We are rapidly moving through the summer, which means the start of the NFL season is not too far away. The Green Bay Packers begin training camp in less than a week, so let's dive into four storylines to watch leading up to the home opener against Seattle on Sept. 10.
1. Who will emerge from this new-look secondary?
The Packers' meager secondary proved to be the team's downfall in 2017. Injuries took their toll, but second-year players Demarious Randall and Quinten Rollins failed to match their productive rookie years, which forced the offense into weekly shootouts. Ultimately, the season ended when the offense slipped and the defense was unable to step up.
Ted Thompson responded with a flurry of moves in the offseason to revamp the secondary. Gone are former stalwarts Sam Shields and Micah Hyde, in are Davon House and Kevin King. House, who played for Green Bay from 2011-13, was a part of Jacksonville's top-five pass defense last year. Thompson followed that by drafting King out of the University of Washington with the team's first pick in April.
The Packers really need Rollins and Randall to return to peak form. The pair missed a combined nine games in 2016, so that could have been a difference. Either way, they were two of the lead contributors in the Packers' 31st ranked pass defense last year.
If the secondary is to improve in 2017, they will need to play up to their potential. It is unrealistic to expect King as a rookie, or House (who struggled to get on the field with the Jaguars) to take the reigns this season. With Shields and Hyde gone, Randall and Rollins are now the veterans back there -- it's time to show it on the field.
2. Is this Aaron Rodgers' best receiving corps ever?
In recent years, the Packers have not always surrounded Rodgers with top-flight pass catchers. But this year, there appears to be plenty of young talent complementing the stars.
Jordy Nelson dominated defenses in the second half in 2016, and should be even stronger with the ACL injury in his rearview mirror. New tight end Martellus Bennett is a massive upgrade over Jared Cook and Richard Rodgers. Davante Adams established himself as a bona fide number two option last season, which puts Randall Cobb back in his slot role where he is best suited. And although Geronimo Allison is suspended for the season opener, he should take another step forward as a big-bodied threat on the sideline and in the red zone.
Apologies to the Nelson-Greg Jennings-Jermichael Finley-Donald Driver-Cobb crew of 2011, but this group features more players in the prime of their career. Rodgers seems poised for his best year ever at age 33.
3. Who is this year's summer star?
Every year, at every camp, there will be at least one "summer star." Allison was that guy in 2016, just as Jeff Janis and countless others were before him.
The nature of a summer star makes it hard to predict them beforehand, but seventh-round WR Malachi Dupre seems like a good bet to break out. Dupre averaged 16.4 yards per reception at LSU, and has good size at 6'3.
4. What is the plan at running back?
The Packers will go with converted wideout Ty Montgomery this year, meaning they have to get creative at the tailback spot.
Montgomery averaged over 6.2 yards per game on the ground during the final 10 games last year, so he is plenty capable of finding holes. However, that did come on just seven carries per game, so it's not like head coach Mike McCarthy will be able to lean on him for 300 carries this season
Green Bay did bring in two new running backs via the draft: Jamaal Williams in the fourth round and Aaron Jones in the fifth round. Montgomery figures to handle the bulk of the pass-catching duties out of the backfield, so the Packers are hoping one of Williams or Jones can turn into a bruiser for short-yardage situations. Fullback Aaron Ripkowski is also in line for some handoffs, although his costly fumble in the NFC Championship game is still ingrained in the minds of many Packers fans.
At the very least, the Packers have a bevy of options. This summer will be about finding the best combination in the backfield to support Rodgers.