Originally Published: September 2, 2010
Jerry Lai/US Presswire JOHN CLAYTON QB RANKING (6): Aaron Rodgers was among the league leaders in every significant passing category in 2009. He has 58 TD passes in two seasons as Green Bay's starter.

Expert Picks (Consensus: 1st)

Intelligence Report

Five things you need to know about the Packers:

1. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is on the brink of elite status: Rodgers is the only quarterback in NFL history to open his career with consecutive 4,000-yard seasons. He's proved to be an exceptionally accurate passer, a near-perfect decision-maker and also surprises defenses with his downfield mobility. The most humbling thing we can say about Rodgers is that he sometimes holds the ball too long waiting for plays to develop, leading to sacks rather than incompletions into the first row of the stands. The final step in Rodgers' ascendance is to lead his team deep into the playoffs and eventually to the Super Bowl.

2. The Packers could still be vulnerable against the pass: We all know the outlandish numbers the Packers gave up last season to Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (503 yards) and Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner (five touchdowns). The team mostly stood pat from a personnel standpoint, and during the preseason it was unclear if the more subtle measures the Packers took to improve have done the trick. Safety Atari Bigby is sidelined by an ankle injury, forcing rookie Morgan Burnett into the starting lineup. Veteran cornerback Al Harris is still recovering from knee surgery. Nose tackle B.J. Raji wasn't the playmaking force the Packers hope he will be. The jury is still out.

3. Bryan Bulaga is going to get on the field sooner rather than later: The Packers' first-round draft pick is considered the team's long-term answer at left tackle. But he was impressive early in training camp working behind starter Chad Clifton, and the Packers' offensive line wasn't good enough last year to keep any talented player on the bench. So coaches made the difficult decision to give him a look at left guard this summer. Whether or not Bulaga eventually beats out incumbent Daryn Colledge, it's clear the Packers are itching to get Bulaga on the field -- somewhere -- this year.

4. The Packers worked hard this summer to improve their special teams coverage units: Coach Mike McCarthy devoted an extra 10 minutes to special teams for every training camp practice, a big number in the structured world of the NFL. They held a spirited punting competition, expressed supreme confidence in once-shaky kicker Mason Crosby and opened the door for any and all comers to take over the kickoff and punt return duties. The Packers ranked near the bottom of most NFL special teams rankings last season, and if effort matters, they'll move up the ladder this season.

5. If they get their pass defense straight and even out their special teams, the Packers are stacked and ready for a Super Bowl run: It's not often that a team pairs a 4,000-yard passer (Rodgers) with a 1,200-yard runner (Ryan Grant). The Packers also have one of the NFL's most underrated receivers in Greg Jennings as well as a tight end (Jermichael Finley) who emerged late last season as one of the top pass-catchers at his position in the league. Finley can single-handedly create mismatches all over the field for the Packers, and McCarthy's play-calling smarts should take advantage. This team is ready for big things.

-- Kevin Seifert, ESPN.com

Scouts Inc.'s Fabulous Five


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