Three-time MVP Brett Favre remains the most talented player in the NFL at his position and it will be interesting to see how he responds to playing for new head and position coaches. Backup Doug Pederson left with former position coach Andy Reid to become the starter in Philly. After a season under Holmgren's tutelage, Rick Mirer may finally be ready to fulfill expectations. Matt Hasselbeck, a seventh round pick who spent all of last season on the practice squad, appears to have the inside track on the No. 3 job.
Dorsey Levens returned to the lineup late in the season and displayed the toughness and vision that made him a Pro Bowler in 1997. FB William Henderson had a disappointing season after steadily improving in his first three years. Henderson is a UFA and hasn't attracted the interest on the open market that he and his agent thought he would. Travis Jervey signed with the 49ers in mid-March and because of Henderson's apparent signing, the Packers don't appear to have enough money to sign backup Darick Holmes.
Emerging superstar Antonio Freeman was hit with the franchise tag and it's imperative he returns. With injuries to Robert Brooks and Derrick Mayes, Freeman became Favre's security blanket. Brooks, who underwent multiple surgeries to correct a lower back problem, is progressing nicely in rehab. RFA Mayes, who has the best hands on the team, hasn't shown the ability to stay healthy and looks to be nothing more than a capable No. 3 at this point in his career. Speedsters Bill Schroeder and Corey Bradford showed flashes at points during the season and should get every opportunity to earn significant roles next season. Once believed to be the team's deepest position, the Packers must address this area in the early and middle rounds of April's draft.
Mark Chumra, Jeff Thomason, and Tyrone Davis form the league's top TE trio. All three players are locked up for the future so the Packers have nothing to worry about at this position. Chmura is one of the best all-around TE's in the league and remains Favre's favorite target on seam passes. Thomason, once thought of as strictly a receiver, has developed into Green Bay's most effective blocking TE. Of Tyrone Davis' 18 catches, 7 went for scores. Davis' athletic ability allows the Packers split him out wide and create mismatches in the red zone.
C Frank Winters turned 35 in January and might have a hard time coming back from a broken leg. Even if he comes back, his skills appeared to be declining last season. OG Adam Timmerman was the team's top lineman last season and signed with the St. Louis Rams. San Diego veteran Raleigh McKenzie was signed to fill-in for Timmerman. Rivera struggled against the Central Division's elite DT's but he steadily improved as the season wore on. ROT Earl Dotson, who signed a long-term contract late in the season, is solid but not as good as the Packers believe he is. LOT Ross Verba had problems after teams had a year to scout his tendencies. Youngsters like Jon Michels, Mike Wahle, and Joe Andruzzi provide good depth.
The retirement of DE Reggie White creates a huge need on the left side. Gilbert Brown played better than he did in '97 but his weight still hinders his effectiveness, especially in the second half of games. Santana Dotson's big play production (sacks, pressures, tackles for loss) was down after two unheralded seasons in Green Bay. Dotson is an UFA, and although he didn't appear to be the same player he was in past seasons, the Packers can't afford to lose him. Rookie DE Vonnie Holliday was a force against the run and pass from the first day of training camp. Keith McKenzie and Vaughn Booker are in line to replace White and the Pack might rotate them on a situational basis. Billy Lyon and Jermaine Smith are serviceable replacements and should negate the loss of Bob Kuberski to Atlanta.
OLB Brian Williams, who led the team in tackles, is the best athlete of the bunch. Starting MLB Bernardo Harris is an instinctive, physical guy and can play all three linebacker positions but the Packers probably want to upgrade the speed at this position. OLB George Koonce has a nose for the ball and is better suited for Harris' spot in the middle. Top reserve Lamont Hollinquest signed with Kansas City so the Pack will desperately seek depth in the draft.
CB Craig Newsome was banged up for a good portion of the season and the lack of an established third corner became evident. CB Tyrone Williams played well for the most part, but like his backfield teammates, he was victimized for too many big plays. Green Bay greatly overestimated FS Darren Sharper's development. In all fairness, injuries forced Sharper to play extended time at corner and his man-to-man skills just aren't there yet. SS LeRoy Butler is arguably the league's most versatile defensive player. Butler continues to take over games by disguising blitzes and covering both WR's and TE's. Utility man Rod Mullen signed with the Panthers.
Ron Wolf uncovered a gem when he brought in Pro Bowl RS Roell Preston off the street. Although his production tailed off late in the sesaon, Preston is a RFA and needs to be re-signed. For the second straight season, the Packers lost their punter (Sean Landeta) in free agency. Will Brice was signed to replace Landeta but will need to win the job in camp. PK Ryan Longwell has another fine season, connecting on 29-of-33 field goal attempts.