By The Associated Press
GREEN BAY PACKERS (12-7)
New faces: TE Martellus Bennett, TE Lance Kendricks, RG Jahri Evans, OLB Ahmad Brooks, DL Ricky Jean-Francois, CB Davon House, rookie DBs Kevin King and Josh Jones, rookie RBs Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones.
Key losses: RB Eddie Lacy, TE Jared Cook, RG T.J. Lang, OL JC Tretter, LB Julius Peppers, S Micah Hyde.
Strengths: In prime, QB Aaron Rodgers got two new weapons in offseason with additions of Bennett and Kendricks. Opposing defenses already had headaches matching up with WRs Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams and Randall Cobb. Starting OL is solid again, even with veteran Evans replacing Pro Bowler Lang. RB Ty Montgomery’s pass-catching ability another matchup issue for defenses. DL Mike Daniels anchors front, while Morgan Burnett and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix might be one of top safety tandems in league. LB Clay Matthews coming off injury-filled season, but remains defense’s top playmaker.
Weaknesses: Beefed up cornerback position by bringing back House for second tour in Green Bay and drafting King, adding length to secondary. Will it be enough to shore porous pass coverage that torched Packers for most of 2016? Packers hope Brooks improves depth behind starters Matthews and Nick Perry at outside linebacker. Depth also concern on offensive line, where Packers cannot afford long-term injury after inconsistent camp for backups. Running back position young and relatively inexperienced with converted receiver Montgomery being backed by three drafted rookies.
Fantasy Players To Watch: Addition of Bennett spices up attack, but offense already provided numerous options for Rodgers. With questions about run game, Rodgers in line for another huge season.
Expectations: Getting to Super Bowl will always be realistic goal with Rodgers at quarterback, though clock is ticking. He turns 34 in December. General manager Ted Thompson active — for Packers — in free agency with smart, relatively economic moves.
If Packers can establish semblance of run game and shore up cornerback position and generate enough pass rush, they’ll be tough to beat. Tough to beat anyway with offense built to win shootouts. Winning NFC North and securing home-field advantage is key, and Green Bay will be tested early by opening season against NFC powers Seattle and Atlanta.
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