Does anyone else have a sinking feeling, a rising pessimism, about the upcoming Packer season? Maybe it's just my natural instinct to low-ball expectations, but I'm starting to get concerned. Let's break things down, shall we?
First, we have the horrendous Favre situation, the most recent developments including Favre signing and submitting his reinstatement papers, and the Packers flying new president Mark Murphy down to Southern Mississippi, apparently in effort to talk Favre out of coming to training camp. Oh yeah, and for some reason Favre refuses to talk with trading partners the Packers have proposed (perhaps he's trying to force his release), and the Bucs' initial trade offer was a late draft pick. Hopefully, Murphy is actually going down there to ask Favre to cooperate with the trade dealings. Most reasonable fans are now hoping that Favre gets traded to a somewhat legitimate contender and the Packers get some decent compensation. Preferably right now. The situation just needs to end. It's turning training camp, which was supposed to be the final leg of the entire team-building/getting over Favre offseason-coehsion process into a circus. Hell, Sportscenter led last night's broadcast with camera interviews of Rodgers, Woodson, Driver and Mark Tauscher. Since when does a Mark Tauscher interview headline Sportscenter? Not good. (Way to wear the Wisco cap though, Tausch.) This is just distracting and draining the energy and focus of a young team that needs to be forging its new identity.
Second, there's the defensive line situation, specifically the DT issues. We all know that Corey Williams and his inteior pass rush were traded in the offseason. Johnny Jolly, already recovering from shoulder surgery, was then found with 1/5th of a kilo of codeine a few weeks ago. (Sal, as the resident physician, how many milligrams are in a normal dose of codeine?) Several writers have predicted that the resulting arrest will lead to a league suspension. Then there's Harrell, who hurt a disc in his back in June and underwent surgery. Now he's reaggravated that same injury, and is one the PUP list. The worst case scenario is he'd miss the entire season. If both of these guys are gone, Colin Cole starts DT next to Pickett, with last season's undrafted rookie Daniel Muir as the primary back-up. That's serious trouble for a team that relies on dominance from "the big uglies" to make its defense work.
Third, the only addition to the pass rush this offseason was the drafting of fourth-rounder Jeremy Thompson, who appears to be a developmental prospect. Anyone remember the Dallas and Giants losses? With KGB hampered or out, Manning the Younger and Tony "Nick Lachey sucks" Romo had all day to pick the Packers apart. The Packers needed to find a third and fourth option behind Kampman and KGB, and, unless Mike Montgomery or Jason Hunter emerge, have failed to do so.
Fourth, unless Trammon Williams is suddenly a star, the same problem holds with the corners. Woodson is good but brittle, and at age 33 Al is an American-made car approaching its 100,000th mile. It's already shown it can't perform at a top level (Burress, TO) and now you're just waiting for the wheels to fall off. As far as other potental replacements, rookie Lee is struggling in practice, Bush was ineffective last year, and Blackmon is injury prone and raw. We all better hope that Williams becomes a solid-starter caliber guy, and fast.
Fifth, Grant remains a holdout. Though we can hope that Wynn and Jackson have improved since last season, there's certainly no reason to think that they're better than Grant, who was stellar generally stellar. As Sal noted, a Favre-less offense will need a strong running game to function. Grant is clearly the best option, but this contract problem means he has not fully participated in any offseason practices, thus missing the opportunity to gel with Rodgers and the tweaked offense.
Sixth and finally, take a look at the schedule. In addition to the division (and an improved Minnesota), it's Dallas again, the Colts, an improving Houston team, at Tampa, at Jacksonville, at Vince Young and Tennesee, and at Drew Brees and New Orleans. Those are some tough match-ups.
Even if Brett had come back and been close to his '07 form, I'd say that repeating as 13-3 is essentially out of the question. 10-6 looks optimistic, honestly, and would require that Rodgers stays healthy and performs pretty well. And a record like that will not come close to satisfying the Favre fanatics, even if he goes to another team and flops or gets hurt. I know the Packers are very strong at LB and WR, and are overall a young developing team, but I just don't see a great year on the horizon. In fact, if injuries kick in at spots where they did last year (CB, DE, DT), I could see the team missing the playoffs and being labled one of the "disappointments" of the year. Combine that with the hangover from the Favre ballyhoo, and you have an organization and a fan base in serious turmoil.
Am I just being a curmudgeon? Can someone give me some reason for optimism, besides the fact that Aaron Rodgers has never lost to the Bears?