Green Bay Packers Training Camp To-Do List
The Green Bay Packers training camp kicks off this weekend on Saturday, July 26. This is exactly what fans have been waiting for.
While the Packers have gotten plenty figured out so far this offseason, there is still quite a bit to on their to-do list. There are issues to fix on both sides of the ball, statistics that need to be improved from last year and starting jobs to be won.
Let's take a look at the Packers' training camp to-do list.
Determine How Many Touches to Give to Eddie Lacy
Last year Eddie Lacy had 284 carries and 35 receptions for a total of 319 total touches as a rookie. The first thing the Packers need to figure out during training camp is how many touches they want Lacy to get in 2014.
Most would think that the Packers would want to run Lacy as hard as they can for as long as they can. However, Wes Hodkiewicz of the Green Bay Press-Gazette says that coaching staff wants to lessen Lacy's load this year.
This certainly makes sense since the Packers have talented backup running backs in James Starks and DuJuan Harris. Plus, lessening Lacy's touches this year would mean he'd potentially be able to carry the ball longer in Green Bay.
There are also reports out there from Rob Demovsky of ESPN that the Packers want Lacy to touch the ball more. Offensive coordinator Tom Clements had this to say, per Demovsky:
We haven't sat down and figured out 'X' number of carries for Eddie, offensive coordinator Tom Clements said. We want to get him touches, trying to get him more involved in all aspects of the game, but Eddie was a workhorse for us last year.
So, do the Packers want to take away carries or get him more involved in all aspects of the game? Figuring this situation out needs to be the first thing checked off on the training camp to-do list.
Settle on a Starting Tight End
All eyes will most certainly be on the tight ends during training camp. Settling on a starting tight end will need to be checked off the to-do list sooner than later.
The issue with the tight ends isn't a lack of talent. Andrew Quarless, Brandon Bostick, Richard Rodgers and Colt Lyerla all project as solid tight ends. Sure, some have a little more upside, but each would be a good starter in Green Bay.
The problem for the Packers with their tight ends is deciding what type of player they want. Do they want a clone of Jermichael Finley? Are they looking for more of a blocking tight end? Does the tight end have to also be able to be an H-back?
The answers to these questions will give the Packers the player that they're looking for to start on offense. Look for the Packers to settle on a starting tight end early in training camp so quarterback Aaron Rodgers can get as familiar with him as possible.
Find a Long-Lasting Center
This year will mark the fourth straight year that Rodgers has taken a snap from a different starting center. That streak needs to stop after this season.
The Packers desperately need to find a long-term answer at center. They need a player who can hold down the position for the remainder of Rodgers' career.
Luckily, the Packers have two potential players who could do that in JC Tretter and rookie Corey Linsley. Both Tretter and Linsley are young, and both have the talent to start for the Packers.
While Tretter will get the first shot at the starting job during training camp, don't discount Linsley just yet. He's the first true center that the Packers have ever drafted under GM Ted Thompson, so he could surprise some people and earn the starting job.
Whoever does win the job coming out of camp needs to have the full backing of the organization as the center for the foreseeable future.
Figure out Exactly What Julius Peppers Brings to the Table
The offseason buzz surrounding Julius Peppers has all been positive. Cornerback Tramon Williams recently commented how the Packers don't have anyone built like him.
What training camp will ultimately do for the Packers is let them see what they actually have in Peppers.
Peppers is 34 years old and coming off an up-and-down season for the Chicago Bears. He might be a unique physical specimen, but it's also possible that he isn't the player he used to be. So the Packers need to figure out what they can do with him.
Is he good enough to start and play the majority of snaps at outside linebacker? Should he be more of a situational pass-rusher? How big of an impact can Peppers really make?
All these questions need to be floating around the minds of the coaches during training camp. The worst thing that the Packers could do with Peppers is misuse him, or have him play a role that isn't best suited for the type of player he is today.
Once they figure all this out, Peppers should be poised for a productive first season in Green Bay.
Is Jamari Lattimore the Future at Inside Linebacker?
This is a question that the Packers need to be asking themselves throughout training camp: Is Jamari Lattimore the future at inside linebacker?
The reality is that neither A.J. Hawk or Brad Jones should be seen as the future at that position. And if Lattimore isn't the future at at least one of the starting spots, then the Packers have a major issue.
Last year we saw some brief flashes of what Lattimore brings to the table, and it wasn't too bad. He's athletic, can make plays and has sound instincts. Unfortunately, Lattimore still has quite a bit of growing to do.
If Lattimore can prove during training camp that he can hang with the big boys, the Packers will be feeling good about their weakest position. If he struggles, however, it's time to go back to the starting block and figure out a new answer to the dilemma.
Improve the Secondary's Production
There was a major lack of production from the secondary last year. Now we're mainly talking about the safeties, but even the cornerbacks struggled at times.
What the coaches ultimately need to do during training camp is figure out how to improve the production in the secondary. This includes eliminating missed tackles and putting players in better positions to create turnovers.
It should all start with rookie safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. He was exceptional in college at making big plays, and that's a big reason why the Packers drafted him in the first round of this year's draft. While he hasn't been playing with the first-team defense because of Micah Hyde, he still figures to play a huge role this year.
If the Packers secondary can get back to the place where it's near the top of the league in turnovers created, the whole defense should improve in a major way.
Get More Production from Return Man
Bleacher Report's Zach Kruse broke down the Packers' issue on returns last year perfectly:
It may be easy to skip over a stat suggesting Green Bay's lack of ability returning kicks with a quarterback like Aaron Rodgers under center. But when 39 kick returns over a full season result in an average of just over 20 yards and the team's average starting field position drops from second in the NFL in 2012 to 14th in 2013, the problem must be rectified.
The Packers finally settled on Micah Hyde as a return man last year, but his increased load on the defensive side of the ball might put him out of the running as this year's return man. Thankfully, the Packers added some talented rookies, mainly in receivers Jared Abbrederis and Jeff Janis.
Both players have surprising upside on special teams. In fact, if either player is going to make the final roster this year, they'll likely need to prove they can be a factor either on punt or kick returns.
Should the Packers want a little more experience returning kicks, then Harris would be a definite option. One thing that's certain is that whoever the Packers put back there absolutely needs to produce in a major way.