Jul 15, 2009
After going 13-3 and going to the NFC Title Game in 2007, the Packers looked to establish a new identity in 2008, as a changing of the guard occurred with Brett Favre giving way to Aaron Rodgers. The Brett Favre saga was forever linked to the Packers throughout the season, but Rodgers did all he could to put it behind them, finishing with 4,038 yards, 28 touchdowns, and only 13 interceptions. His efforts, though, were hidden by the Packers’ overall record of 6-10.
Rodgers’ numbers were partly a result of the shootouts the Packers were regularly involved in, making it evident that changes were needed on the defensive side of the ball. As such, Dom Capers was brought in this off-season to be the defensive coordinator and will change the defensive scheme to that of a 3-4 defense. The switch will put defensive end, Aaron Kampman, at outside linebacker. The Packers also drafted NT B.J. Raji out of Boston College and LB Clay Matthews out of USC to fit the new scheme and to try to rebuild their defense quickly.
While changes were made to the defense, the offense will look pretty similar to the 2008 version. Behind Rodgers will be Ryan Grant, who rushed for 1,203 yards and 4 touchdowns a season ago. Grant struggled to find his groove early in the season due to a holdout and hamstring injury, but with a full off-season, he should be ready by week 1. His backups will still be Brandon Jackson and DeShawn Wynn, who will come in when Grant needs a breather.
The guys catching the ball will be familiar faces, too. Greg Jennings remains Rodgers’ favorite target, as he caught 80 balls for 1,292 yards and 9 touchdowns a season ago. Donald Driver and his 74 catches for 1,012 yards and 5 touchdowns will be on the other side of the field. Jordy Nelson, in his second year out of Kansas State, will look to add to his 366 yards and 2 scores from a season ago. Finally, tight end, Donald Lee, will again be Rodgers’ safety valve, as he caught 39 balls for 303 yards and 5 scores last year.
Anthony Smith (S) - Smith comes over from the Pittsburgh Steelers where he was known for his big hits and his guarantee that the Steelers would end the Patriots run to perfection back in 2007. A guarantee that blew up in his face when the Steelers lost and the Pats picked on him all day long. His presence, though, may help the Packers as they switch to a 3-4 defense as he can play general, helping out the secondary and making sure they get into the right packages. While he does tend to get beat deep at times, he is a hard hitting safety who looks to make the big plays.
ROOKIE TO WATCH
B.J. Raji (DT) - A top 5 talent on most teams’ draft boards, Raji slipped down to #9 overall and G.M. Ted Thompson could not have been happier. Raji will anchor the Packers’ 3-4 defensive unit, likely taking on many double teams. His presence on the inside will open things up for the team’s linebackers, allowing them to get more pressure in the backfield.
BRUNO BOYS SPOTLIGHT
Aaron Rodgers (QB) - His numbers as a starter in his first year were impressive, totaling over 4,000 yards. And, they should continue to be impressive as he has weapons around him that should allow him to succeed for years to come. While his numbers were a reflection in part to the team’s pitiful defense last year, which forced him to throw the ball more than he and the team would have liked, he showed he can play in any kind of situation. Rodgers showed he can be a QB1 for any fantasy team and will continue to do so during his maturation process this year. Expect more good things out of Rodgers in 2009.
Ryan Grant (RB) - Even though the Packers did have to throw more than they would have liked, Grant was still able to get his carries. The back totaled 312 rushes on the season, though he did little with the ones he got in the beginning of the year. In fact, he only had 55 carries for 186 yards and zero touchdowns through the first 4 weeks of the season. If he can avoid a slow start and plays strong for an entire season, his numbers should go up from last year, meaning Grant would be a RB1 in all formats.