Each week we go “Inside The Enemy Camp” and interview the FanSided editor who covers the team the Chiefs will do battle with next. This week, I had a special request to do an exchange with Andy Tisdel of The Oak Creek Patch in Wisconsin. Andy was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about the Packers.
You can also read more about the defending Super Bowl Champs by visiting FanSided’s Packers site Lombardi Ave.
Now, let’s go Inside The Enemy Camp with Andy Tisdel.
The Packers are the defending Super Bowl champs. That means they are going to have a bulls-eye on them all season. Do you feel they are ready to deal with that pressure or will they suffer from the “dreaded Super Bowl hangover?”
I’m fairly optimistic that they will not, or at least, if they don’t repeat it won’t be because they were still sitting on the Super Bowl victory. I give a big assist to the lockout, because in a normal off-season, the players and coaches all get to parade around and go to events and sort of bask in the glory that they’ve earned. And from what I understand, it gets harder to get the players focused and keep them hungry in minicamps and training camp. This year, there was none of that. They didn’t go to the White House until August, they didn’t have much time to celebrate. Guys were at home, training and staying hungry. If the Packers fall short this year, I don’t think a Super Bowl hangover will be the cause.
However, it’s very true that every team that plays the Packers is going to put special emphasis on it, especially the Bears, Falcons and Giants (all teams that the Packers ran over on the season-ending six-game winning streak). Everybody wants to knock off the defending champs. That’s something they’ll absolutely have to prepare for.
The Packers dealt with numerous injuries last season but there always seemed to be someone ready to step up. Was the team’s 2010 depth a surprise?
In some areas, yes. In some, not really. Depth at cornerback was a big surprise because it was terrible in 2009; we got railroaded out of the playoffs in large part because a starting corner went down late in the season and we had no depth. This year we relied on an undrafted rookie, Sam Shields, to be our nickel corner and it succeeded brilliantly. He played a ton of snaps and had the game of his life in the NFC Championship. Then when Shields and Charles Woodson went down in the Super Bowl, the backups really stepped up. That was an unexpected pleasure.
In terms of depth across the board, I would advance an idea from Andy Benoit of the New York Times, in his Packers 2011 preview. He called depth ‘a symptom of success’, and said that it doesn’t come from finding a ton of great players in the late rounds, it comes from having great systems and knowing how to use everybody. Your star tight end goes down? Feature your No. 1 wideout more; Greg Jennings goes to the Pro Bowl. You have three uninjured defensive linemen left to play Adrian Peterson and the Vikings? Figure it out on the fly. The Packers got a lot of help from guys like C.J. Wilson, Desmond Bishop, Charlie Peprah and Jarius Wynn, but part of that was putting everyone in position to maximize their talents. The coaches did that very efficiently, and that was also a pleasant surprise.
Is Donald Driver a robot? He is obviously slowing down a little bit but he is still productive. Who steps up for him when his time is done?
I begin to wonder that myself! He’s a slot receiver and he takes a ton of shots because of that, but somehow always bounces up again. The good news is that WR is probably Green Bay’s deepest position, and when Driver retires, James Jones, Jordy Nelson or Randall Cobb will slide right into the No. 2 slot. Either Nelson or Jones could probably do it this year, but No. 80 still has a year or two left in him.
What are some of Green Bay’s training camp battle that could be settled in this last preseason contest?
The biggest battles have been at backup WR and TE. The Packers are completely set at WR with Jennings, Driver, Jones, Nelson and Cobb, but some of the camp guys have been so darn talented that they’re considering keeping a sixth. Chastin West, Tori Gurley and Diondre Borel are the guys in contention for that spot, and that battle could very well be settled against the Chiefs. Same with TE; the Packers have five talented tight ends and could concievably keep all 5. There’s a fight for depth at outside linebacker, with Vic So’oto, Jamari Lattimore and Brad Jones competing for one or two spots, and a bunch of backup offensive linemen.
This last preseason game is sure to feature plenty of young players. On deep, elite teams like the Packers, good young guys are often cut because there simply isn’t room for them on the roster. Who are some players Chiefs fans should keep an eye on that might get cut or land on green Bay’s practice squad?
Well, I think it’s going to be really hard to sneak anyone onto the practice squad this year, just because the Packers have developed a reputation for talent. And plenty of scouts have been attending our games this preseason. The players to watch are West, Gurley and Borel, all of whom are talented WRs; TEs Andrew Quarless and Tom Crabtree, who’ll get cut if anyone is at that position; Graham Harrell, the third-string QB and G Nick McDonald, among many others. RBs Brandon Saine and Dmitri Nance likely won’t make the Packers’ roster but will stick someplace. If CBs Brandon Underwood, Pat Lee or M.D. Jennings get cut, somebody’s definitely going to bring them in. Underwood and Lee have talent but haven’t lived up to it as yet, and Jennings is just a good, athletic prospect.