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Score more points, protect Rodgers


Packers Offensive Coordinator Joe Philbin wants to address two issues from last season, points and sacks.

"We have to be a lot more consistent. Too many games under 10 points. We had consistent points production in 2009. We score 45 against the Giants, and then we score 10 against the Bears," Philbin said. "And we have to protect our quarterback. We've got to get into the 20s (in sacks). He's taking too many sacks."

The Packers scored 10 points or fewer three times in 2010. In one of those games, of course, quarterback Aaron Rodgers was lost early to a concussion.

Protecting the quarterback is the mission of every offense. In Green Bay, it's especially important because the quarterback is Super Bowl MVP Rodgers, who was sacked 31 times last season.

How important is it? Well, with Rodgers, the Packers are the preseason favorite to return to the Super Bowl. Without him?

"He's got to manage that sacks situation," Philbin said of Rodgers.

Expect sacks and the intent to reduce them to be a major theme of training camp.

Only a few weeks after the Packers had won the Super Bowl, Head Coach Mike McCarthy addressed the need to score more points.

"The best offense in the league is the one that scores the most points. That'll be our focus. We plan on being a better offense next year," McCarthy said on Feb. 25 at the scouting combine.

It is in the running game that the Packers have the greatest room for improvement. The Packers were 24th in the league in rushing last season, which pulled their offense's overall ranking down to ninth. The Packers were fifth in passing.

A passing attack that had its way with a powerful Pittsburgh defense in the Super Bowl will no doubt be the subject of intense focus by opponents this season. If the Packers don't force defenses to respect the run, they won't, and that would make protecting Rodgers even more difficult.

"I'm sure there are going to be some people doing that," Philbin said of loading up against the pass, "and, hopefully, we can take advantage of it.

"Sixteen percent of the time we had zero gain or minus gain and that's too much. The running game is important," Philbin added.

The emergence of rookie running back James Starks late last season and into the playoffs will be complemented by the return of veteran running back Ryan Grant, who was lost for the season in the opener last year. Is Grant all the way back from his ankle injury? That's a question that'll be answered in training camp and in the preseason.

"Hungry, competitive; we'll probably have to slow him down if they give him the green light," Philbin said of Grant.

The battle for the starting job at running back might be the top story of training camp. Another position of interest on offense is left guard. Might first-round pick Derek Sherrod, a natural left tackle, fit at left guard initially, much as Jonathan Ogden played guard in his rookie season?

"The philosophy has been you play the five-best guys. You have to identify them and get them in the right spots. We'll see how everything unfolds," Philbin said when asked about left guard.

Tight end Jermichael Finley's return from a season lost to a knee injury will be a big story in training camp, as will veteran wide receiver Donald Driver's attempt to stay young at 36.

"He's been a productive player here for a long time. He understands the nature of the business," Philbin said of Driver.

It all begins playing out on Saturday at 7 p.m.

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