2014 DRAFT GUIDE
Memory of playoff loss still stings for Packers

By NANCY ARMOUR - AP National Writer
    2013-07-23 12:32

Calling the Green Bay Packers underachievers after they won back-to-back NFC North titles may be harsh.

But it's not far off.

Stung by a second straight loss in the NFC divisional round, this time to the San Francisco 49ers, the Packers spent the offseason addressing their weak spots. While coach Mike McCarthy was reconfiguring a porous offensive line that gave up an NFL-high 51 sacks, general manager Ted Thompson drafted two running backs in the first four rounds. Thompson also locked up three of Green Bay's key defensive starters, signing linebackers Clay Matthews and Brad Jones and safety Morgan Burnett to extensions.

``Guys know there's a short window for a team to be as good as we are,'' receiver Jordy Nelson said after the team's final OTAs. ``You've got to make the most of those (years) and that's by winning championships. We know we've been close. We know we've had the team, but came up short.''

Five things to watch as the Packers try to stay atop the division:

1. LINING UP: Just as everyone knows you don't get cut-rate insurance for a Maserati, you don't let your MVP (Most Valuable Packer) get knocked around like a milk bottle at a carnival. After seeing Aaron Rodgers sacked an NFL-high 51 times last year - on top of the 36 sacks he took in 2011 - McCarthy had had enough. He shifted tackle Bryan Bulaga and guard Josh Sitton from the right to left side, the better to protect Rodgers' blind side. Marshall Newhouse, who started every game at left tackle last season, moved to right tackle, and the versatile T.J. Lang will play right guard. (Center Evan Dietrich-Smith, who unseated veteran Jeff Saturday by the end of last season, stays put.) ``You take your two most accomplished linemen to date to protect the backside of the quarterback,'' offensive line coach James Campen said in explaining the switch. ``(Bulaga and Sitton) are, at this point, the most accomplished guys. And we expect the other guys to be more accomplished, as well.''

2. RUNNING BEHIND: With Rodgers at the helm, the Packers are always going to be a pass-oriented team. But they at least need to have the appearance of a running game, and its absence last year was glaring. The Packers ranked 11th in the NFC at 106.4 yards rushing per game, and haven't had a single-game, 100-yard rusher in almost three years. So it was hardly a surprise that Thompson loaded up on running backs early in the draft, taking Alabama's Eddie Lacy in the second round and UCLA's Johnathan Franklin in the fourth. ``We'll be better, I promise you that,'' McCarthy said. ``You can write that down. In big letters.''

3. CATCHING ON: Losing a 1,000-yard receiver and the franchise's all-time leader in receptions would be a crippling blow to most teams. Not the Packers, who have Nelson, James Jones and Randall Cobb ready to fill the void left by Greg Jennings and Donald Driver. The trio combined for 29 touchdowns and 193 catches last year, and each of the three finished with 745 yards receiving or more. ``I believe we have three 1,000-yard receivers in this room,'' Jones said. ``We know the departure of Greg and Donald means more opportunities for us. Do you want to lose guys like that? No. But it gives us the chance to step up.''

4. BEING GREEDY: Green Bay ranked in the middle of the NFC last year with a plus-7 takeaway-giveaway differential, but that was largely thanks to Rodgers, whose eight interceptions tied for fewest in the entire NFL. The defense came up with 23 takeaways, and only five of those were fumbles. That's not lost on defensive coordinator Dom Capers, who has made stripping the ball a focus during offseason workouts. ``You see all the pursuit and leverage drills,'' he said. ``We're trying to make an emphasis that you get there and punch at the ball. ... The more you emphasize something, the more results you're going to get out of it. So I like what I've seen to this point.''

