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By CHRIS HAVEL
McCarthy, Rodgers going easy when it comes to throwing praise around this time
The change is scarcely noticeable, but make no mistake, the Packers’ approach this offseason is decidedly different than a year ago.
Packers head coach Mike McCarthy has been forthcoming with his opinions on players’ performance through the OTA’s and into this week’s mandatory minicamp.
But he hasn’t been nearly as effusive as last offseason. The same can be said for quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
When Jeff Janis – aka “The People’s Champ” – makes a nice play it will be duly noted. It’s the same with Davante Adams, Jared Abbrederis and the rest.
Suffice it to say there isn’t going to be an offseason MVP this time around.
Now, I don’t believe that McCarthy’s praise of Adams last season contributed to his subpar play. On the other hand it’s difficult to blame Adams for feeling pretty good about himself, especially when the head coach and QB are tossing bouquets.
I’m not sure why McCarthy was so generous with his compliments. Most likely it’s because he really believed Adams was on the verge of big things. He also likely felt the offensive line was as good as it gets in the NFL.
He even had kind words for the backup offensive linemen.
Certainly some of it was merited. The lesson in this is something that GM Ted Thompson alluded to in the weeks before the draft. The position that you feel might be a need today may not be a need next week.
The point is that the NFL is a fluid game. Nobody is as good as they think, or as bad, for that matter. The truth lies in between. That’s why Rodgers has been almost as careful with his comments as he is with his pass attempts.
Clearly, the Packers are planning on big things this season. It’s been that way forever, or so it seems.
But last year reminded everyone that even the best-laid plans can be sabotaged by injuries and ineffectiveness.
When Jordy Nelson suffered his season-ending knee injury most Packers fans thought it would be a serious blow. However, they also knew that McCarthy and Rodgers were so high on Adams and Ty Montgomery and the rest that everything would be OK.
It was anything but OK. The Packers never replaced Nelson despite James Jones’ strong showing, and Randall Cobb’s struggles caught most off-guard. Then Adams went belly-up, Montgomery was injured and Janis was too raw to step up.
Now, as the Packers anxiously await Nelson’s return, the truth is undeniable: There is no excuse for a repeat of the offense’s misery this season.
Last year, the Packers had few options to overcome Nelson’s loss. Jones’ availability seemed like the logical solution, but only if the other receivers stepped up their game.
This time around there won’t be any reason even if Nelson is slow to come back. The Packers have had an entire offseason to prepare for his absence if it comes to that.
The free agent signing of tight end Jared Cook was significant. In fact, that alone might be enough to help the Packers survive should Nelson be unavailable for stretches.
Cook certainly looks the part. The only concern is his foot surgery, although McCarthy and the team doctors seemed unconcerned.
Eddie Lacy’s resurgence is essential, too. Lacy looked to be in good shape at the last OTAs, but there’s still a long way from now to the regular season. Furthermore, the running back situation hasn’t changed behind Lacy. It’s still James Starks, John Crockett and whoever steps up.
Defensively, rookie linebacker Blake Martinez certainly has stood out thus far.
McCarthy has been positive in his comments on Martinez, but considering the glaring need at inside linebacker his performance so far has to be promising.
However, McCarthy isn’t about to proclaim Martinez all-world or anything of the sort. The attitude seems to be positive but not overboard.
The Packers know they’re good. In fact, they should compete for the NFC Championship. Taking a low-key approach seems wise, though. The Packers intend to let their playing do the talking.
Chris Havel is a national best-selling author and his latest book is Lombardi: An Illustrated Life. Havel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4-6 p.m. CDT on WDUZ FM 107.5 The Fan, or on AM-1400, as well as Fan Internet Radio (www.thefan1075.com).
Havel also hosts Event USA’s MVP Parties the evening before home games. Also check out our new Podcast: Between the Lines for more Packers insights. New episodes every Wednesday.