By Cris Collinsworth
1) B.J. Raji is a huge part of the success of this team. I let the tape tell me who the stars are based on double teams.
Nobody played the Packers in the second half of last year and the playoffs without double teaming that big guy, and he still made plays. After playing his rookie year without camp and on a sprained ankle, he exploded in year two and should be even better this year.
The player the Packers need to step up this year is Mike Neal. He is the primary pass rushing replacement for Cullen Jenkins. Injury concerns with Neal leave them very thin at pass rushing end/tackle.
2) Charles Woodson never gets enough credit. He plays the Rod Woodson role in Dom Capers’ defense. He is part corner, safety, and linebacker. His ability to fill holes on the run and spy vs. Mike Vick was the difference against the Eagles in the playoffs.
3) If Dom Capers ever finds another outside linebacker opposite Clay Matthews, look out. Remember, Dom Capers’ system is the Steelers’ 3-4. It is almost amazing that he has accomplished what he has in Green Bay without that second outside backer.
4) The Packers have issues at tackle. Bryan Bulaga is playing really well at RT. Chad Clifton had a really tough day against Dwight Freeney at LT vs. the Colts, but so does everybody.
Still Clifton’s age is a concern, and based on the tape that I have seen, rookie Derek Sherrod has a long way to go. They tried him at guard and that didn’t work at all. TJ Lang easily beat him out. Now at tackle, he is way behind. Marshall Newhouse is another tackle in the mix, but he isn’t ready either.
Depth at tackle is a major concern for the Packers this year.
5) Running back by committee this year. Ryan Grant, James Starks, and maybe Alex Green will share the load in Green Bay this year. Very unlikely that any of them crack 1,000 yards individually.
6) Jermichael Finley and Jordy Nelson appear ready to take a much more prominent role in the passing game. Both could put up big numbers this year and help Greg Jennings, the Packers best receiver, find a little more single coverage than usual.
7) Finally, the Packers secondary should be even better this year. Morgan Burnett is back at safety (did give up a really cheap TD vs. the Colts) and the improvement from corners Tramon Williams and Sam Shields was a major reason the Packers won the Super Bowl last year.
Cris Collinsworth, an eight-year NFL veteran, is entering his third season as a member of the NBC Sunday Night Football broadcast team and his 22nd season with Inside the NFL, now on Showtime. He also is a key member of The Experts Network, a digital media and content company formed under the auspices of 16W Marketing, along with Howie Long, Boomer Esiason, Phil Simms, Nick Faldo and Cal Ripken Jr. TXN has a strategic marketing, sales and content alliance with Big Lead Sports.