Throughout June and the first few weeks of July, Fanball.com will be taking a team-by-team training camp tour with fantasy previews for each NFL squad. We'll detail the key offseason moves, position battles to watch, and other things to keep an eye as the clubs prepare for the season ahead.
Notable Offseason Moves: “Cheese.” It’s what the kids say when you snap a photo of them. It’s what movie reviewers remark without even seeing From Justin to Kelly. And it’s the first thing you think of when someone says “Green Bay.” No, make that the second thing…Brett Favre is still the first thing, cheese is second, Vince Lombardi is still running strong at third, with urinating in the sinks at Lambeau fourth. There wasn’t a lot of turnover on the offensive side of the ball for the Packers, and there certainly wasn’t at quarterback where Favre, the head cheese, will be back for at least one more season.
Favre welcomes a few new faces to the offense this summer and says goodbye to another. Two of the new faces, Lamar Smith and Akili Smith (no relation) are looking for fresh starts in Titletown and will likely land top backup roles with team. Fullback Nicolas Luchey was also signed, but he could make a serious push for playing time with the first team. Terry Glenn, who attempted the “fresh start in Green Bay” last year, was dealt to the Cowboys on March 1 for a draft pick. Thanks for nothing, Terri.
Position Battles: Glenn’s departure opens the door for a major competition at the second starting wide receiver spot opposite last year’s breakthrough wideout, Donald Driver. The battle will be between third-year man Robert Ferguson and second-year man Javon Walker. Both have a lot of ability and it’s important to remember that whoever “loses” the competition will still see a ton of action as the third receiver. Right now, Ferguson appears to have the edge—at least if you listen to the coachspeak coming out of Green Bay. I love hearing that the enigmatic receiver seems to finally have his head on straight. It’s also great to hear, as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported earlier this month, that Robert shed 15 pounds of fat while adding 10 of muscle to his large frame, and then managed to cut his 40-time to the 4.3-4.4 range—if his agent’s stopwatch is to be believed.
I’ll believe it when I see it, however. Ferguson has been a disappointment for much of his first two seasons, unlike Walker who made things happen every time he was given the chance as a rookie. Javon is strong and fast with great hands and instincts. I’m guessing that the closer we get to week one, the more obvious it will become that Walker is the better player. Stay tuned because the winner of this battle will have a chance to post great numbers as Favre’s second receiver.
Favre’s backup at quarterback hasn’t really mattered for the past decade, but the more times we see him hit the tundra and get up slowly the more likely it becomes that someone else will be called upon to take some substitute snaps. Doug Pederson is no longer a lock to be the immediate backup, as the team wants to see what Akili has to show, and Craig Nall is coming off an outstanding effort in NFL Europe. I’ll go out on a limb right now and project that Pederson gets cut.
Ahman Green obviously has the starting halfback gig locked up in his sweaty arms and will be expected to bounce back following a substandard 2002. The aforementioned Lamar Smith was recently signed and clearly brings more experience to the table than any of the other runners on the roster, so he’ll probably leave camp as Ahman’s top backup. But don’t count out the very versatile thespian Najeh Davenport, who can play halfback, fullback, H-back, and return kicks. He also has a small role as a club owner with a strange fetish for laundry baskets in the upcoming movie Blood Money starring Busta Rhymes and 50 Cent. No, we’re not kidding. Ok, maybe the part about the laundry basket.
Where we’re we? Oh yeah, Davenport has a shot at backing up Green if Lamar is out of shape or slips off the wagon again. Tony Fisher is a long-shot, but remains another possibility.
Keep an Eye On: The question is the same every season: “How much longer can Favre keep it going?” Retirement talk has come up the last two Decembers, but has been quickly put to rest both times. The bottom line is that number 4 is coming back for another year with his incredible 173-game playing streak intact, and he says he feels good. “I can't complain," Favre recently told the Journal Sentinel. “This whole off-season, I can't think of one time where I cringed because of my knee. Now it gets tight from time to time if I stay on it all day…but up to this point, I can't complain.” Favre kept his streak alive last year after sustaining a severely sprained knee that would have sidelined most mortals.
We know he’s tough; we can only hope he remains so lucky. The Pack will take it easy on Favre in training camp (he probably wears the red, “no contact” jersey to bed) and won’t give him a lot of playing time during the preseason.
Brett will experience a lot less contact this season if his offensive line stays healthier than it did in 2002. Then again, it would take an awful lot to top the cavalcade of carnage the line suffered last year. In particular, fantasy players need to monitor the progress of Mark Tauscher and Chad Clifton, the starting tackles who missed considerable playing time in 2002. They say it all starts up front, and the Packers’ line actually has a chance to be very good if they can stay together. Obviously anything that aids the fantasy values of Favre, Green, Driver, and Bubba Franks is good news for fantasy players.
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