OTA’s start tomorrow and the Packers, like every other team in the league they begin the process of forging the pieces of last year’s team together with new additions to create a coherent, hopefully stronger whole. But the Packers had some questions coming into this off-season and OTA’s will be a chance to begin the process of answering them. Here are my top three:
Will Jordy Nelson be 100 percent?
Jordy Nelson’s injury last year was the first in what became a long list of offensive injuries last year. All reports have Jordy ahead of schedule in the process of coming back from the ACL reconstruction. With an ACL, straight line speed is not the problem (I should know, I ran track for three years without an ACL), the trouble comes with getting in and out of breaks and making sure that flexibility comes back to 100 percent. Jordy is certainly getting the best treatment available and attacking the protocol the same way he attacked defenders on the field. For him, patience is a virtue and that will be the hardest part from the standpoint of a fan as well. The Packers have an extra pre-season game this year and I am sure that Mike McCarthy will hold Jordy back as much as possible as the last thing he wants is a repeat of last year. This, however, will be a great opportunity for the younger players and, I believe, will be better for the team overall.
So I will be watching to see what level of participation Jordy takes in OTA’s and whether he is cutting yet. OTA’s are a great place for him to start as there is no contact allowed. With the hard work that we know he always puts in, and the excellent training staff of the Packers…combined with coach McCarthy’s excellent job of managing veterans’ bodies, I expect Jordy will be back and better than ever.
2. Can the Packers replace BJ Raji?
The nose tackle position on a 3-4 defense is critical and the Packers were surprised by the unexpected hiatus of BJ Raji. Raji had been rejuvenated in 2015, more flexible and a little bit lighter, and now, he will need to be replaced at least for 2016. The Packers will be missing Mike Pennel for four games and it remains to be seen if someone can step up. At the same time, the Packers have been playing a lot of sub-packages and did more than just get the job done. Will Dom Capers be able to fill the gap? Will guys like Kenny Clark or Christian Ring make a leap (all signs point to the fact that Ringo has)? The rotation of the front line for the Packers’ defense is even more important than one stout run-stuffer/double team demanding nose tackle. It remains to be seen if the Packers will be able to reach the same potential as last year.
3. Who will be the ILB complement to Sam Barrington?
Sam Barrington coming back healthy will be a big part of the Packers’ ability to move Clay Matthews back outside. The question is…who will be his complement? Jake Ryan will have a year under his belt but guys like Blake Martinez must be hoping to impress and maybe compete for playing time right out of the gate. I expect to see the Packers try Kyler Fackrell on the inside as they have already shown the ability to convert OLB’s to ILB’s. I would love to see Fackrell’s 6’5″ frame running side-to-side on the inside as the complement to the thumper Barrington. If he performs, the Packers will find a way to get him on the field and I think he is the less-known wild card on this defense. He speaks softly…let’s see if he carries a big stick. With a frame like that, he could always add weight. The Packers’ coaching staff must be excited to see him play.
But both questions 2 and 3 involve the middle of the defense and to me, that is the biggest question mark…will the interior of the Packers’ defense once again become a seive? While being soft in the middle is great if you are a Dunkin Donut, the same can’t be said for an NFL team that has to face Adrian Peterson twice a year.
So the beginning of OTA’s marks the beginning of the answers to these and other burning questions for the Packers. Can’t wait to get started…can’t wait to get answers. What are your burning questions PackerNation? Let us know in the comments below or back on the Facebook Fanpage.