WELCOME BACK: MIKE PETTINE, who had been out of the league since 2015. The defensive coordinator has a philosophy similar to that of the man he replaces, Dom Capers: exotic pass-rush designs and man coverage on the perimeter. This explains the selections of corners JAIRE ALEXANDER and JOSH JACKSON in the first and second rounds, respectively. With second-year player KEVIN KING, they may be the most gifted young cornerbacking trio in the NFL. Strong man-to-man coverage gives Pettine's blitzes the best chance to succeed.
Coach MIKE MCCARTHY talked this offseason about taking his playbook "back to page one." But don't expect to see a whole new offense. Almost every NFL system ultimately takes on the shape of its quarterback, and that is especially true when a superstar such as AARON RODGERS is at the helm. Though he is capable of beating defenses with presnap reads and quick throws, Rodgers frequently passes up open receivers and leaves clean pockets, which would warrant a reprimand for most QBs. But he's so exceptional that he often goes on to make a better play. The tricky part for McCarthy is that Rodgers's approach is more conducive to spread formations and isolation routes which, when relied upon too heavily, can lead to dry spells in the passing game. The challenge is to find the proper mix.
The Packers spent wisely when they signed tight end JIMMY GRAHAM. After playing three seasons with Russell Wilson in Seattle, Graham is familiar with the sandlot style that Green Bay drills. With his size and post-up ability he can make the back-shoulder and red-zone catches that had been the stock-in-trade of the now-departed JORDY NELSON.
A pressure-oriented defense must force obvious passing situations to blitz against, which means it has to stop the run. Green Bay's D-line, led by MIKE DANIELS at end, is potentially one of the league's best. We say potentially because '16 first-rounder KENNY CLARK has shown immense talent at tackle, but only in spurts, and MUHAMMAD WILKERSON, signed from the Jets, hasn't played up to his ability since 2015.
2017 RECORD 7W 9L
SI'S 2018 PREDICTION 11W 5L
15th 49ERS [Monday]
15th @SEAHAWKS [Thursday]
WITH SCATBACK TY MONTGOMERY and second-year pros JAMAAL WILLIAMS and AARON JONES, the Packers have balance and depth. The question is, Can any of these backs separate himself and become Green Bay's playmaker?