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Online Packers Lines & Predictions - Green Bay Future Odds - Free NFL Betting Previews

2006 Green Bay Packers Season Preview

2006 Packers NFL News - August 30th, 2006
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2006 NFL Previews - By Tony Moss, NFL Editor

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Brett Favre, the wizened old soldier, will have to trust in youth if he wishes to be successful in 2006.Favre was born in the '60's. Three of the linemen entrusted to protect him in this year's starting lineup were born in the '80's.

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The team's next great hope at wide receiver, second-round draft pick Greg Jennings, is just five-and-a- half years older than Favre's eldest daughter. Less than six years separate Favre and his new head coach, 42-year-old former Saints and 49ers offensive coordinator Mike McCarthy, and when looking at the two side-by-side, you could be led to believe that the boyish-looking McCarthy is in fact the graying Favre's younger brother.

The Green Bay Packers are in the midst of a youth movement, one that would have been accelerated had Favre opted not to return for a 16th NFL season. As soon as he decides to retire, a move that many assume he will make at the conclusion of the 2006 campaign, a new era of Packer football will begin in earnest.

Loyal Packers fans, the ones who were forced to sit through last year's 4-12 abomination, are hoping against hope, along with their quarterback, that the Favre era ends on a high note. Favre will be at the heart of that effort, though it is the youngsters that will undoubtedly make up the team's soul.

Below we take a capsule look at the 2006 edition of the Green Bay Packers, with a personnel evaluation and prognosis included therein:

2005 RECORD: 4-12 (4th, NFC North)

LAST PLAYOFF APPEARANCE: 2004, lost to Minnesota, 31-17, in NFC Wild Card Game

COACH (RECORD): Mike McCarthy (first season with Packers, first overall)

OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Jeff Jagodzinski

DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Bob Sanders

OFFENSIVE STAR: Brett Favre, QB (3881 passing yards, 20 TD, 29 INT)

DEFENSIVE STAR: Charles Woodson, CB (30 tackles, 1 INT with Raiders)

OFFENSIVE TEAM RANKS: 30th rushing, 7th passing, 22nd scoring

DEFENSIVE TEAM RANKS: 23rd rushing, 1st passing, t19th scoring

FIVE KEY GAMES: Chicago (9/10), at Philadelphia (10/2), at Minnesota (11/12), at Seattle (11/27), at San Francisco (12/10)

KEY ADDITIONS: QB Ingle Martin (5th Round, Furman), WR Greg Jennings (2nd Round, Western Michigan), OL Daryn Colledge (2nd Round, Boise State), OL Jason Spitz (3rd Round, Louisville), DT Ryan Pickett (from Rams), LB A.J. Hawk (1st Round, Ohio State), LB Ben Taylor (from Browns), ILB Abdul Hodge (3rd Round, Iowa), CB Charles Woodson (from Raiders), S Marquand Manuel (from Seahawks)

KEY DEPARTURES: QB Craig Nall (to Bills), RB Tony Fisher (to Rams), WR Javon Walker (to Broncos), WR/RS Antonio Chatman (not tendered), C/G Grey Ruegamer (to Giants), C Mike Flanagan (to Texans), LB Paris Lenon (to Lions), LB Na'il Diggs (released), K Ryan Longwell (to Vikings)

QB: By the end of last season, Brett Favre (3881 passing yards, 20 TD, 29 INT) was effectively being asked to head a one-man show, a circumstance that did not benefit player or team. The future Hall-of-Famer set career single-season highs for completions (372) and attempts (607), also throwing an NFL-high 29 picks and posting a dismal 70.9 passer rating. It's not that Favre has nothing left, but at the age of 36 (he'll be 37 October 10th), he needs a little more help from his running backs, receivers, and especially his line, than he used to. Whenever Favre decides to hang it up, 2005 first-round pick Aaron Rodgers (65 passing yards, 1 TD) will be the next man in. Fifth-round draft pick Ingle Martin (Furman), who began his career at Florida, will hold the clipboard.

