The season awaits now with mini-camps, holdouts, training camp and pre-season games all behind us. This year I'm excited to join Packers.com as a columnist, offering my insights on the Packers, their opponents and the NFL in general. Over the last few years I've become increasingly more involved with NFL analysis. It's been a great way to keep me connected to the game I love.
As the season kick-off approaches, there's still plenty of questions that must be answered if the Packers expect to get to the playoffs. To me, the biggest question mark is still the offensive line. I don't think anybody took over at either of the guard positions and let's face it - Mike Wahle and Marco Rivera left some big footprints to fill. There was so much experimentation this summer that the offensive line hasn't become a cohesive unit. They're still going to experiment heading into the season because the run blocking is not where it needs to be. I think that will have a huge impact on what this team will be able to do offensively because if we can't run the ball as we have in the past, it will have a direct impact on the play action pass and misdirection bootlegs, two things the Packers do so well.
Other teams stopped the Packers' running game by keeping five and six men in the box and that leaves more men in the secondary to cover the pass. Hopefully, the starters the Packers name at guard will develop some cohesiveness with the rest of the line while preparing for this week's game at Detroit.
The real strength of Green Bay's attack is at the wide receiver position. Early in the season, I look for the Packers to rely more on the pass than the run. Brett Favre is still a great quarterback and I think fans will see a lot more of the short rhythm passing than in the past because he won't have the time to take deep seven-step drops to set up and throw. In the last pre-season game I liked seeing Robert Ferguson take short passes for some very nice runs after the catch. We need him to really step up as the third receiver because with Javon Walker and Donald Driver on the outside as number one and number two, having a threat in the slot position like Ferguson adds a lot to the offensive attack. Fergy has the ability. He just needs to improve and stay healthy.
On defense, it was good to see Grady Jackson back in the middle against the Titans because he's a player who can really take on double teams and help the run defense. In the secondary, I love Ahmad Carroll's speed and aggressiveness, but he needs to stop covering guys so tightly and avoid the silly penalties. I thought Joey Thomas stepped up and played well in the pre-season, so it will be interesting to watch young guys with such talent compete for the starting position at corner. Another concern I have is starting a rookie, Nick Collins, at free safety. He's a player with tremendous potential, but he lacks experience. The free safety is really like the quarterback of the defense. He makes all of the adjustment calls to make sure everyone lines up properly. He's the guy making the rotation calls when they disguise coverages dictated by the offensive formations. All of this is a lot to ask of a rookie. It may be a situation where the Packers' defense will be forced to play a little more 'vanilla' than they would with a more experienced guy at the free safety position.
The Lions offense could pose plenty of problems for Green Bay this Sunday (3:15 pm; Fox). Quarterback Joey Harrington is entering his fourth season and he's got plenty of offensive weapons around him. Detroit has three number one draft picks starting at wide receiver in Charles Rogers, Mike Williams and Roy Williams. Of this group, Roy Williams is going to be the stud. Detroit also added tight end Marcus Pollard, a proven All-Pro who can stretch the field. He runs very precise routes and he will be a big target for Harrington this year. But the real horse of the Lions' attack is the second-year running back, Kevin Jones. He is without question one of the top five backs in the league. Once they get that running threat going, the pass becomes that much more dangerous. Harrington will be counted on now more than ever since Jeff Garcia fractured his left tibia in the last preseason game against the Bills. Garcia will be out at least six to eight weeks. The Lions will not have the luxury of knowing that if Harrington struggles, they have a three-time Pro Bowl backup quarterback waiting in the wings. If Harrington goes down, the Lions' new backup will be rookie Dan Orlovsky, a fifth round pick from Connecticut.
On the other side of the ball, Green Bay must find a way to neutralize defensive tackle Shaun Rogers. He's a playmaker and he really gave the Packers a lot of problems last year with his pass rush. Rogers is an all-pro with a huge motor. The Lions also have Dan Wilkinson who's a big (6-4, 335 lbs), powerful defensive tackle and a very good run stopper. Linebacker Boss Bailey and cornerback Dre' Bly are also very athletic playmakers.
Bottom line? The Packers must do a better job of protecting Brett Favre than they did in the preseason. They need to get their running game untracked and cut the penalties. Getting the season off to a good start can do wonders for team confidence and beating a division rival would certainly be an added bonus.
Don "Majik" Majkowski was inducted into the Green Bay Packer Hall of Fame earlier this year. His career for the Packers spanned six seasons (1987-92), including being named to the Pro Bowl in 1989 when he led the NFL in passing yards. In addition to his duties with Packers.com, Majik provides football analysis for WSSP-AM - SportsRadio 1250 in Milwaukee; WDUZ 107.5 &1400 (The Fan) in Green Bay; WTSO - ESPN 1070 in Madison; WDEZ - 101.9 FM in Wausau; and WIZD - 99.9 FM in Plover/Stevens Point. Visit Majik's Web site, www.majiknetwork.net, for more information.