Training camp is quickly approaching, which means it's time to preview the most exciting part of the summer. Over the next month, Around The NFL's Conor Orr will break down all 32 teams and give us something to look for in late July.
Training camp report date: Rookies and veterans, July 25.
Training camp location: St. Norbert College, De Pere, Wisconsin.
Offseason in a nutshell:This section can typically be left blank in the Ted Thompson era, but we're not the next people in line to give the Packers general manager flak about his window-shopping-only tendencies in free agency. The approach works, and it's smart. The interesting part? Buzz this offseason suggested that Green Bay was planning on being more active than usual if the actual value lined up a bit better with the perceived value -- especially when it came to adding someone who could serve as a third or fourth option for Aaron Rodgers. One solution, apparently, was tight end Jared Cook. Cook, 29, might end up having the highest ratio of production to salary out of all the free agents this offseason after inking a team-friendly deal for one year and $2.75 million (plus almost another million dollars in available incentives). Rodgers has his most versatile tight end option since Jermichael Finley. If, in his return from the ACL tear that robbed him of his 2015 season, Jordy Nelson is 80 percent of the receiver he was in 2014, I don't think we'll be spending our time pondering the demise of the Mike McCarthy era anymore.
Player to watch: Pass rusher Datone Jones. Jones benefitted from a hurried move to situational stand-up outside linebacker last year and was thrilled when Mike McCarthy confirmed that the team would use him in a similar spot this year. He even has a six-pack now. If he even marginally improves the Packers' pass rush this season, the potential lineup alterations could reignite some of the more creative looks we've seen over the years from defensive coordinator Dom Capers -- especially if Jones remains heavy enough to rush on the inside, as well (which we expect). Reading the tea leaves, their draft picks in 2016 (specifically Kyler Fackrell and Dean Lowry) suggest the team might be looking to break in more of these Swiss Army Knife-type rushers.
THREE BURNING QUESTIONS:
1. Will there be a noticeable focus on defensive toughness?
This might induce eye rolls (and for good reason), but this is the time of year when coaching staffs search high and low for motivation, especially when it comes to established veterans. The Packers are well aware that the Vikings just assembled the most expensive offensive line in football with the express purpose of running over the rest of the NFC North. While that isn't new information for the Packers, we wonder if it will be a rallying cry of sorts for a defense that is still very dependent on Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers for its identity and production.
Lacy is a smart person. He acknowledges that he had great success during his first two seasons (the best rookie and sophomore seasons for a tailback in Packers history) and thought he could keep the same eating and exercising habits during that time and still be just as good. But as people get older, habits need to change. Lacy knows that now. There are about 500 other successful NFL players throughout history who will recount a finding religion moment when it comes to grilled chicken, fish, brutal workouts and lots of water, and they all got credit for prolonging their career. After having his weight issue blasted into the headlines, Lacy will get the chance to put all doubts to rest during camp.
As the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel noted last month, Abbrederis received significantly more reps in camp after veterans like Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson were excused, and he might've made the most of his opportunity. Watching the Packers during the playoffs last year, it became crystal clear how much more the system values being on time and on target over individual ability (see: James Jonesagainst the Redskins) and neither Rodgers nor McCarthy are in the position of turning down dependable hands.
Way-too-early season prediction: Ask us on Sept. 19, the morning after an epic Sunday Nighter between the Packers and Vikings. In a lot of ways, I think the Packers' success depends on how quickly Minnesota's offensive linemen can gel, and if they stay healthy. Green Bay is built to win another 10 or 11 games this year, but how significant will the hurdles in their way be?