By Chris Havel
Special to Event USA
Training camp opens in just 16 days: Here’s a quick primer on the 2018 team
GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers kick off the 2018 season when training camp opens July 26 at Nitschke Field.
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Until then the first-place Brewers, as well as picnics, concerts and all things summer, are likely to occupy your attention. Should you have some free time, though, here is a look at the Packers – from A to Z – as training camp draws near.
** A is for Aaron, as in Rodgers, the NFL’s best quarterback, and Jones, who needs to find consistency.
** B is for blown coverage – an all too frequent occurrence in the Packers’ defensive secondary a year ago.
** C is for Crosby, the extraordinary kicker named Mason, who splits uprights under pressure in any kind of weather.
** D is for “DEE-Fence!” Mike Pettine’s arrival as the new defensive coordinator has raised expectations among fans. Now we’ll see if Pettine can “DEE-Liver!”
** E is for edge rusher. It’s time for Clay Matthews and Nick Perry to stay healthy, put up numbers and lead by example. Some want to focus on a lack of depth. Here’s my prediction: If the Packers’ starting edge rushers do their job as well as the backups will Green Bay just might develop a pass rush.
** F is for all the finger-pointing after the defensive secondary blew its coverage.
** G is for Green Bay: America’s true team remains one of Las Vegas’ betting favorites to win the Super Bowl this year.
** H is for happiness, as in the happiness that will be created when the Packers open 2-0 with wins at home over NFC North Division rivals Chicago and Minnesota.
** I is for inexcusable – which is the way the backup quarterback and cornerbacks played when called upon. That’s got to be better in 2018
** J is for Jaire Alexander, the Packers’ first-round draft pick, who brings speed, athleticism and swagger to a secondary lacking all three. It’s also for Josh Jackson, the second-round pick, who is being expected to contribute as well.
** K is for Kenny Clark, who is going to take the leap from strong, solid starter to impact player on the defensive line.
** L is for look out if the Packers’ offensive weapons click. Davante Adams is a stud as the No. 1 receiver. Randall Cobb, Geronimo Allison and at least one of the rookie receivers must step up. J’Mon Moore, the fourth-round pick, is up first.
** M is for Mike McCarthy. It is crazy how little national love the Packers’ head coach receives in the litany of lists, polls and rankings that litter the Internet. My guess is that McCarthy doesn’t give a whit, which is a wonderful thing.
** N is for noon-day sun, which is what McCarthy’s teams are going to be practicing beneath throughout training camp.
** O is for opening the 100th anniversary season with a big-time victory over the Chicago Bears, who’ve made a habit of ruining Packers’ celebrations at Lambeau Field. Those days (fingers crossed) are over.
** P is for Philadelphia and (head coach Doug) Pederson, who now have the NFC target on their backs.
** Q is for quicker players making a difference such as Alexander and Jackson on defense, and Moore, Valdes-Scantling and St. Brown on offense.
** R is for running game. The Packers should be better carrying the football than at any time in recent years. Jamaal Williams is a competent lead dog, with Aaron Jones and Ty Montgomery filling roles behind him.
** S is for stopping opposing offenses with regularity. The defense’s importance can’t be overstated. The mindset can’t be “Let Aaron do it” because in a loaded NFC that isn’t going to be good enough.
** T is for tight end, or rather tight ends, as in Jimmy Graham, Marcedes Lewis and Lance Kendricks. The unit has never been this well-stocked in McCarthy’s tenure. Rodgers is going to benefit in a major way from the tight end’s ability to get open, catch the ball and attack a defense.
** U is for underrated players such as Blake Martinez, who’s going to keep getting better, and Dean Lowry, who will be a key cog in the defensive line’s rotation.
** V is for victories. The more the merrier. Twelve sounds about right.
** W is for all the Wisconsin fans who are Packers fans throughout this great state of ours. The only thing better than the Badgers’ national title aspirations, and the Packers’ Super Bowl quest, is that both are possible.
** X is for excellence, which is expected in Green Bay, and X-rays, the one thing all fans hope turns out negative.
** Y is for you, the Packers’ fans, who are the best.
** Z is for the zebras who’ve retired, including Ed Hochuli, Gene Steratore and Jeff Triplette, three of the all-time greats. They will be missed.