. He's got good strength and excellent character, too." Tramon Williams handled all the punts last season for the Packers, returning 41 balls for an average of 8 yards a carry.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT Chad Clifton, LG Daryn Colledge, C Scott Wells, RG Josh Sitton, RT Bryan Buluga
Key Backups: T Jason Spitz, G T.J. Lane, T Marshall Newhouse, T Derek Sherrod [R], G/C Evan Dietrich-Smith

Ted Thompson made an outstanding pick for the future in Mississippi State's Derek Sherrod who will likely serve as Chad Clifton's back-up but could also step in for second year tackle Bryan Bulaga if needed. Daryn Colledge could leave via free agency and if that's the case, TJ Lane would be called up full time. The Packers also added Caleb Schlauderaff from Utah to shore up the depth at the guard position. The offensive line continues to struggle at times, allowing too many hits on Aaron Rodgers. They improved last season and they'll have to do so again to keep Rodgers upright and have enough time to take advantage of the weapons he has.

Defensive Line

Starters: NT: B.J. Raji, DE: Ryan Pickett, Cullen Jenkins
Backups: C.J. Wilson, Jarius Wynn, Mike Neal, Justin Harrell, Lawrence Guy [R], Johnny Jolly (susp) Howard Green (NT/DE)

Starting DL: The Packers 3-4 defense really jelled last season as several players stepped up their already solid play considerably.Second year DT BJ Raji had a very good season clogging the middle and getting to the opposing quarterback often and sacking him 6 times. Raji will once again be joined once again by Ryan Pickett at the LDE spot and Cullen Jenkins at RDE. Jenkins was a pass rushing beast and compiled 7 sacks, second only to RPOY runner up Clay Matthews. The problem is, Jenkins is a free agent and the team made no effort to sign him prior to the lockout. So whether he will still wear green and gold is up in the air. Pickett continues to be strong against the run and also hold his own against the pass as well but if they have to defend their title without Jenkins, someone will have to step up.

Backup DL: Green Bay will rotate their backups in but with the exception of CJ Wilson, the Packers' bench didn't put up a lot of stats last year and even Wilson's production was only ok. If Jenkins is gone, someone will have to pick up the pace. It won't be Johnny Jolly who is currently suspended or Justin Harrell, who is always hurt. Seventh round pick Lawrence Guy could fill in either at tackle or end, both of which he played at Arizona State. That doesn't make Guy a lock, but if he has a good camp and Jenkins doesn't return, there is room for him to make the squad and contribute early.

Linebackers

Starters: OLB Clay Matthews, OLB Brad Jones, ILB Desmond Bishop, ILB A.J. Hawk
Backups: ILB Brandon Chillar, ILB Nick Barnett, OLB Brady Poppinga, OLB Cyril Obiozor, OLB Robert Francois, Frank Zombo, DE/OLB Rick Elmore [R], OLB D. J. Smith [R]

Starting LBs: On the outside, Clay Matthews is at the top of his game and will continue to dominate opposing offensive line. His 12.5 sacks nearly won him Defensive Player of the Year honors and were a huge factor in the Packers' Super Bowl run. The spot across from him is a little less clear, with Brad Jones having the edge as it was his job in the first place until injury sidelined him for the year. If healthy. Jones is serviceable across from Matthews. On the inside Desmond Bishop and A.J. Hawk form a very productive tandem. Bishop had 96 tackles, 33 assists and 4 sacks, while Hawk had 83 tackles, 44 assists but only half a sack. Hawk also added three interceptions to his total. Three out of four linebackers in this unit are fantastic fantasy starters and project to be so again.

Backup LBs: Backing up Matthews and Jones or whomever wins Jones' spot are several solid but unspectacular players. Frank Zombo filled in while Jones was injured and added 4 sacks and a pair of forced fumbles to the team total. Rookies LBs D.J. Smith and Rick Elmore will also vie for time behind the starters as well. Smith is a bit raw and will probably get more work on special teams while Elmore is transitioning from DE and has shown a great motor and flashes of pass rushing ability. Likely both will start off inside and if one of them can excel, might rotate outside on occasion. The Packers also need to figure out what to do with Barnett who has begun to decline a bit and is relegated to back up status.

Defensive Backs

Starters: CB Charles Woodson, CB Tramon Williams, SS Morgan Burnett (inj), FS Nick Collins
Backups: CB Josh Gordy, CB Sam Shields, CB Brandon Underwood, CB Davon House [R], CB/FS Jarrett Bush, CB Pat Lee, CB Brandon Underwood, CB Josh Bell, SS Atari Bigby, FS Charlie Peprah, SS Khalil Jones, FS Derrick Martin

Starting DBs: Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams form one of the best cornerback tandems in the league. Woodson continues to pile up great numbers of tackles (76 in 2010), though his interception total fell to just 2. Williams was just extended and while his stats aren't as good as Woodson's, he puts together solid numbers and benefits from having Woodson across from him. At the safety spots are SS Morgan Burnett and FS Nick Collins. Collins is another stud who is unafraid of contact and has been consistently able to pick the ball off over the last few years. Second year Burnett had a few good games in 2010 only to end up by the IR four games in. Burnett is back from injury and looks to be a solid anchor in this secondary if he can stay healthy.

Backup DBs: The Packers drafted New Mexico CB Davon House in the fourth. Once House adjusts to the Pro game, he should be a very good press corner who will be in a lot of man coverage. There is a lot more depth here but most of them will not see enough work to be fantasy factors barring injury. Further, Atari Bigby will likely not be back with the team after having finished the season on IR.

Last modified: 2011-09-04 01:28:27

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