Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy is determined not to let his team fall victim to over-confidence, but convincing everyone outside his locker room that the guys inside it aren’t the team to beat in 2011 will be a nearly impossible task, especially following the conclusion of this year’s draft.
A very good offense just got better, as four of the team’s first five picks are on the offensive side of the ball.
First-round pick Derek Sherrod gives the Packers depth at tackle that is the envy of the league.
Second-round pick Randall Cobb makes a very good wide receiver corps better, maybe even special.
Third-rounder Alex Green turns the heat up on an already sizzling position battle at running back.
Fifth-rounder D.J. Williams no doubt has Packers fans scratching their heads as they wonder what McCarthy is going to do with all the tight ends.
Loaded? Yeah, you might say that about the Packers offense, which will welcome back from injured reserve star tight end Jermichael Finley and consecutive-seasons-1,200-yard rusher Ryan Grant.
While other coaches finished the draft wondering what they’re going to do about the holes in their depth chart they weren’t able to address in the draft, the biggest question McCarthy’s facing on offense is which one of his last two first-round picks is going to play right tackle and which one is going to play left tackle.
Only a few weeks after his team won Super Bowl XLV, McCarthy stood in front of reporters at the scouting combine and talked about the need to improve on offense. It looks like there’s a real good chance the Packers will.
“We weren’t the best offense in the league. That’s the goal. We feel we have more to offer offensively. We feel like we can do a better job,” McCarthy said in his draft-ender to the media. “I’m pretty confident we’re going to be a hungry football team this year. There’s nothing like competition.”
As sure as General Manager Ted Thompson picked from the top of the Packers’ draft board the past three days, the Packers are going to be the runaway Super Bowl favorite for the 2011 season. If it was at all in doubt before the draft, it isn’t now. Thompson, ladies and gentleman, has painted another masterpiece. He will, undoubtedly, receive high grades from the draftniks for his work the past three days.
“It’s about improving your football team. I understand everybody looks at the depth chart, but that’s a mistake. You have to bring in value,” McCarthy said. “We’re a perfect example of what can happen in the season.”
In a draft that wasn’t slammed with blue-chip defensive linemen, Sherrod would likely have been a top-15 pick. He’s the quintessential light-on-his-feet giant. He’s the twinkle-toes 300-pound pass-blocker every GM wants for his quarterback’s blindside.
Cobb can catch the ball, run with the ball, run out of shotgun formation, return punts and even hold for placement. His play is the very definition of the word energy.
Green is a pounder and everybody knows pounders don’t play in Hawaii, which caused his talent to be camouflaged by his school’s reputation for not playing rock-ribbed football. Oh, look what Ted found.
Williams is the most intriguing story of all. If it’s true you won’t be a very good football player if football is the toughest thing you’ve ever done in your life, then there’s no worry about Williams being anything but a great football player because football is, by far, one of the easiest things he’s ever done in his life. Living is, by far, the toughest thing Williams has ever had to do.
“It’s a hard business. It’s a competitive business. We want it to be hard for guys to come in and make our team,” Thompson told reporters in his farewell-to-the-draft remarks.
Making this team, Ted, will, in fact, be a very difficult thing to do. You’ve succeeded in your pursuit.
Every one of the players Thompson drafted, from Sherrod to Arizona State defensive tackle Lawrence Guy, is a bonafide prospect to wear a “G” on the side of his head next fall. No stiffs in this bunch.
Take Arizona defensive end Ricky Elmore, for example. Elmore was the teammate of defensive end Brooks Reed, a second-round pick by the Houston Texans. The Packers had interest in Reed, for he fit in the area of the final pick of the first round and he projected nicely to outside linebacker in Dom Capers’ 3-4. So, of course, does Elmore.
The Packers worked the two players out together. You might say Elmore and Reed were working out against each other, and you might say Elmore worked out well enough to qualify as the sixth-round equivalent of Reed.
“We’ve added depth and competition to our football team,” McCarthy said. “Any time you fall into the mindset of feeling you’re a little better than you are, that’s a mistake.”
McCarthy won’t allow his players to make that mistake. Fans and media will.
Maybe it won’t be a mistake.