RB: This situation got very ugly very quickly for the Pack last season. Starter Ahman Green (255 rushing yards, 19 receptions) struggled through five games before missing the final 11 with a ruptured quadriceps tendon, while would-be backup Najeh Davenport (105 rushing yards, 2 TD) broke his ankle in his only start and was lost for the season as well. Enter Samkon Gado (582 rushing yards, 10 receptions, 7 TD), an undrafted rookie out of Liberty, who wound up coming off the practice squad to lead Green Bay in rushing and scoring before spraining his knee and missing the final two games, in turn ceding the job to rookie Noah Herron (121 rushing yards, 2 TD). All four of the above players return, with the 29-year-old Green the leading candidate to start if healthy. The oft-injured Davenport could be deemed expendable due to Gado's emergence, which would also be good news for Herron's spot on the team. Fullback William Henderson (30 receptions) struggled with a balky knee during training camp, but is expected back for a 12th season in Green Bay. Vonta Leach (5 receptions) would again back Henderson if the team keeps two fullbacks.

WR/TE: When Javon Walker (4 receptions) was lost for the season with a torn ACL in Week 1 of 2005, Favre was robbed of both his most reliable target and the team's top receiving threat. Donald Driver (86 receptions, 5 TD) filled the No. 1 role adequately, but the team failed to find an outstanding complement to him on the other side of the field. Walker was traded to the Broncos on draft day, meaning the onus is again on Driver and someone else - be it veteran Robert Ferguson (27 receptions, 3 TD), rookie Greg Jennings (2nd Round, Western Michigan), or former first-round draft pick Rod Gardner (13 receptions, 1 TD with Panthers and Packers) - to pick up the slack for the entire season. Jennings made a strong bid for a starting job with an impressive training camp, but rookie wideouts tend to struggle and the more experienced Ferguson or Gardner could win the job for that reason. Vying to win one of the final jobs on the roster will be fourth-round draft pick Cory Rodgers (TCU), who struggled in the preseason, along with fellow youngsters Ruvell Martin, Chris Francies, Chad Lucas, and Calvin Russell. At tight end, Bubba Franks (25 receptions, 1 TD), David Martin (27 receptions, 3 TD), and Donald Lee (33 receptions, 2 TD) all return and will be counted on heavily.

OL: The line was an area requiring a major upgrade in the offseason, but the Packers opted not to tap into the free agent market, instead building the trench unit via the draft. Green Bay will need its rookies, including potential opening-day starters and guards Tony Moll (5th Round, Nevada) and Jason Spitz (3rd Round, Louisville), to play over their heads throughout the year. A third rookie, guard Daryn Colledge (2nd Round, Boise State), struggled in training camp but will be the first player in if either Moll or Spitz fails or gets hurt. The rest of the starting line consists of holdovers, with Mark Tauscher and Chad Clifton holding down the right and left tackle slots, respectively, and Scott Wells playing center. Wells played primarily at guard last season, but was moved to center after veteran Mike Flanagan defected to the Texans via free agency. In addition to Colledge, holdovers Chris White and Junious Coston should provide depth, with undrafted rookie Chris Bourke (Grand Valley State) on the bubble to make the team as well.

DL: The major departure here is massive tackle Grady Jackson (54 tackles, 1 sack), the Packers' biggest space-eater along the front four who signed with the Falcons as a free agent. Into Jackson's spot steps ex-Ram Ryan Pickett (65 tackles, 2 sacks with St. Louis), who is smaller than Jackson but makes more plays. The rest of the starting line group will remain the same, with Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila (51 tackles, 8 sacks) and Aaron Kampman (81 tackles, 6.5 sacks) again occupying the ends, and the blossoming Colin Cole (40 tackles, 2 sacks) at the other tackle slot. Adding depth on the interior will be holdovers Corey Williams (26 tackles, 2 sacks) and Cullen Jenkins (37 tackles, 3 sacks), both of whom played extensively last season, along with perhaps former Giant Kenderick Allen (20 tackles, 2 sacks with New York). Michael Montgomery (22 tackles, 1 sack) and Kenny Peterson (23 tackles, 3 sacks) figure to serve as the backups at end, though Peterson struggled with an ankle injury during the preseason.

