The NFL season is inching closer. Through July, Shutdown Corner will examine three big questions for each NFL team as it heads to training camp.
GREEN BAY PACKERS
Report date: July 26 for rookies and veterans
Where: De Pere, Wisconsin
1. Will Martellus Bennett be a big factor in the offense right away?
Some of Aaron Rodgers’ best seasons were with Jermichael Finley as his tight end. Since a 2013 neck injury ended Finley’s career, the Packers have struggled to replace him. Seeing Jared Cook give the Packers some flexibility and an added weapon for Rodgers late last season caused general manager Ted Thompson, notoriously cautious in free agency, to spend on Bennett. Bennett, who got a three-year, $21 million deal, seems to be a marvelous fit for the Packers. Bennett is coming off a 701-yard, seven-touchdown season with the New England Patriots, and he should at least match those numbers in Green Bay if he stays healthy. It bears watching how quickly he gets acclimated to the offense and how quickly the coaches get a feel for his skill set, and also if he can develop a rapport with Rodgers in training camp. It’s safe to assume that will all come together and Bennett will be a big part of the offense from Week 1 on.
[Pressing Questions: Fantasy outlook on the Packers]
2. Who is going to run the ball?
The Packers were so thin at running back last season, they used receiver Ty Montgomery at tailback. Then a funny thing happened: Montgomery performed pretty well at the position. Eddie Lacy left in free agency, leaving Montgomery as the top back remaining on the roster. Green Bay did draft three backs – BYU’s Jamaal Williams, Texas-El Paso’s Aaron Jones and Utah State’s Devante Mays – but it is still Montgomery’s job to lose. He proved to be very elusive and a surprisingly good runner between the tackles. He did struggle with pass protection, but that’s what happens when you change positions in midseason. With a full offseason to learn tailback, Montgomery should be better at the finer points of the position. He also adds value as a great receiving weapon out of the backfield. Expect Montgomery to take control of the starting job, and the rookies will compete through camp to see who will be the next man up if Montgomery falters.
3. Can the Packers cover anyone?
For a team that made the NFL’s conference championship round last season, the Packers had a terrible pass defense. They were dead last in the NFL in yards per pass allowed, at a staggering 8.1 yards per attempt. They allowed 58 20-yard pass plays, and only three teams allowed more. While the Packers finally signed some free agents this offseason, they didn’t invest much money in the secondary. Former Packers cornerback Davon House was brought back after a short stint with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Green Bay drafted big cornerback Kevin King of Washington in the second round, and he could help right away. N.C. State safety Josh Jones should contribute in sub-packages. Mostly Green Bay needs better production out of holdover cornerbacks Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins, the team’s first- and second-round picks in the 2015 draft. Training camp will be important in figuring out the pecking order at corner.
PREVIOUS TRAINING CAMP PREVIEWS
– – – – – – –