Steve Wyche recently visited Packers camp in Green Bay, Wis. Here's what he saw.
1. The lockout might have benefitted the Packers. "We didn't get a chance to enjoy things," cornerback Tramon Williams said. "It's a good thing. We've got the hunger to get another and to have the chance to celebrate like we're supposed to."
Added cornerback Charles Woodson: "If there hadn't been a lockout and we'd come around for OTAs and offseason workouts, guys would have kind of been living high off the hog, so to speak. We'd be together talking about the Super Bowl, throwing parties here, throwing parties there. With the lockout, guys were in their respective corners trying to figure out what was going to happen, where they were going to work out. It kept everybody focused."
2. Aaron Rodgers is good. In surveying a handful of NFL quarterbacks over the summer, I asked which one had the biggest arm. Somewhat to my surprise, several said Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. I knew he had a gun and was accurate but when I visited practice, I specifically watched to see if his peers were exaggerating. They weren't. I don't know why I never took note of it before, but Rodgers can pump it in tight spots on a rope or deliver it deep with as much velocity and touch as the best quarterbacks in the game.
3. Desmond Bishop wants another chance to visit the White House. Bishop, an inside linebacker, might rival Woodson as the straw that stirs Dom Capers' defense. Bishop, who made Nick Barnett expendable, is a thumper in the running game, can cover a ton of ground in the open field and can even cover tight ends. He erased every tight end the Packers faced in the playoffs, allowing Capers to do other things with Woodson that confounded offenses. Packers' tight end Jermichael Finley, who is as athletic as they come, said Bishop is the only linebacker in the NFL who can cover him -- and it drives him crazy.
4. Jermichael Finley needs to stay healthy. Wide receiver Greg Jennings told me, "I just want to see him make it through one year." Finley has not completed any of his previous three seasons because of injury. Jennings jokingly said that by staying on the field, Finley can stop telling everyone how good he can be and show everyone because Finley, he said, is a one-of-a-kind talent.
5. The outside linebacker spot opposite Clay Matthews remains unsettled. Frank Zombo is working with the starters but Erik Walden and Brad Jones are very much in play, according to defensive coaches. If all three make the team, this staff will find a way to make use of all of them. The staff is one of the best in the league and its ability to fit guys in at the right time in the right set is uncanny.
New guy watch
» Derek Sherrod. The first-round pick out of Mississippi State is engaged in an all-out battle with veteran T.J. Lang for the starting spot on the offensive line vacated by the free-agent departure of Daryn Colledge. There is a lot of optimism about Sherrod and the hope is that he catches on quickly. With Rodgers to protect, the team is going to put him on the field for on-the-job-training, and he is very much in play to win the job.
» Randall Cobb. This draft class is so stacked. The second-rounder could be nudging his way into the top wide receiver rotation, which is saying something with Jordy Nelson and James Jones occupying spots 3 and 4, for now, behind Jennings and Donald Driver. Cobb is drawing strong reviews from teammates. His ability to return kicks makes him even more appealing.
» Davon House. The rookie corner, a fourth-round pick, was showing up big-time early in training camp, but a pulled hamstring could keep him out for much of the preseason. House is yet another find in the secondary and he stands an excellent chance of making the team. There is little concern about where he fits: As we've seen with the Packers, injuries could open doors, but the staff will play the best players.
"There's been talk since I got here in 1999 and it's still here in 2011. I don't think it's ever going to change. One day I'm going to get the credit as being one of the best receivers to play this game but at this point, I'm comfortable with whatever everyone else says. If I can motivate myself off that and go out there and play at a high level, that's fine."
--Wide receiver Donald Driver on being underappreciated.
When the Browns' starters jumped on the Packers the way they did in last week's preseason game, it was an eye opener. Teams can talk about staying away from the Super Bowl malaise, but getting popped in the mouth out of the gate got Green Bay's attention and showed what's going to be in store for them each week. The Packers realize they weren't a dominant team last season until it mattered most. They're going to face some adversity but Green Bay is so insulated talent-wise and so well-coached, I can see the Pack winning their division and challenging for the Super Bowl again. The defense is going to play as big a role as the offense, and B.J. Raji, Clay Matthews, Tramon Williams, Woodson and Bishop will all be Pro Bowl candidates.
Follow Steve Wyche on Twitter @wyche89