Ten things the Packers are sure to eclipse in 2017

Green Bay’s 21-17 pre-season win in
Washington shows areas of promise

By Chris Havel
Special to Event USA
GREEN BAY, Wis. – Staring at the sun during a solar eclipse could be damaging to your eye-sight.
Only slightly less dangerous is being forced to watch really bad NFL games, especially pre-season games.

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Fortunately for the Packers’ fans their team has been a sight to behold through two pre-season games. Granted, it hasn’t always been pretty and as Packers head coach Mike McCarthy is wont to say, “There’s plenty of work to be done.”
On the whole, though, the Packers’ pre-season games have been pretty easy on the eyes. Green Bay’s 21-17 victory against the Redskins Saturday night at FedEx Field qualifies as a success.
The Packers (2-0) avoided any major injuries, the first-team offense looked terrific and the front-line defenders turned back the Redskins repeatedly while turning in a strong showing.
Aside from second-year left tackle Jason Spriggs being beaten like a drum and Trevor Davis’ muffed punt there was a lot to like. In fact, it (and today’s solar eclipse) inspired me to consider 10 things the Packers are sure to eclipse in 2017:
** 10 – The Packers’ running attack was non-existent last year. Ty Montgomery led the way with 457 yards, the lowest total by Green Bay’s rushing leader in more than 20 years.
Rookie Jamaal Williams will be the solution.
Williams, a fourth-round pick, looked comfortable in Montgomery’s place with the starters. Montgomery, who missed the game with a “soft-tissue injury,” appears to have a competent back-up, if not a competitor for snaps.
My prediction is the Packers will have two rushers with more than the 457 yards Montgomery managed last season.
** 9 – Justin Vogel is going to be the Packers’ punter for a while. He has shown mental toughness by bouncing back after a poor punt and he has enough leg to shift the field position and the touch to drop it inside the 20-yard line.
I like Vogel’s game. I’d probably like it even more if he changed his jersey number to something other than “5” when the regular-season starts.
** 8 – I liked Kenny Clark a year ago when doubters were questioning the first-round pick. Now, I really like him, plus I get to say, “Told you so.”
Clark will eclipse expectations.
** 7 – You can put fellow defensive lineman Dean Lowry in the same category. Frankly, I thought he should have played more last season. Rest assured Lowry will more than make up those snaps this season.
** 6 – Josh Hawkins, come on down, you are the next contestant on, “Who flashed this week?”
Hawkins was strong in coverage throughout the night.
He quite possibly won a roster spot against the Redskins. If not he certainly has the defensive staff’s full attention.
** 5 – Aaron Rodgers is the best, eclipsing even the great Tom Brady. Today, in a one-game playoff, I’d take Rodgers.
On Saturday night, he started and looked in mid-season form.
He got in, got out and directed a touchdown drive along the way. I like his style. I also like the way his back-ups clearly try to emulate the perennial Pro Bowl quarterback.
Brett Hundley, Joe Callahan and Taysom Hill are different in stature, but their footwork, attention to detail and clock awareness all shout, “Rodgers.”
Right now, I’ve got to believe Hundley’s play is edging nearer to enticing a team or two to place a phone call to Green Bay. Callahan is better than he was last year, and he was fairly impressive then.
Hill has set himself up to make the 10-man practice squad in Green Bay or elsewhere. It’s a nice QB group, eclipsing any the Packers have had in recent memory.
** 4 – Joe Thomas is a player.
The unheralded linebacker relied on his athleticism and desire to carve out a niche as a special teams’ player and cover linebacker. Now, he is applying his grasp of the Packers’ defense to play fast without having to think.
Thomas already has eclipsed what he did a year ago.
** 3 – The Packers’ receiving corps is THE BEST they have had since 2011, which is saying a mouthful.
Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and DaVante Adams all looked ready to roll against the Redskins. Geronimo Allison, Max McCaffrey, Davis and the rest also showed up again.
** 2 – Packers head coach Mike McCarthy will eclipse everyone but Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll as the NFL’s top coaches. In fact, McCarthy can overshadow Carroll by winning another Super Bowl and KO’ing Seattle along the way.
** 1 – The Packers will most assuredly eclipse the 11-win mark. That may not sound like I’m going out on a limb, but given their schedule a 12-win season would be a tremendous feat.
The Packers’ depth appears to be real. The key players on both sides of the ball are on a collectively upward path and the youngsters are eager and athletic.
There’s also this: The Packers’ double-tight end personnel grouping is lethal. They can use it to effectively attack from anywhere at any time, and especially in the red zone.
Good luck to opposing defenses trying to eclipse that.