Improving from within was the mantra for the Green Bay Packers last offseason and I don’t expect it to be any different whenever free agency begins this year. Coming off a Super Bowl win, you might be asking yourself how much improving from within is possible. After all, it’s difficult to get much better when you’re already the No. 1 team, right?
As good as the Packers ended last season, this is still a young team (hopefully) on the rise. Continuing to improve from within should be expected. Lets look at each position group and see which players have the most room for improvement, and the talent to get better. We’ll start with the offense and look at the defense later in the week.
Aaron Rodgers had one of the best six-game stretches of any quarterback in the history of the NFL during the Super Bowl run. But he was up and down at times early in the season. Some of that can be attributed to injuries on offense, some of it to inconsistency. As good as Rodgers was, I don’t think he has quite tapped all of his talent. A little more consistency and he should be there. Rodgers is excellent, but I think there’s a little more talent left to tap before he peaks.
Getting Ryan Grant back from injury is an improvement in itself, but the real improvement might have to come from Mike McCarthy. If the Packers resign Brandon Jackson and James Starks stays healthy, McCarthy will have to find the right balance for all three running backs. With Jackson likely taking most snaps on third down, the challenge will be getting the most out of Grant and Starks. We have probably seen Grant at his best already, but Starks has plenty of room to grow. I also think Jackson has the talent to get a bit better. With a little help from McCarthy, this position group can be much better.
The Packers receivers might be the most frustrating position group on the entire team. There’s a lot of talent there, but catching the ball tends to be a problem sometimes. It’s generally accepted that the Packers receivers are among the most dangerous in the NFL, if they improve on catching the ball, they will also be known as the best. Driver is past his prime, Jennings is peaking right now and Nelson should get better. If James Jones is resigned and cures his dropsies, look out. If this already talented group returns intact, there’s room to be better.
As long as Ted Thompson doesn’t join Twitter and immediately cut Jermichael Finley after following him for two days, the tight ends should be better. Finley’s return obviously gives the group a receiving threat. The only thing to worry about is his health. Andrew Quarless looks like a poor man’s version of Finley: athletic, talented, and more of a receiver than a true tight end. Tom Crabtree is more of your down and dirty tight end. He fills a niche on the team. With a healthy Finley and a learning Quarless and Crabtree, Packers’ tight ends look to be on the rise.
While the receivers might be the most frustrating position group, the offensive line probably has the most room for improvement. And that’s a good thing. In the past, Packers fans looked at the line and didn’t have much hope. The line was old, broken down, and weak. Now we can see some potential. Josh Sitton is emerging as a top guard. Bryan Bulaga improved during the season and should only get better. Scott Wells was finally handed the starting job and was great in pass protection. Chad Clifton stayed healthy and was a pro-bowler. With the exception of Clifton, all of these guys have some room for improvement.
Last season was a bust for TJ Lang, and I’m looking forward to seeing how he rebounds in 2011. He showed some positive signs in 2009 and I would not be surprised if he earns more playing time. If Marshall Newhouse gets stronger, he could be a contributor as well. Mix in another offensive lineman or two in the draft and the position group’s future looks promising.
It looks like every position group on offense has the talent to get better. Of course, that doesn’t mean they actually will get better. Players regress all the time and there’s always the possibility that 2010 was just one of those years where the Packers put everything together at just the right time.
But I believe a lot of untapped talent remains on this team. It’s up to McCarthy and the coaching staff to bring it all out.——————
Adam Czech is a a freelance sports reporter living in the Twin Cities and a proud supporter of American corn farmers. When not working, Adam is usually writing about, thinking about or worrying about the Packers. Follow Adam on Twitter. Twitter .