After the Packers staggered to a 6-10 season in 2008, it was tough to find many bright spots. Aaron Rodgers cemented himself as a legitimate starting quarterback, Jordy Nelson came on very strong as the top pick for the Packers, and Nick Collins elevated his play to Pro Bowl status. These were a few of the good things to come out of the 2008 season, unfortunately there were more negatives than positives.
Because of these negatives, replacements were made at some crucial spots and other players are looking to rebound from a 2008 season to forget. Let’s take a look at these players and remember to go back and look at the rest of the week’s articles by clicking on the links next to the days. My hope is that these articles will get you up to date and ready when the Packers take on the Bears Sunday night.
Monday, Part One: Just How Good Can the Offense Be?
Tuesday, Part Two: How Will This Year’s Defense Be Different From Last Season?
Wednesday, Part Three: What Does Their Schedule Look Like and How Will They Fare?
Thursday, Part Four: How Does Aaron Rodgers Match Up Against the Rest of the NFC North?
Friday, Part Five: Which Players Are Looking To Rebound, and What Will the Newcomers Contribute?
Saturday, Part Six: Packers-Bears Pregame: Jay Cutler vs. Aaron Rodgers, Round One
Cullen Jenkins, Nick Barnett, and Atari Bigby all had fantastic 2007 seasons in which the Packers made it to the NFC Championship. Barnett led the team in tackles, Bibgby had gone from undrafted borderline roster player to leading the team in interceptions, and Cullen Jenkins was ready for a breakout year opposite Aaron Kampman.
However, the season was cut short for all three starters by injury, who combined to start 20 of a possible 48 games for the Packers in 2008. All three are healthy and back on the field in 2009, ready to bring the Packers’ defense back to greatness under new leadership.
In the new 3-4 scheme, Jenkins will have the daunting task of opening up holes for blitzing outside linebackers, Barnett will be expected to lead the team in tackles as he did in 2007, and Bibgy will have to ensure that the “big play” does not hurt the Packers like it did last season without him. Expect things to get much better on defense with these three back on the field.
One player who played in every game and fought off the injury bug for most of the season was Ryan Grant. The breakout running back from 2007 had as quiet of a 1200 yard rushing season possible. His yards per carry dipped underneath four after being over five in the year before, and he found the endzone (four) as many times as he fumbled the ball. Hamstring injuries early in the preseason were a small excuse for his lack of production, but much more will be expected of him this time around.
With a revamped offensive line, especially in terms of the run game, Grant hopes to re-gain his 2007 swagger. The Packers kept three fullbacks on their roster, meaning they are serious about getting Grant going early and often in games.
When the Packers decided to move to the 3-4 defense, they knew the two most important factors in the success of it would include someone to anchor the defense and someone to call the shots. Dom Capers takes over as defensive coordinator and has brought a whole new attitude to the defense, and B.J. Raji is the future at nose tackle.
While he will play defensive end this season, his impact will be felt regardless of where he is on the field. Clay Matthews III became only the second player in the Ted Thompson era that the Packers traded up for. Both Raji and Matthews III are the present and the future, and Capers has to be excited for those two to be on board.
Mike Trgovac takes over on the defensive line, giving the Packers another defensive coordinator on board. One of the most important acquistions on the coaching staff this offseason was the hiring of former linebacker and all-pro Kevin Greene. His intensity and passion has rubbed off on the players in the most extreme way, and his outside linebackers have been great in the preseason. Aaron Kampman has become his personal project, and any success Kampman has in the switch to the 3-4 will be attributed to Greene.
The Packers are in the midst of a bounce-back year and have all the pieces to do it. Just about everyone on the team underperformed, and anything short of the playoffs this season will be a failure. Last season, the Brett Favre fiasco messed with players heads, Aaron Rodgers was making his first start in a Packers uniform, and yet they were in just about every game they played in.
The new faces will make a huge impact on the team and players looking for better seasons are well on their way to fulfilling that hope. It’s finally football season, and it looks like the Pack are finally back.