Packers Preview Capsule
GREEN BAY PACKERS (7-9)
New faces: GM Brian Gutekunst, offensive coordinator Joe Philbin, defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, TE Jimmy Graham, TE Marcedes Lewis, QB DeShone Kizer, DE Muhammad Wilkerson, rookie ILB Oren Burks, ILB Antonio Morrison, CB Tramon Williams, rookie CBs Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson, P JK Scott.
Key losses: Retired GM Ted Thompson, defensive coordinator Dom Capers, WR Jordy Nelson, G Jahri Evans, TE Richard Rodgers, QB Brett Hundley, S Morgan Burnett, CB Damarious Randall.
Strengths: QB Aaron Rodgers healthy again after being limited to seven games because of collarbone injury. Graham provides much-needed athletic and playmaking presence at tight end. Graham, Lewis and returnee Lance Kendricks form deep tight end group. Davante Adams emerged into one of NFC’s top WRs and Randall Cobb still has potential to turn short passes into big gains. Running back-by-committee with Jamaal Williams, Aaron Jones and Ty Montgomery. Strong starting five on line when healthy. D-line could be scary good with Wilkerson joining already strong core of Mike Daniels, Kenny Clark and Dean Lowry. ILB Blake Martinez led team in tackles. Tramon Williams brings veteran presence to CB position also injected with more athleticism with drafting of Alexander and Jackson. Fifth-year S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix entering option year of rookie contract. K Mason Crosby steady and reliable. JK Scott showing why Packers took punter in fifth round with strong leg in practice.
Weaknesses: Poor showing by second-string line in third preseason game against Raiders again raised questions about quality depth beyond starters, particularly at tackle. Keeping Rodgers healthy of utmost importance, especially after pass game struggled with backup Brett Hundley in 2017. DeShone Kizer, acquired from Browns in offseason, new backup after Hundley dealt to Seattle. Geronimo Allison appears capable of joining Adams and Cobb as one of top three wideouts, but returnee Trevor Davis hampered by hamstring injury. Packers otherwise young at WR, including three drafted rookies. Pass-rush options behind OLBs Clay Matthews and Nick Perry in question. Morrison late acquisition from Colts because of season-ending knee injury to Jake Ryan and shoulder injury later in camp to Burks. Despite their playmaking potential, Alexander, Jackson and second-year player Kevin King still young and subject to on-job training.
Fantasy Player To Watch: Graham. 6-foot-7 tight end could be Rodgers’ new favorite target in red zone.
Vegas Says: Super Bowl 14-1. Over/under wins 10.
Expectations: Return to playoffs as long as Rodgers remains healthy. He shows no signs of slowing down otherwise, and Graham can help open middle of field and draw attention away from Adams and Cobb, and vice versa. With fresh voice on defense with Pettine, improvements on that side of ball may hold key to whether Pack can get back to top of NFC North and make deep postseason run.