The Packers still could be a Super Bowl contender, but first they have to figure out who their quarterback is. Specifically, they have to decide if they will accept or reject Brett Favre's request to return.
Favre turned in a vintage performance in 2007, setting a personal record in completion percentage (66.5), winning as many games as he had won in any previous season (13) and tying his previous best for 300 yard passing games in a season (seven).
He led the Packers on a storybook season, advancing to the NFC championship game before losing to the Giants at Lambeau Field.
If Favre had never considered retirement, the Packers might have been the favorites to win the NFC this year. Without him last year, the Packers probably would not have won the NFC North.
But Favre did announce his retirement, and the Packers subsequently turned the page. All of their offseason efforts were focused on integrating Aaron Rodgers to the team — reconstructing the offense around his skills, making sure he is accepted in the locker room and building him up in the community.
The Packers were quite comfortable with Rodgers as their starter. But how can they tell Favre to get lost?
Let's assume for a minute that Favre does not play in Green Bay this year.
If Rodgers is one of the 15 best quarterbacks of all-time, he will pale in comparison to his predecessor. No matter what he does, Rodgers never will be Favre. Not in the clutch moments of games. Not in the record books. Not in the eyes of Packer Nation.
But Rodgers can be a good quarterback, a winning quarterback. Whenever he has had the chance, he has performed pretty well. Coach Mike McCarthy has a lot of confidence in him.
And the team around him is good enough that Rodgers shouldn't have to carry the load all alone.
If he plays within himself, follows the gameplans, keeps his composure and stays healthy, Rodgers will be fine. If he does not, the boos will come early and often.
Overheard at camp
The Packers say they will run the ball more in 2008, but they have to prove they can do that before anyone will buy it.
Last season, this team was pass happy for most of the year, rushing for only 27 percent of its yards. The Packers got better at running the ball late in the season, but they still remained a team that passed to set up the run. According to Stats, Inc., 32 percent of their runs came with three or more receivers on the field.
So it is not known if the Packers are capable of lining up and ramming it down the throats of opponents on first down with two tight ends on the field.
If Rodgers is the QB, that might even affect the run game more than the pass game, because opponents will be happy to commit a safety to the box if the Packers show the inclination to run more than pass.
Comings and goings
The Packers were so confident in the depth of their defensive line that they traded promising lineman Corey Williams to the Browns for a second round draft choice that they ended up using to take quarterback Brian Brohm.
Among their reasons to be confident are 2007 first round pick Justin Harrell, Johnny Jolly, who McCarthy said was the most active lineman on the team a year ago, Cullen Jenkins, Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, Colin Cole and Pro Bowler Aaron Kampman. Indeed, even without Williams, the Packers may have the deepest defensive line in the league.
Let's make two predictions — one with Favre, one without.
If Favre plays, there is no reason to believe the Packers will drop off from last season. With Favre, the Packers are one of football's best teams.
Without him, they still should be a good team. Remember, Rodgers played better than Favre after replacing him against the Cowboys. It's just that it would be unrealistic to expect that for 16 games.
With a solid defense and a weak division working in their favor, the Farve-less Packers will have a good chance of finishing on the plus side of .500.
PFT: Defensive end finally finds a new team in San Diego — and for a honey of a deal that would be worth a max of $13.35 million.
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