LB: The Packers embarked upon a major overhaul of this unit in the offseason, allowing former principles like Na'il Diggs (35 tackles), Paris Lenon (65 tackles, 1.5 sacks), and Robert Thomas (41 tackles, 1 INT) to walk away and replacing them with the likes of ex-Brown Ben Taylor (113 tackles) and rookies A.J. Hawk (1st Round, Ohio State) and Abdul Hodge (3rd Round, Iowa). Taylor and Hawk step immediately into starting jobs on the strong side and weak side, respectively, and Hodge, who was impressive in training camp, is seen as the heir apparent to Nick Barnett (138 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT) in the middle. Filling out reserve roles along with Hodge will be 2005 fourth-round draft pick Brady Poppinga (28 tackles, 2 sacks), who comes off ACL surgery but will help on special teams, and either holdover Roy Manning (25 tackles) or journeyman special-teamer Tracy White (4 tackles with Jaguars).

DB: McCarthy needed to address this area immediately upon his arrival in Green Bay, as the Packers have long been noted for their revolving door at cornerback and their acute lack of playmaking in the secondary. The Pack ranked near the bottom of the league with just 10 interceptions in 2005. Looking to help combat that trend will be cornerback and 1997 Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson (30 tackles, 1 INT with the Raiders), who fell out of favor in Oakland but still has some good years left. The reliable Al Harris (53 tackles, 3 sacks, 3 INT) will line up opposite Woodson, with 2004 first- round pick Ahmad Carroll (44 tackles, 2 INT) relegated to a backup role along with Mike Hawkins (13 tackles). There is also a change at strong safety, where ex-Seahawk Marquand Manuel (71 tackles with Seattle) steps into the spot vacated by Mark Roman (90 tackles, 2 INT), with second-year-pro Nick Collins (84 tackles, 1 INT) occupying the free safety position. Sixth-round draft choice Tyrone Culver (Fresno State) and holdover Jason Horton (8 tackles) are slated to provide further depth. Safety Marviel Underwood (35 tackles), who played in all 16 games last season, will miss the season with a serious knee injury suffered in the preseason.

SPECIAL TEAMS: The kicking game will have a brand new look, as longtime place-kicker Ryan Longwell (20-27 FG) defected to the enemy Vikings via free agency and punter B.J. Sander (39.2 avg.) was cut in training camp after one poor season on the job. Though Green Bay figures to scan the waiver wire for veterans after final cuts are made, unknowns Dave Rayner and Jon Ryan were the leading in-house candidates for kicking and punting duties, respectively, as preseason neared a close. Rayner served as the Colts' kickoff specialist as a rookie last season but has never made an NFL regular-season kick, and Ryan led the CFL in punting while with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 2005. The team had Charles Woodson listed as its No. 1 punt returner and Najeh Davenport atop the kickoff return list during camp, though the sketchy health of both players could spell a shot for younger players at both positions. Rob Davis returns for his 10th season as the Packers' long-snapper.

PROGNOSIS: Brett Favre's reason for coming back to play one more season obviously had nothing to do with the Super Bowl, as the 2006 Packers are far too young and thin to list that as a realistic goal. Favre likely found the notion that he would enter retirement on the heels of a 29-interception disgrace difficult to digest, and saw enough of a supporting cast around him to suggest that wouldn't happen again. Make no mistake, however, this is a team that is going to struggle at times. The running back, wide receiver, and offensive line situations were all fluid as the preseason neared its conclusion, and it appeared probable that as many as three rookies would start on offense. On the other side of the ball, five newcomers were slated to start, and while most of them represent upgrades over their predecessors, it seems probable that it will take some time for the unit to jell. Which brings us to the presence of a brand new coaching staff, one that figures to make some mistakes here and there in its rookie season on the job. If McCarthy can push enough of the right buttons, there is a chance this team could enter December with a shot in a still-marginal NFC North. But that's probably wishful thinking, and the reality is that the next QB to take a snap for the Packers in a playoff game will likely be someone other than Favre.


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