2006 NFL Preview

Quarterback- The Green Bay Packers faithful waited four months after the final game of the horrible 2005 NFL season to find out if Brett Favre would return. While fans debated whether they would even want Favre back at the helm for the 2006 NFL season, there is no question he is the leader of this team as long as he is active. Favre certainly didn’t lose any zip off of his arm in the 2005 NFL Season and will get some of his weapons back after an injury riddled 2005 NFL season. The 2006 NFL season may be Favre’s last, but the Packers are in good hands with backup Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers, who played in mop-up duty in the 2005 NFL season, will spend the 2006 NFL season on the bench learning from the future Hall of Famer. But a year deferred to Favre means another year Rodgers can get his bearings in the pro game, which has to make Packer fans happy.
2006 NFL Grade- B

Running/Full Back- In the 2005 NFL season, one of the Packers’ deepest positions (running back) was wiped out by injuries to Ahman Green, Najeh Davenport, and Tony Fisher. Green and Davenport are recovering from their season ending injuries this off-season and the Packers have them on a short leash with one year contracts in the 2006 NFL season to see how they do. One of the two will indeed step up and while Green has been a great running back since coming to Green Bay, I feel Davenport will distinguish himself the more prepared back in the 2006 NFL season. Samkon Gado, last year’s amazing story, will make for a solid change of pace back and will benefit from being around two solid (and healthy) running backs in 2006. Fullback William Henderson, wooed by the Minnesota Vikings, returns for his twelfth season with the Packers and should provide steady blocking and receiving performances for another year.
2006 NFL Grade- B-

Wide Receiver/Tight End- The big question in the 2006 NFL season for the Packers is who will play receiver opposite Donald Driver. Driver, who stepped up after Javon Walker was injured, needs at least one other receiving threat to make him more effective. Look for former Redskin Rod Gardner to fill this role temporarily, with role receivers Mark Boeritger and Robert Ferguson playing often in three and four receiver sets. However, look out for rookie receiver Greg Jennings, whose athleticism and hard work may put him in the top four receivers on the team. The Packers have several solid tight ends on the roster now, with Bubba Franks and Donald Lee proving their worth in the 2005 NFL Season and their potential as a tight end tandem in the 2006 NFL Season.
2006 NFL Grade- B

Offensive Line- The Packers are pretty well set at the tackle positions, with Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher, and center, with Scott Wells getting experience in 2005, but have continuing questions at guard. Rookie Darryl Colledge can play tackle and guard, but the Packers should consider him as a potential full time starter at guard. William Whitticker, who got beaten up pretty good in 2005, will be a year wiser and give some experience at the other guard position in the 2006 NFL season. This line will gel early on and without significant injuries, will be the strong point of the team.
2006 NFL Grade- A-

Defensive Line- Look for Colin Cole, who surprised everyone last year as a role player on the line, and newcomer Ryan Pickett to be the starting tandem in the defensive middle in the 2006 NFL season. This combo should be pretty solid, though Grady Jackson’s large absence may not be completely filled. On the edges, the Packers will use one of their best players in the 2005 NFL season, Aaron Kampman, and a combination of Kabeer Baja-Biamila, Kenny Peterson, and Cullen Jenkins. None of these defensive end options are particularly strong, but as a group they might be able to hold ground and give Kampman and the linebackers some help.
2006 NFL Grade- B-

Linebacker- The Packers have a complete linebacking group for the first time since their Super Bowl win in the 1996 season. Even then, they did not have the athleticism that the Packers have at this position now. Middle linebacker Nick Barnett, who has developed into a tackling machine behind a weakened defensive line, now has wingmen in Abdul Hodge and A.J. Hawk. Hawk, the Packers’ first round pick in the 2006 NFL Draft, will be able to step in right away and provide help for Barnett. Hodge, who fell into the Packers’ laps in the third round, will surprise those who think he will not be physically able to play at the NFL level. The Packers have a solid core of linebackers in the 2006 NFL season and without injuries, this may propel their defense even higher than it has been.
2006 NFL Grade-A-

Defensive Back- Instead of relying on young corners to learn on the fly, Coach Mike McCarthy and General Manager Ted Thompson went after a big name at corner and got Raiders cornerback Charles Woodson for the 2006 NFL season and beyond. The big question is Woodson’s health but from everything that has happened so far in minicamp, the choice to go after Woodson has been a good one. The Packers have a complimentary corner to hardworking Al Harris and either one of these corners will benefit from forced balls due to solid coverage. Young safety Nick Collins will team with free agent safety Marquand Manuel to give them their best secondary in a few years in the 2006 NFL season.

2006 NFL Grade- B+

Kicker/Punter- For the first time in a decade, the specialist positions are wide open in the offseason and this position will determine how well the Green Bay Packers do in the 2006 NFL season. B.J. Sander, a former third round pick at punter, looks like he will get some competition from former CFL punter John Ryan, with Ryan likely to get the job for the 2006 NFL season with a stronger leg and more refined stride. At kicker, unless the Packers luck out and get someone better, former Cowboy Billy Cundiff will beat out kickoff specialist David Rayner for the kicking job. Ryan is a step up, Cundiff is a significant step down in the 2006 NFL season.
2006 NFL Grade- C+

2006 NFL Preview Projection- The Packers will improve due to a healthy lineup, but the choice of McCarthy, who hasn’t coached very many winning teams, seems strange. Look for Green Bay to go 8-8 and see 2007 as the season to get back on top of the NFC North.

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