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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014

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In Sports Commentary

Coming off a partial season last year, how many times will Randall Cobb get the ball in his hands in 2014? (PHOTO: Jim Biever/Packers.com)

11 questions surrounding the Packers


Are you ready for some football?

Of course we are, even though we will keep one eye on the Milwaukee Brewers. This is Wisconsin, after all. And in every season there are questions that must be answered as the year wears on. Here are the top 11 for the 2014-15 season.

1. Can the doctor take a week off?

Let's face it, the Packers were largely done in by injuries the past couple of seasons. Everybody gets hurt, but the key is having depth so that an injury doesn't wreak havoc on your team. Sure we are all concerned about Aaron Rodgers, but I'd really like to see Clay Matthews play an entire season healthy. With a good pass rush from the defensive ends, Matthews and Julius Peppers stand a chance to be game changers.

2. How many times can the Packers get the ball to Randall Cobb?

Last year was supposed to be the season he established himself as one of the most exciting players to wear the uniform in years. But he broke his leg and missed most of the season. There is this deep suspicion that the more you can let Cobb touch the ball the more opportunities for wonderful things to happen. He's a dedicated and charming young man who could be a real star in Green Bay. This one is on Mike McCarthy and Tom Clements to get the ball to him.

3. Is there any way we can get rid of the whole "cheesehead" thing?

Among other issues they are ugly and offensive and demeaning and they have made people all over the world call anyone from Wisconsin a cheesehead. And we have to pretend we like it. While we're at it, maybe we should wrap up the Lambeau Leap which may have outlived its joy. But I'd be willing to keep that if we could just have a big bonfire for all those Styrofoam heads, hats, fingers, whatever. Seriously.

4. How about Eddie Lacy?

He was a workhorse last year and for the first time in ages he gave the Packers a rough, tough durable running back. The Packers have worked on him as a receiver out of the backfield and he's likely to get more opportunities to catch and run. But the dreaded sophomore slump is out there and whether he avoids it is a crucial question for the Packers. With James Starks and DuJuan Harris, anyone who remembers Jim Taylor and Paul Hornung may well have deja vu all over again.

5. How strong will it be in the middle?

Like baseball, a great defense has strength up the middle. You need a catcher, shortstop and second baseman and a center fielder. In football you need the nose tackle and the two inside linebackers. With B. J. Raji out for the year the nose tackle spot may well be a revolving door. And I remain unconvinced that A. J. Hawk and Brad Jones are the caliber of linebackers needed to make a championship run. We'll see on this one.

6. Will the phrase "protect the quarterback" take on new meaning?

It's no secret that the Packers are concerned with how often Rodgers takes a hit, either because his protection breaks down or he decides to take off downfield on his own. It's tough to stop his instinct to run but the hope is the offensive line does something special and forms something like Israel's Iron Dome around the quarterback. One broken collarbone makes it easier to have a second broken collarbone.

7. Will Brett Favre show up?

I have a feeling he may slip into town and stand on the sideline with a lot of the other ex-players. Not to make a big deal, but to show his Packers colors and support and take another big step toward shutting up all the unreasonable haters who don't know what they're talking about. I would be glad to see him. I mean Pharrell Williams happy.

8. Speaking of the middle, is the center position going to okay?

Corey Linsley is a rookie who played at a big time program at Ohio State. But there is a world of difference between being a Buckeye and being a Packer. It's hard to overstate the importance of the center, both physically, mentally and in experience. Linsley has the size but if he can't get up to speed with recognizing defensive fronts and calling signals for the offensive line, it could have significant effects on both the running and passing games.

9. What's the first date that we will see three girls in green and gold bikini's on television holding cups of beer while the temperature is below freezing?

This seems to now be an annual shot that we get. I'm going for Sunday, November 9 against the Bears at night. It'll be cold. Television loves Lambeau Field at night. And the girls have all day to let the producer people know where they are going to be.

10. How much will Jermichael Finley and James Jones be missed?

Say what you will about Finley never actually living up to his potential, he was the kind of tight end weapon that rarely comes along. He could play inside or outside with equal effectiveness. The Packers may be happier with all their new tight ends, especially since the running game is going to be such a factor this season. Jones escaped in free agency and in some respects that's cause for some concern. He was the ultimate sure hand and a great touchdown receiver. Not the fastest, but he could be counted on.

11. Who should we worry about in our division?

I know a lot of people think Jim Caldwell is going to start paying dividends in Detroit but I remain convinced that Matthew Stafford will never be anything more than an average quarterback. The Lions have some stars, but they don't have enough good players. Some people like the Bears and I suppose if Jay Cutler surprises the world by actually being consistent they could be difficult. Forget the Vikings.


Talkbacks

Photodavie | Sept. 2, 2014 at 9:10 a.m. (report)

1 question surrounding Dave Begel - Why are you still writing sports pieces!?!?! Stick to musicals and leave sports talk to sports personnel. PLEASE.

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