The consistent Packers had yet another solid
season in 2003, finishing 10-6, claiming the NFC North division title, and knocking off Seattle in the playoffs before losing to Philadelphia in the
second round. Of last season's 22 starters, all but one return to head coach Mike Sherman's Green Bay team which ranked 4th in the league on offense
and 17th on defense. The offensive catalysts, as always, will be quarterback Brett Favre and running back Ahman Green. Give the Green Bay Packers'
brass credit. They've admitted that Brett Favre is human. Not that you'd know it by last season, when the Mississippian put together yet another Pro
Bowl performance while leading his team to a third straight playoff appearance.
Favre led the NFL in touchdown passes with 32 last season and has started 208 consecutive games for the Packers, which is bad news for new backup
quarterback Tim Couch. Green last season set a team record with 1,883 yards rushing, and has had four straight 1,000-yard seasons behind an excellent
offensive line. The strength at these positions offsets the mediocre receiving corps, where the developing Robert Ferguson and Javon Walker look to
become more consistent. The strength of the Packers' defense lies in its secondary, where safety Darren Sharper is the standout.
Sept. 13 at Carolina (ABC); Sept. 26 at Indianapolis (Fox); Nov. 14 vs. Minnesota (Fox); Dec. 5 at Philadelphia (Fox); Dec. 24
at Minnesota (Fox)
Brett Favre, QB, 14th season; 6-2, 224; Ahman Green, RB, 7th season, 6-0, 218; Donald Driver, WR, sixth season, 6-0, 192; Kabeer
Gbaja-Biamila, DE, 5th season, 6-4, 252; Darren Sharper, S, eighth season, 6-2, 210; Nick Barnett, MLB, 2nd season, 6-2, 233.
Mark Roman, S, Cincinnati, 5-11, 200; Bryan Barker, P, Washington, 6-1, 205; Ahmad Carroll, CB, 5-10, 185; first round,
Arkansas; Joey Thomas, CB, 6-1, 195; third round, Montana State
Josh Bidwell, P, Tampa Bay, UFA, Marques Anderson, S, Oakland, Antuan Edwards, S, Miami
Chad Clifton, OT, fifth season, 6-5, 330; Michael Hawthorne, CB, fifth season, 6-3, 204
Favre will turn 34-years old this year, but he is far from done, as he proved by leading the league with 32 touchdown passes in 2003. He is still
among the best clutch quarterbacks in the game today, and possibly the toughest of all time having played in 208 consecutive games. Ideally, the
coaching staff would like to see him cut back on the 21 interceptions he threw last season, but they don't want the 14-year veteran to lose the
aggressive gunslinger mentality that has been so successful throughout his career. Backing up Favre, which usually involves spending most of the time
standing on the sidelines, is former No. 1 overall draft pick Tim Couch, who was signed after being released by the Cleveland Browns. Couch failed to
live up to expectations in Cleveland, but he is still young, and with some good coaching the Packers believe he can still live up to that potential
and successfully succeed Favre as the starting quarterback should Favre decide to hang up the spikes within the next couple years.
The Packers have one of the top backs in the
league in Green, who is coming off a season in which he racked up 2,250 total yards and 20 touchdowns. He has great vision and is explosive through
the hole, with the ability to bounce it to the outside. He is also very adept at catching the ball out of the backfield, which allows him to stay on
the field on third downs. The only knock on Green is that he has a tendency to put the ball on the ground, fumbling seven times and losing five in
2003. Backing him up is power runner Najeh Davenport, who is tough between the tackles and has the strength to consistently gain yards after contact.
Tony Fisher is the No. 3 back, who fit's the role of the classic third-down back. He is shifty and quick, and he has good receiving abilities. The
problem is, Green doesn't have to come off the field on third downs, so Fisher will be used mainly to keep Green fresh. The Packers top-three
receivers are solid but unspectacular, however, with Favre at quarterback, a team doesn't need a superstar at wideout to have a successful passing
game. Robert Ferguson and Donald Driver will start. Driver wasn't the same player after injuring his neck early in the '03 season, but at his best, he
is a dependable receiver who can catch the ball over the middle. Ferguson is a physical receiver with good speed, but he has yet to put it all
together and become a consistent force in this offense. No. 3 receiver Javon Walker has the potential to be a big-play receiver. He has great speed
and leaping ability, but needs to become more disciplined in his route running. He came on strong near the end of the season last year, and could be
poised for a break-out year. With a solid camp, the Packers could consider putting him at the No. 2 and moving Driver to the slot. The Packers appear
to lack depth behind Walker with Antonio Chatman and Carl Ford, who are likely to be the No. 4 and 5 receivers.
As always, the Packers' chances will likely hinge on Favre's ability to remain in the lineup. Though Green was every bit as dominant from his running
back position last year, it is much easier to envision the team winning with Favre and Davenport in the backfield as opposed to Couch and Green. Both
lines appear to be in decent shape, and the linebacking corps is underrated (though thin). McKenzie's absence will be huge unless one of the
youngsters can mirror his shutdown ability right away. Lucky for Sherman and the Pack, they play in one of the weakest divisions in the NFL, one that
includes marginal teams in Chicago and Detroit. Despite their question marks, Green Bay should challenge Minnesota for the AFC North crown, and will
have an opportunity to win a playoff game or two if Favre and Green are both healthy.