32 NFL QuestionsJune 19, 2012
This is the quiet time in the NFL. The minicamps and OTA’s are over and we’re a month away from training camp. But there’s no off-season in Packers interest so here are some questions about the upcoming season and my best guesses at answers. Thank goodness I work for Sports32 and not a channel over 1600.
- Do the Packers have a running back capable of replacing Ryan Grant? Even by the Packers modest running game standards, they will need a threat to keep defenses honest. Is it James Starks, Alex Green or Brandon Saine? Most likely, it’s a combination of all three. I think Saine may rush for the most yards.
- Is Charles Woodson a cornerback or a safety? It doesn’t really matter. He lines up all over the place. It’s only vital that his age doesn’t become a factor and that offenses don’t expose his gambling ways.
- Is Graham Harrell a gamble at backup QB? Maybe a little but he knows the system and Mike McCarthy is great at developing young quarterbacks. Let’s be honest. If Aaron Rodgers suffers a serious injury, there’s trouble. If he stays healthy, it’s non-story. Would you really feel better if Colt McCoy were the backup? There must be a reason Mike Holmgren would give up on him.
- Will the “freelancing” of Jermichael Finley be good or bad for the Packers? Yes, he says provocative things and he drops too many balls. He’s also a matchup nightmare for opponents. He’s dripping with talent and he’s too young to get frustrated with.
- How many receivers will the Packers keep? With Donald Driver set to return at a more affordable price, my guess is 6. It wouldn’t shock me if James Jones is traded. Aaron Rodgers loves Diondre Borel’s future and Tory Gurley is an intriguing big target. Look for Randall Cobb to be featured more and Driver to be more of a depth insurance policy as he heads toward the sunset.
- Will the Packers offense miss a beat with Joe Philbin gone to Miami and Tom Clements moving up? It will be hard to match last season. If there is big drop, Clements and new quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo will feel the heat as scapegoats. Ultimately, it’s Mike McCarthy’s offense and he still calls the plays.
- Will Nick Perry and Jerel Worthy make an instant impact on the defense? My guess is yes as long as expectations are realistic.
- Is Marshall Newhouse or Derrek Sherrod the left tackle of the future? Newhouse has the inside track because Sherrod is coming off a serious injury and looked lost at times last year.
- Is Dezman Moses a good story in May and June and nothing more? Too early to tell. He certainly looks the part and the Packers have a history of striking gold with undrafted players.
- Is A.J. Hawk a playmaker this season or an expensive “guy” who the Packers will replace in 2013? Peter King wrote recently that Hawk is one of only four players from the 2006 draft Top 10 still with his original team. He may not ever meet the fans high standards for the fifth pick in the draft. The Packers have certainly given him ample chances to prove his worth.
- Should we be concerned about the injuries that kept Clay Matthews out of practice? I don’t worry about whether a guy practices in the spring. I just worry about the games.
- Can Aaron Rodgers be better than last season? Maybe in some subtle ways but I would be shocked if his numbers are better. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen an NFL quarterback have a better season as Rodgers did in 2011.
- Was Jeff Saturday a good replacement for Scott Wells? Perfect. He’s used to a cerebral quarterback and ,while I am a Wells fan, the Packers did a good job replacing him. Saturday missed only six starts in 12 years with the Colts. His durability is proven—even with his advanced age.
- Will the Packers make peace with Brett Favre and retire his number? Yes, but not this year. Still too soon and feelings are still raw.
- Will the Packers opener prove that the 49ers were over their heads last year? Even though I agree with John Madden that Jim Harbaugh did one of the great coaching jobs in NFL history last year (a new coach in a lockout year), I do think the 49ers will come back to earth this season.
- Will the Packers win the NFC North this season? Yes. The Lions might self-destruct with immaturity and the Bears need a happy Matt Forte to thrive. That might still happen, but not yet.
- Who is the team to beat in the NFC? The Giants won the Super Bowl so I feel they deserve the respect. To those that say the Giants just got hot at the right time, isn’t that exactly what the Packers did two seasons ago?
- Are the Saints headed for a fall? Yes. I will be amazed if they weather the storm of bountygate. Their head coach is suspended and quarterback Drew Brees is in a contract dispute. Sounds like a recipe for a lost year to me.
- Will the Packers miss Chad Clifton and Nick Collins? Yes. They were dependable pros on and off the field. Their steady and quiet leadership leaves a void in the locker room.
- Will Tramon Williams bounce back this season? Yes, I’m not sure he should have played last year if his shoulder was as bad as he says now. His return to form is critical.
- Will Sam Shields shake off his sophomore slump? He’d better. It’s competitive in the defensive backfield. Jarrett Bush is pushing him for more time.
- Will Erik Walden be a factor this season? I wouldn’t be surprised. Don’t write him off. He learned a painful lesson last year with his off-field trouble. With a second chance and a clear mind, you never know.
- Will Mike Neal ever produce? Again, his chance is now. If the NFL lifts his 4-game suspension, he needs to deliver now because the clock is ticking.
- Will Anthony Hargrove play for the Packers? If he is indeed suspended for the first 8 games, how do you give him training camp reps over people that can help you immediately? Tough call.
- Any chance Phillip Merling blossoms in Green Bay? Certainly worth a low-risk flyer. If he turns into a bust like he was in Miami, you haven’t made a big investment like the Dolphins did.
- Should the Packers give Johnny Jolly another chance? Yes, on two conditions. Obviously, the NFL needs to reinstate him and you have to make sure his weight hasn’t ballooned. If he’s in shape, he can help. Organization likes him.
- Who ends up starting at quarterback in Seattle? I like Russell Wilson but I think Matt Flynn gets the nod. Pete Carroll believes in competition but I think it sends Flynn a mixed message when you make him compete for the job.
- Which veterans should feel uneasy going to camp? Many of them because I think it will be a very competitive training camp. To name a few, I would say Brad Jones, Jarius Wynn and Frank Zombo.
- Does Peyton Manning have anything left? Yes, but I would say this year is Denver’s best shot.
- Will Andrew Luck of Robert Griffin III be the Rookie of the Year? Luck may be better in the long run but RG3’s chances might be enhanced this year because he is going to a better team. Hype is hot in Washington. Hope they give the kid time.
- Are the Vikings worth watching? If Adrian Peterson is back, he alone is worth the price of admission.
- Has the window closed on Tom Brady and the Patriots? If Tom Coughlin and the Giants didn’t shut the window completely, there’s not much breeze coming through.
The 2012 season will provide the answers to these and many other questions. We’ll discuss it all the way on the Sports32 Roundtable.