5. BIG MONEY: In his first five years as a starter, Rodgers has won a Super Bowl title, been the NFL's MVP and set the single-season NFL record for quarterback rating (122.5 in 2011). He set another record in this offseason: signing a five-year extension that's worth as much as $110 million, which will make him the highest-paid player in NFL history. But Rodgers insists the riches won't change him - or remove the sizeable chip on his shoulder that's been such a big part of his success. ``Always working on things,'' he said during Green Bay's minicamp, ``trying to get better.''---AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

Giovani BernardOct 31 11:12a

Cincinnati Bengals RB Giovani Bernard (hip, shoulder) is unlikely to play in Week 9.

Trent RichardsonOct 31 10:32a

Indianapolis Colts RB Trent Richardson (hamstring) is not on the injury report for Week 9, and should be able to play Monday, Nov. 3.

Rashad JenningsOct 31 10:12a

New York Giants RB Rashad Jennings (knee) is aiming to return for the Week 10 game against the Seattle Seahawks.

Ronnie HillmanOct 31 09:12a

Updating previous reports, Denver Broncos RB Ronnie Hillman (shoulder) is expected to have his normal workload in Week 9, despite his limited practice repetitions.

DeAngelo HallOct 31 08:52a

Washington Redskins CB DeAngelo Hall (Achilles') tore his Achilles' again at home and had surgery to repair it Thursday, Oct. 30.

Ron JohnsonOct 30 08:22p

Seattle Seahawks CB Richard Sherman (back), DE Michael Bennett (toe), C Stephen Schilling (knee), CB Tharold Simon (knee), CB Byron Maxwell (calf), LB Malcolm Smith (groin), DT Jordan Hill [ More ]

Patrick WillisOct 30 07:52p

San Francisco 49res CB Tramaine Brock (toe) and LB Patrick Willis (toe) were limited in practice Thursday, Oct. 30. S Jimmie Ward (quadriceps) and CB Chris Culliver (hamstring) practiced in full.

Chris MatthewsOct 30 07:42p

The Seattle Seahawks re-signed WR Chris Matthews and TE Brett Brackett to their practice squad Thursday, Oct. 30.

Scott WellsOct 30 07:42p

St. Louis Rams OG Rodger Saffold (shoulder), CB Janoris Jenkins (knee), DT Aaron Donald (shoulder) and S Cody Davis (concussion) did not practice Thursday, Oct. 30. S Rodney McLeod [ More ]

Luke JoeckelOct 30 07:22p

Jacksonville Jaguars OT Luke Joeckel (concussion) has recovered nicely from the concussion he suffered in Week 8, and he could play in Week 9 against the Cincinnati Bengals. Joeckel [ More ]

Pierre ThomasOct 30 07:22p

New Orleans Saints RBs Khiry Robinson (forearm) and Pierre Thomas (shoulder) are both inactive in Week 9 against the Carolina Panthers Thursday, Oct. 30.

Arian FosterOct 30 07:12p

Houston Texans RB Arian Foster (knee) was limited in practice Thursday, Oct. 30.

Johnathan JosephOct 30 07:12p

Houston Texans LBs Brian Cushing (knee), Brooks Reed (groin) and Jeff Tarpinian (knee) did not practice Thursday, Oct. 30. RB Alfred Blue (ankle), LB Jadeveon Clowney (knee), CB Johnathan [ More ]

David HawthorneOct 30 07:12p

The New Orleans Saints have declared LB Austin Johnson, LB David Hawthorne, C Jonathan Goodwin, RB Khiry Robinson, WR Nick Toon, RB Pierre Thomas, CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste inactive for Week 9.

Amini SilatoluOct 30 07:12p

The Carolina Panthers have declared OG Amini Silatolu, CB Bene Benwikere, OT Byron Bell, RB Fozzy Whittaker, WR Philly Brown, FS Thomas DeCoud, OG Trai Turner inactive for Week 9.

