The draft is fast approaching, and the weather has finally started to turn. Let’s look at the five biggest summer questions for the Green Bay Packers as we start to look towards training camp.
How will the running game take shape?
The Packers running backs were ravaged by injuries in 2016, but they currently have less tailback depth than last season. Converted wide out Ty Montgomery figures to be the lead dog, with Christine Michael and fullback Aaron Ripkowski filling in as needed.
It seems safe to assume that general manager Ted Thompson will take a running back somewhere in the draft, even if it is with one of his later picks. Head coach Mike McCarthy must be creative juggling his running backs, but training camp and the preseason will give us a clearer idea of how the snaps are divvied up.
Can the young defenders take the next step?
The Packers spent three high draft picks on defenders over the last two seasons, taking defensive tackle Kenny Clark in the first round last year, and defensive backs Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins in the first two rounds in 2015. Still, the Packers defense finished just 22nd in total yards and 21st in points allowed in 2016.
Green Bay is certainly going to need improvement from their two young corners in 2017. This summer will be crucial to see who makes the leap and takes the number one reigns from the recently released Sam Shields.
Who will be this year’s summer star?
Every year, for every team, a late-round or undrafted rookie pops during practice. Last year, wide receiver Geronimo Allison’s impressive size stole the show. Allison ended up making his debut in October, and really came on late in the regular season.
Fans and media will have to wait to see who the Packers take late in the draft or sign afterwards, but a summer star is almost inevitable in Green Bay. We’ll just have to see if that player can make an actual in-season impact once fall rolls around.
Who are the core pass rushers?
With Julius Peppers and Datone Jones departing in free agency, the Packers now have to replace 8.5 sacks from last season’s mediocre pass-rushing team. There are not many impact names on the depth chart behind Nick Perry and Clay Matthews (who is coming off a career-worst season). Training camp will be critical for young players Dean Lowry, Jayrone Elliott, and Kyle Fackrell as Green Bay attempts to fill Peppers’ Hall-of-Fame shoes.
Can the stars stay healthy?
The goal of every summer is to develop young players and to stay healthy. Obviously, Aaron Rodgers is the number one priority there, but Green Bay has struggled to keep their secondary stars healthy over the past few years as well, with Matthews, Randall Cobb, and Jordy Nelson all missing significant time.
McCarthy must put an increased emphasis on keeping his top players healthy heading into the season as the Packers core continues to age. These age concerns also put more pressure on the young players to develop into the next wave of Packers’ stars.