GREEN BAY—OTAs are over. Begin the “Dead Zone.”
It’s a kind of re-entry blackout. As we tumble toward training camp, we have nothing to do but sit tight and wait for splash down. It’ll go faster than you think.
Take a vacation. Read a book. Play catch with your kid. Take a walk with your wife. Or spend the next month fretting about all of the issues confronting the Packers and worrying whether or not they can be settled before opening day in San Francisco.
So, what are those issues as we say goodbye to OTAs? What evaluation can be made of this team as the “Underwear League” wraps up another season?
Here they are:
The battle for the backup quarterback job has to be issue No. 1 for the simple reason that it’s the quarterback position. Aaron Rodgers has missed just one snap due to injury over the last two seasons. That’s Favre-like durability and most teams aren’t as fortunate to find back-to-back star quarterbacks that durable. OK, what if Rodgers had to miss a game or two? That’s the issue. This team needs to know it can get by without Rodgers for a game or two. It needs to know it can hand the ball to its backup quarterback and still function at a high level. Graham Harrell and B.J. Coleman will compete this summer for the right to be Rodgers’ backup, and it’s a big deal.
There’s an opening at one of the two safety positions. M.D. Jennings has the kind of ball skills and instincts you want at the position on passing downs; Jerron McMillian is the hitter you want in the lineup when you’re playing against Adrian Peterson. Will one of the two prove this summer that he can do both? It’s an issue.
Will Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin give the Packers the lift they need at running back? Mike McCarthy said “write it down,” the Packers running game will be better. It’s an issue.
Is first-round pick Datone Jones ready to be an impact player? The Packers might not have Jerel Worthy for the start of the season, and they need Jones to be that young lion that punctuates the team’s youth movement on the defensive line. It’s an issue.
The offensive line is getting a makeover. Bryan Bulaga and Josh Sitton have moved from the right side to the left. It involves some technical changes, but the bigger question is whether or not Bulaga can become the left tackle the Packers need to protect Rodgers’ blind side. It’s an issue.
Nick Perry was making gains as a rookie last season when his season was ended midway through the year by a wrist injury. If he can pick up where he left off and become the “other rusher,” the Packers defense will likely make another leap up the rankings. It’s an issue.
Mason Crosby appeared to come out of his funk late last season. The Packers desperately need for that to continue because a championship contender must have a reliable kicker. It’s an issue.
If OTAs can be used as any kind of measuring stick for a team’s outlook, then it can be said the Packers should be a championship contender, again, in 2013. This team has a roster that clearly passes the eye test. The field was littered with athletes this spring. The ingredients are there. It’s just a matter of bringing it all together, and that effort will begin in earnest in training camp.
Now, we wait.