Call this playing devil's advocate to our "10 Reasons for Optimism" post that ran Wednesday night.
If the Green Bay Packers have any concerns as they report to training camp, these are the most important 10:
1. Learning Curve for New Safeties
Nick Collins and Darren Sharper needed three or four years to become consistent, impact players at safety, an increasingly demanding position. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is a rookie and Micah Hyde is learning to play the position for the first time in the NFL. What if the safety group doesn't improve right away in 2014?
2. Smaller Defensive Line
Green Bay's defense gave up 4.6 yards per carry and allowed 125 rushing yards per game in 2013. So what did the Packers do? They got smaller along the defensive line. Gone are Johnny Jolly, Ryan Pickett and C.J. Wilson. That's a lot of beef to replace. Maybe the smaller but quicker linemen will shoot gaps and play more in attack mode. Or maybe a line that got pushed around last season will get pushed around again.
3. No Additions at ILB
The Packers didn't make any notable moves at inside linebacker. The club might have high expectations for Jamari Lattimore and Sam Barrington, but this position feels like it could—by the end of 2014—share some similarities with the safety group in 2013. The Packers are banking on internal improvement and Brad Jones staying healthy. It didn't help that the defensive line got smaller, either. The inside 'backers might need to shed even more blocks this season.
4. Rodgers' Collarbone
After years of fortune, the Packers finally got stung by a significant quarterback injury. Here's to another two decades of health at the position. Injuries are mostly unpredictable, but there's now at least some realization that Packers quarterbacks aren't invincible. Aaron Rodgers still gets hit more than your average quarterback, whether it's from a breakdown up front or his tendency to extend plays as long as possible. Another unlucky break (no pun intended) and another Packers season could spiral (again, no pun intended) out of control. Phalanges crossed.
5. Uncertainty along the OL
Packers quarterbacks were sacked 45 times and hit another 24 times in 2013. The hope is that the development of David Bahktiari and return of Bryan Bulaga improves the unit. But what if Bahktiari doesn't show the expected progression? He gave up eight sacks and committed 11 penalties last season. And it's probably fair to consider Bulaga a question mark. He wasn't great in 2012 and then missed all of last season. Throw in a center position that will be manned by a player with zero NFL experience, and there's still reason to worry along the offensive line.
6. Question Marks at TE
Not having Jermichael Finley back means the Packers will go to camp with a group of tight ends that have caught exactly 71 career passes and four total touchdowns. Andrew Quarless is the elder statesman, but all he could muster was two years and $3 million on the open market. The Packers need Brandon Bostick to develop, and for either Richard Rodgers or Colt Lyerla to make an immediate impact. This position group is probably the biggest unknown on the Packers roster as camp opens. Losing Finley stings.
7. Peppers is 34
The Packers are paying Julius Peppers over $8 million this season because they believe he still has something left in the tank. What if he doesn't? Or what if he can't handle a new position at 34? Not many at his age are productive rushing the passer. Also, Clay Matthews, Mike Neal and Nick Perry have combined to miss 29 games over the last two seasons. The Packers will more than likely need something out of Peppers.
8. Brutal Opening Act
What a brutal month September figures to be for the Packers. It begins in Seattle for the NFL's kickoff event against the Seahawks, the defending champs. Seattle is 15-1 at home since 2012. The Packers then return home to play the Jets before hitting the road for stops in Detroit and Chicago. October begins with a short week and a Thursday night game in Green Bay against Minnesota. That's a stressful first five games.
9. NFC North is Better
The division looks like it could be a dogfight next season. Laugh it up, but the Bears are loaded on offense, and general manager Phil Emery upgraded the defense. If Charles Tillman and Lance Briggs stay healthy, and Jared Allen and Lamaar Houston jumpstart the pass rush, Chicago will be very good. In Detroit, the Lions replaced Jim Schwartz with his exact opposite in Jim Caldwell. If the new staff can get Matthew Stafford back to 2011 levels, the Lions can win the division. And don't sleep on the Vikings. Mike Zimmer was a perfect fit, the defense added a few pieces and Teddy Bridgewater has the tools to be a franchise quarterback. Minnesota's arrow is pointing up. The North embarrassed itself at times last season; 2014 will be a rebound year. The Packers still have the best quarterback, and that makes them the favorite. But it might take 11 or 12 wins to take the crown this season.
10. Count on Injuries
At this point, it'd be silly not to. The Packers are going to lose a handful of key contributors to injury somewhere along the way this season. But where will those injuries come? At premium positions, like quarterback, tackle, pass rusher and cornerback? Or at more manageable positions, like in 2010? Injuries happen in the NFL. You can only hope they don't impact the game's biggest positions. This should be a very good team if healthy. If recent bites from the injury bug continue, the Packers could be very vulnerable in a division that is catching up.
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