Justin TuckOct 30 06:42p

Oakland Raiders TE David Ausberry (foot), WR Vincent Brown (hamstring), CB Chimdi Chekwa (hamstring), CB Keith McGill (groin), CB Carlos Rogers (knee) and WR Kenbrell Thompkins (non-injury) did not [ More ]

Anthony CollinsOct 30 06:42p

Tampa Bay Buccaneers OT Anthony Collins (foot) and LB Brandon Magee (knee) did not practice Thursday, Oct. 30. C Evan Dietrich-Smith (knee), WR Trindon Holliday (hamstring) and DE Michael Johnson (hand) were limited.

Brian RobisonOct 30 06:32p

Minnesota Vikings DT Shariff Floyd (ankle, knee), TE Chase Ford (foot), CB Jabari Price (hamstring), CB Josh Robinson (ankle) and DE Brian Robison (glute) were limited in practice Thursday, [ More ]

Louis VasquezOct 30 06:22p

Denver Broncos S Quinton Carter (hamstring) did not practice Thursday, Oct. 30. LB Lamin Barrow (concussion), TE Virgil Green (calf), LB Steven Johnson (ankle) and OG Louis Vasquez (illness) [ More ]

Ronnie HillmanOct 30 06:22p

Denver Broncos RB Ronnie Hillman (shoulder) was limited in practice for the second straight day Thursday, Oct. 30.

Billy WinnOct 30 06:22p

Cleveland Browns WR Rodney Smith (hamstring) and DE Phil Taylor (knee) did not practice Thursday, Oct. 30. DE Desmond Bryant (wrist), S Jim Leonhard (ankle), LB Barkevious Mingo (shoulder), [ More ]

Jordan CameronOct 30 06:12p

Cleveland Browns TE Jordan Cameron (concussion) did not practice Thursday, Oct. 30.

Chris JohnsonOct 30 06:12p

New York Jets RB Chris Johnson, who carried the ball just three times for seven yards in Week 8, said he's frustrated with his limited role in the offense. [ More ]

Tom CrabtreeOct 30 06:02p

The New Orleans Saints waived TE Tom Crabtree Thursday, Oct. 30.

Patrick PetersonOct 30 05:42p

Arizona Cardinals S Tony Jefferson (head) and TE Troy Niklas (ankle) were limited in practice Thursday, Oct. 30. DE Calais Campbell (knee), LB Kenny Demens (knee), S Rashad Johnson [ More ]

Cyrus GrayOct 30 05:22p

Kansas City Chiefs CB Jamell Fleming (hamstring) and LB Josh Martin (hamstring, knee) did not practice Thursday, Oct. 30. S Eric Berry (ankle) and CB Christopher Owens (knee) were [ More ]

Demario DavisOct 30 05:22p

New York Jets CB Darrin Walls (calf, knee) did not practice Thursday, Oct. 30. OT Oday Aboushi (shoulder), CB Phillip Adams (groin), LB Antwan Barnes (knee), OG Willie Colon [ More ]

Keenan RobinsonOct 30 05:12p

Washington Redskins S Ryan Clark (ankle, shoulder) and OT Trent Williams (knee) were limited in practice Thursday, Oct. 30. LB Ryan Kerrigan (wrist), LB Trent Murphy (knee), CB Tracy [ More ]

R. Griffin IIIOct 30 05:12p

Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III (ankle) practiced in full for the second straight day Thursday, Oct. 30.

R. Griffin IIIOct 30 05:02p

Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III (ankle) will start against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 9, barring any setbacks this week in practice, according to head coach Jay Gruden. [ More ]

Mike PounceyOct 30 05:02p

Miami Dolphins OG Daryn Colledge (illness, back) LB Chris McCain (foot) and TE Dion Sims (toe) did not practice Thursday, Oct. 30. OG Nate Garner (neck), LB Koa Misi [ More ]

Andre BranchOct 30 04:42p

Jacksonville Jaguars CB Will Blackmon (finger), DE Andre Branch (groin), DE Chris Clemons (non-injury), LB Geno Hayes (non-injury) and DT Roy Miller (non-injury) didn't practice Thursday, Oct. 30. CB [ More ]

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