Well, here we go again. The Sam Bradford show is back.
While we may have a strong grasp of what's going on our side, the Green Bay Packers come to St. Louis with some demons of their own to exorcise this year.
So last year, Green Bay edged out Chicago to take the division and endured what had to be a difficult-to-digest loss to the Niners in the first round. How has the team responded this offseason? Is it buried history at this point or is there a sense that it was a step to build on?
I'd be hard pressed to say the team responded solely to two games at the end of the season. The Packers struggled mightily on the defensive end all season, and many of their offseason moves were predicated on addressing that issue.
After several seasons of futile efforts to locate a companion edge rusher for Clay Matthews, the Packers signed former All-Pro Julius Peppers. He's no longer an elite defender and he's adjusting to a new position, but Peppers should command enough attention to aid Matthews and rising defensive end Mike Daniels.
The Packers also waived goodbye to starting safety M.D. Jennings in favor of converted cornerback Micah Hyde and first-round pick Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. It appears both will receive playing time this season opposite of Morgan Burnett, with Hyde moving back to the slot in dime and sub packages.
The team also revamped its defensive line. Gone are mammoth tackles Ryan Pickett and Johnny Jolly. In their place, B.J. Raji shifts back to his natural nose tackle position with the aforementioned Daniels flanking him at one of the ends. The other defensive end has yet to be determined, but second-year players Datone Jones and Josh Boyd are the frontrunners.
But to circle back to your question, while these moves weren't made with a particular team in mind, they certainly do affect the Packers' chances against those teams. Chicago made plenty of moves this offseason to rebuild its defense. San Francisco returns one of the league's best rosters and could meet the Packers in the playoffs. It's far too early to say how Green Bay will match up with those teams, but the early returns have been positive.
How is the rookie class shaping up this far? Are Ha Ha and Khyri Thornton on pace to improve the defense? Does Davante Adams look like he can be a key component of the passing offense as deep as that WR corps is? Any late-rounders or UDFAs standing out?
While it's too early to judge this or any team's 2014 draft class, the rookies are beginning to carve out their roles for the 2014 season. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix may not start Week 1 against the Seahawks, but he'll receive plenty of burn when the Packers play in their dime and sub packages — a common occurrence under defensive coordinator Dom Capers. Davante Adams has made a push of late for the third receiver spot on the depth chart, essentially a starting position in the Packers offense. He'll battle Jarrett Boykin through the preseason. Likewise, rookie tight end Richard Rodgers and Brandon Bostick are competing to start at tight end.As for undrafted free agents, the most noteworthy have been running back Rajion Neal and linebacker Joe Thomas. Unfortunately, both sustained injuries in the Packers' first preseason game and aren't expected to suit up on Saturday.
What are the expectations for Eddie Lacy this year? After a rookie campaign as successful as his was, I wonder how high the bar is being set by the Packers. I noticed he sat out the first preseason game. Any concern or indication of the theory of being overworked at Alabama?
The goals for Eddie Lacy in 2014 are simple: stay healthy and improve as a pass blocker. Lacy managed to play 15 games as a rookie, but he lasted all of one run against Washington and was limited by a high-ankle sprain down the stretch. Lacy was also limited on passing downs due to his pass pro deficiencies. If he improves in that area and avoid being subbed out for John Kuhn, it'll greatly speed up the Packers' offense.
As for being overworked at Alabama, I'm not sure that's the case. He split carries every season in Mobile with Trent Richardson or T.J. Yeldon. Lacy's health issues appear to stem from some other cause. He's the type of player that may miss a lot of practice, but will tough it out on game day.
How would you classify the current coaching staff’s performance? Any heat under DC Dom Capers’ seat?
As much as many of our readers like to pretend otherwise, Dom Capers seems to have plenty of job security. Head coach Mike McCarthy never waivered in his support of Capers after either of the defense's poor showings in 2011 and 2013. And that's not unreasonable; the Packers suffered an extraordinary amount of injuries on defense those seasons. That's not to say Capers gets a complete pass for those injuries, but McCarthy believes in what he can do with a healthy roster.
The Rams may see only one series for Aaron Rodgers. The Packers' franchise quarterback didn't even suit up against Tennessee. McCarthy has stated that Rodgers will play, but I wouldn't expect him to stay in for long. The same probably goes for Jordy Nelson, Eddie Lacy, and most of the team's key first stringers.
As for who had a standout performance, I liked what Richard Rodgers offered as a blocker. He made the key block that sprung James Starks' touchdown run. St. Louis offers a far better test defensively, so it'll be an important "prove it" opportunity for the rookie tight end.