August 8, 2011

Early Season Green Bay Packer Storylines To Follow

NFL football is back. The Green Bay Packers will visit Cleveland Aug. 13 to take on the Browns, but not before a belated and congratulatory visit to the nation’s capital to shake hands with the President.

As the Packer’s title defense campaign gets rolling, the first weekend of the preseason will be an important barometer for a team that will be doubted, over-analyzed and expected to continue greatness in 2011-12.

How the Packers handle and respond to (or not respond to) the chatter, expectations and criticism they’ll face throughout the year will be important to their psyche as the season wears on.

The below will be reoccurring storylines for the Packers and it will be interesting to see how the Packers respond throughout the season – with their comments and their on-field performance.

Jermichael Finley – His Play, His Contract, Etc.
It is not a stretch to say Finley is one of the most anticipated comebackers of the last few years. With more anticipation comes more pressure and at 24, is Finley ready for the sea of attention he’ll be flooded with? I guess that will depend on if the Packers are winning and if Finley is getting the ball. We know how fluid the Packers offense is without #88, so the media will dissect how and where Finley will fit into that potent passing attack.

Perhaps the most interesting development will be Finley’s responses to the inevitable flurry of questions he’ll receive about the issue. I expect Rodgers to mentor Finley in this category, as a master of saying the right thing and letting his play speak for itself. Let’s hope Jermichael keeps a safe distance from Twitter, as entertaining as his updates may be.

Packers’ Overall Sharpness and Motivation
It didn’t take long for Mike McCarthy to note he isn’t happy with how the Packers look early on. While I’m sure no coach is anywhere near happy with their team Aug. 2, look for McCarthy to use the media to fire his players up. McCarthy is a sharp guy and will do what it takes to send a necessary message to his players, directly or indirectly.

Media will look for any trace of lack of motivation, player/coach or player/player conflict – and turn it into a big deal. What might be a non-story on a non-contending team – can turn into a front-page story for the defending world champions. I’m sure the Packers’ PR team will be squashing rumors from all angles in 2011-12.

Piecing Together the Backfield Puzzle
A whole host of stories have surfaced about the Packers’ backfield situation and expect this “dilemma” to be hot topic throughout the season, barring another injury. Grant, Starks and Kuhn are all capable options in McCarthy’s offense, but everyone is anxious to see what mix McCarthy has cooked up to maximize each player’s talent and potential.

We haven’t heard much from Grant on the subject, but Starks has expressed his confidence in his talents, preparedness and durability to be an every-down back. Let the competition and conversation continue!