By The Associated Press
GREEN BAY PACKERS (12-7)
OPEN CAMP: July 27, Ray Nitschke Field, Green Bay, Wisconsin.
LAST YEAR: Lost in NFC title game for second time in three seasons, getting blown out in Atlanta. Disappointing end overshadowed remarkable late-season turnaround. Packers made good on QB Aaron Rodgers’ “run the table” statement, finishing regular season with six straight victories to reclaim NFC North. Rodgers threw league-high 40 TD passes, while WR Jordy Nelson bounced back from ACL injury with 14 TD catches. Running game was problematic for much of season because of Eddie Lacy’s ankle injury, but converted receiver Ty Montgomery showed promise after moving to backfield. Defense suffered from porous pass coverage at cornerback, unable to make up for loss of veteran Sam Shields in opener to concussion, and injuries that slowed second-year pros Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins. LB Clay Matthews was also slowed by injuries. DL Mike Daniels remained rock up front, while Morgan Burnett and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix are among top safety combos in league.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: TE Martellus Bennett, TE Lance Kendricks, G Jahri Evans, CB Davon House, DT Ricky Jean Francois, rookie DBs Kevin King and Josh Jones, rookie RB Jamaal Williams.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: RB Eddie Lacy, TE Jared Cook, RG T.J. Lang, OL JC Tretter, LB Julius Peppers, S Micah Hyde, P Jacob Schum.
CAMP NEEDS: Bennett and Kendricks should enjoy building rapport with Rodgers on offense that will throw new wrinkles at opponents. Coach Mike McCarthy will develop young, overhauled running back position now led by Montgomery in first full NFL season at position. King could be No. 1 cornerback of future, though rookie missed virtually entire offseason program because of NFL rules. Camp will be time to build confidence in cornerback position overall. Young pass rushers must step up with Peppers now back in Carolina and Matthews likely being moved all around field.
EXPECTATIONS: With Rodgers in prime, Packers should always be threat to go to Super Bowl. Sure, there might be questions about running game, but with additions at tight end, two-time NFL MVP has more options in what was already dangerous passing game. Focus will be on defense again. Shoring up pass coverage and generating consistent pressure will be priorities.
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