With the Week 2 preseason game set to happen on Friday between the Green Bay Packers and the Arizona Cardinals, I was contacted by Andy Tisdel, who writes for a local news outlet Oak Creek Patch in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He reached out and wanted to exchange questions.
Not to steal any thunder from Tyler, he will be doing a similar post with one of the writers from Acme Packing Company. Hopefully the questions are different.
To be honest, not much about Colledge specifically. It got some coverage in the Wisconsin press, because basically all the free agents who had left the Packers didn't go on the trip. Nick Barnett, Cullen Jenkins, Brandon Jackson and so on all didn't go, and I think that had a lot to do with training camp schedules around the league. I don't think there was any malice on the Packers' part. I do know that players that had been cut this offseason but had yet to sign with another team-Mark Tauscher being one-still made the trip, which makes me think that logistics really were the problem.
Something that might be even worse than not getting an invite: making the trip and then having to sit on the bus and not get to go inside. Desmond Bishop apparently left his wallet and IDs on the plane, and they wouldn't let him in. He sat on the bus for the whole visit. How much would that stink?
2. What are the Packers' preseason plans as defending champs?
I don't think they're taking that much of a different approach to the preseason. General manager Ted Thompson is doing exactly what he always does: keep the veteran free agents if they'll stay at a reasonable price, let them go if they won't, don't sign anybody from another team, bring in dozens of rookie FAs and see who sticks. He's all about developing his own young talent, and by all outward appearances, that hasn't changed or even slowed down this offseason.
As far as the games themselves, they're doing what everybody does; they're evaluating all the young talent. Thompson has tough decisions to make at backup corner, backup tight end and at outside linebacker, and it'll be interesting to see how those play out.
3. What was the biggest move and biggest loss this offseason?
The Packers' biggest move was drafting Randall Cobb with the No. 64 pick. Thompson loves his WRs; he's used a second- or third- round pick on a WR in five of his seven drafts, with Cobb being the latest iteration. He's a good slot receiver, he hasn't made a lot of rookie mistakes thus far, and he's an instinctive kick and punt returner. The one thing the Packers haven't had over the last couple of years is a good special teams unit, and Cobb can help them fix that. Based on limited exposure, he looks like the real deal so far.
The biggest loss... Nick Barnett was a veteran inside linebacker and a good player, and the Bills made a good pickup with him, but he played at a position where the Packers are deep. No, the biggest loss has gotta be Cullen Jenkins, who is the most versatile defensive lineman in the league. In the past four or five years, he's played DT in a 4-3, he's played DE in a 4-3 and DE in a 3-4, and excelled at them all. He was Green Bay's best pass-rusher on the line in 2010, and they could struggle to replace him. Jenkins is 30 and has an extensive injury history, but when he plays, he can dominate.
4. Just how good can Aaron Rodgers be?
Rodgers has all the advantages you could want as a QB. He's played in the same offensive system his entire career. He has a top-notch group of receivers. He has a potentially dominant tight end in Jermichael Finley. He's got good players at RB and a solid offensive line. He's motivated and he's driven to improve his game every single day. If the Packers won five straight Super Bowls, he'd still be hungry for more. I think that's his single best asset.
On the field, he's one of the most accurate QBs you'll see. When Favre was in town, there was a reason they called him 'Gunslinger'. He'd throw the most awful interception you'd ever seen, and then he'd come back and make the greatest play you've ever seen. You learned to take the bad with the good. When Rodgers is on the field he almost never makes those bad plays. He's in total command of the offense, and he's as complete a QB as there is right now in the league.
Right now, I see the quarterback rankings in the NFL like this: there's Manning and Brady at the top, and then there's a second tier of guys vying for the No. 3 ranking. You've got Rivers, Roethlisberger, Ryan, Vick, Brees and Rodgers. If he keeps playing at this level for the next few years, he could be the consensus top QB in the NFC. He doesn't really have a ceiling right now.
5. What is still the greatest need the team has?
I would say their pass-rush. Jenkins is gone and the guy they've tabbed to replace him, Mike Neal, was injured for 18 1/2 games of a possible 20 last year. The only proven pass-rusher on the line is NT/DE B.J. Raji. They don't really have an OLB opposite Clay Matthews. Coordinator Dom Capers will manufacture pressure, but if Neal goes down again, the Packers could really struggle to get pressure on the QB.
6. What young guys should we be on the lookout for?
Sam Shields, definitely. How about this for a plan: pluck an undrafted rookie off the street, a guy who never played CB until his senior year, and make him your nickel corner. What happens? Guy has two interceptions and a sack in the NFC Championship Game and single-handedly propels you to the Super Bowl. He's what the pundits call a ‘budding star'. Look out for Neal, too. For all my talk about injuries, if he can stay healthy, he's ludicrously strong and instinctive. Randall Cobb will make some highlight-reel plays. And James Starks, the Packers' playoff hero of a running back last year, will make some waves if he stays healthy.
7. How do fans still feel about that historic playoff loss to the Cards?
That was a legendary game, tell you what. I remember watching it in a crappy airport bar on a tiny TV and just thinking this was a game like no other I'd ever watched. Tell you the truth, it stung at the time, but not a lot of fans are thinking about it right now. A Super Bowl championship heals a lot of wounds.