Brett Favre hopes to lead the Packers back to the Super Bowl
The pieces seem to be in place for the Green Bay Packers to make a run at their thirteenth NFL title.
Quarterback Brett Favre enjoyed one of his best seasons in 2001, finishing fourth in the league with a 94.1 passer rating and setting an NFL record with his tenth consecutive 3,000-yard season.
While Favre remains a constant (he entered 2002 with 157 consecutive starts), his receivers constantly change. Favre will start over again this season with Terry Glenn, acquired in a trade with the Patriots, and Robert Ferguson, a second-round draft choice in 2001 who played only one game as a rookie.
Running back Ahman Green posted his second consecutive 1,000-yard season by rushing for 1,387 yards in 2001, second most in the NFC. With 62 catches, he also was the team's leading receiver.
Pressure up front helped the Packers force 39 takeaways, tied for the most in the NFC. The addition of former Saints defensive end Joe Johnson may push that total even higher.
After a disheartening 45-17 loss to St. Louis in a divisional playoff game, Packers coach Mike Sherman was upbeat about 2002.
"I don't think we're that far away," he said. "And we will be back for bigger and better things."
2002 TOP DRAFT PICKS
- WR Javon Walker, Florida State
- S Marques Anderson, UCLA
- FB Najeh Davenport, Miami
Since 1995, Antonio Freeman has been Favre's go-to receiver. They teamed on 57 touchdown passes, trailing only four other quarterback-receiver combinations in history. But that's about to change.
Freeman's declining production prompted the Packers to release him in June. To replace him, they earlier traded a fourth-round draft choice to the New England Patriots for the talented but enigmatic Glenn, a former Pro Bowl selection. The million-dollar question: Which Glenn will show up for the Packers? The one who set an NFL rookie record in 1996 with 90 receptions for 1,132 yards or the one who was suspended by the Patriots for most of last season.
The Packers' 2002 season may ride on the performances of Glenn and Ferguson, the 2001 second-round draft pick out of Texas A&M.
With the free-agent signing of Saints Pro Bowl defensive end Johnson, the Packers may have their best defensive line since the days of Reggie White, Sean Jones and company. Johnson, who recorded 12 sacks in 2000 and 9 in 2001, also is regarded as extremely tough against the run.
The new starting middle linebacker is Hardy Nickerson, who was signed in June after being released by Jacksonville.
GREENER PASTURES: Despite Green's career-high 1,387 rushing yards -- third most in club history -- the Packers still finished twenty-first overall in rushing offense. When Green Bay went to back-to-back Super Bowls in 1996-97, the Packers featured a more diversified ground game that finished eleventh and twelfth, respectively. More backfield options in 2002 will benefit both Green and Favre.
GREEN BAY SACKERS: The 2001 Packers, led by Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila (131/2), set a club record with 52 sacks. Only the Steelers (55) and Saints (53) had more.
NO ORDINARY MIKE: Mike Sherman's regular-season winning percentage of .656 is the best ever by a Packers coach after two seasons. In 2000, Sherman became just the fourth coach in club history to post a winning record in his first year, joining Curly Lambeau, Vince Lombardi and Mike Holmgren.
Offense: 6 (21 rush, 3 pass)
Defense: 12 (16 rush, 15 pass)
Reprinted from the 2002 preview issue of NFL Insider