When the lockout started, many NFL observers thought the Green Bay Packers were built to survive an offseason without OTAs and a shortened preseason. Truth is, nobody knows for sure how a team will react to an entire offseason without contact with coaches and organized workouts.
Speculating which team is built to withstand a lockout is kind of silly, anyway. It’s not like Ted Thompson built the Packers with the idea that they wouldn’t be able to practice one offseason. I don’t think he instructed his scouts to find him players that perform better without the benefit of OTAs and a full training camp.
Thompson built the Packers by acquiring talented players. And talented players should perform with or without the benefit of offseason practices.
Unfortunately, the Packers are not the only team with talented players. Every team has talented players. It’s the teams that get the most out of that talent that ends up winning. OTAs, training camp and exhibition games play some sort of role in determining which players get the most out of their talent.
That said, let’s take a look at the Packers position group by position group and try to determine how the lockout and lack of OTAs (and possibly a shortened training camp and reduced preseason games) might impact them. We will give each position group a rating after some brief thoughts. One means the lockout has minimal negative impact on the position group, 10 means the lockout has a major negative impact on the group.
The offense is up first. We will address the defense later in the week.
The more reps a QB has with his receivers the better, so the lockout definitely isn’t helping Aaron Rodgers. However, Rodgers is a veteran – a veteran with a championship – that should have little problem getting reacquainted with a receiving corps he’s already familiar with.
I’m not that worried about James Starks and Alex Green (and Brandon Jackson if he’s resigned) getting extra carries during offseason workouts and training camp. Actually, taking it easy and reducing wear and tear on running backs in practice is probably a good thing. But it would be nice to get Starks and Green some live looks at different blitz pickup situations. If Jackson leaves, they’re going to have to pick up the blocking slack.
With James Jones likely on the way out and newcomer Randall Cobb stepping in, receiver is another position where it would be nice to get some offseason reps. However, like the quarterback position, I don’t think it will take that long for the WRs to reach full speed. Jennings and Driver are proven veterans, Nelson keeps his head down and does whatever is asked of him and Cobb seems like the type that will come in looking to prove himself.
Jermichael Finley would like the reps to get back into football shape and reintroduce himself to Rodgers. Andrew Quarless would like to show Rodgers that he’s a good tight end too. And Tom Crabtree would like to begin fighting off the DJ Williams challenge as soon as possible (although I still think Williams gets moved to FB). The Packers’ tight ends could have probably used the extra offseason work and a full training camp.
Perhaps the offensive line needs two grades. If you’re asking about this season, I think the lockout has minimal impact. With the exception of Bulaga, this is a veteran group. If you’re asking about beyond this season…well, Derek Sherrod looks almost as raw as he is talented. He needs as many reps as possible to hit the ground running in the NFL and build himself up for 2012 and beyond. But since we’re focusing on the upcoming season, that’s what we’ll grade.