Without the truly crippling injuries which hamstrung this team last season, the Lions might have been among the top three in the West. They're healthy now, and an offensive line which suffered from old age and malnutrition in 1958 is younger and healthier. If the youngsters continue providing holes for the running backs and protection for Tobin Rote, the Lions are on the way—not all the way, but far enough to save a good coach's job. Given time, Wilson will have the Lions back on top very soon.
GREEN BAY PACKERS
COACH: VINCE LOMBARDI
1958 RECORD: W 1, L 10, T 1, 6TH
1959 EXHIBITIONS: W 4, L 2
If Vince Lombardi could combine the talents of his three quarterbacks—Bart Starr, Joe Francis and Lamar McHan—into one man, he would have a quarterback as good as Johnny Unitas. Starr has trouble with the long pass, Francis is a good runner but still unused to the T quarterback role and McHan lacks leadership. Lombardi, an old hand at juggling quarterbacks, will probably squeeze the most from these three. They have good receivers to throw to; better protection from a revamped offensive line will help.
Paul Hornung, after a couple of so-so seasons, looks ready now to play up to his potential. Lew Carpenter, acquired from the Browns, adds punch to a backfield which should be more effective behind better blocking. The Green Bay quarterbacks can run, too, particularly Francis.
Old head Emlen Tunnell lends a touch of wisdom and a steadying influence to a Packer secondary which has been very effective in exhibition games. Lombardi's late trades may have remedied a major weakness—lack of an effective rush from the defensive line, a must in this game.
Tackles Ken Beck, from the Cardinals, and Henry Jordan, an ex-Brown, combine with J. D. Kimmel to beef up the Packer running defense. The Packer linebackers, led by Tom Bettis, are veterans. Bill Quinlan, a defensive end obtained from Cleveland, is a key in the rebuilt and much stronger Packer defensive line.
When Vince Lombardi accepted a five-year contract to rebuild the sadly depleted Green Bay fortunes, he made it clearly understood that he would run the show. This very quickly disposed of the major reason for the Packer decline—too many cooks. Lombardi, an intelligent, sound coach and an able administrator, has a big rebuilding task, but he has done a remarkable job to date. This is a smarter, quicker and much better Packer team—probably the most improved team in the NFL. They are tough for any club.
LOS ANGELES RAMS
COACH: SID GILLMAN
1958 RECORD: W 8, L 4, TIED FOR 2ND
1959 EXHIBITIONS: W 3, L 2, T 1