The Green Bay Packers open the new football season Sunday in San Francisco against the Forty-Niners.
Mark Daniels is the Sports Director for radio stations WNFL and WTAQ in Green Bay.
Terry Bell: It seems every time this [time of] year, we say the defense has to get better. Did it get better?
Mark Daniels: I think it got better. I think it got better as the season went on last year. Their sacks went way up, there were not as many huge plays [given up] outside of the playoff loss at San Francisco. But I think generally speaking, across the board, statistically, the defense got better.
The other thing is a lot of young players played a lot of snaps. Now, you've got Nick Perry back in the fold. You've got a number-one draft choice, Datone Jones, who's expected to help on the defensive line. I think there's room for even more improvement this year on that side of the ball.
TB: And on the other side of the ball, the running game really needed to get better. The Packers have two rookie running backs. Can two rookies get that job done?
MD: I think so. I think Eddie Lacy is more ready to get the job done than Jonathan Franklin. Lacy from Alabama, on a national championship team, has played in big games. He's carried the ball in those big games, and has produced in those games. And now it's going to be Lacy's job, and I think he's relishing the opportunity to get a lot of carries and get his NFL career going. I think he's got a chance to be a pretty good running back.
TB: We should probably talk about a position we normally don't spend a lot of time on, and that's backup quarterback. And the Packers really went through a carousel of backup quarterbacks this preseason - they really couldn't settle on anybody, they had to go out and get some help last weekend.
MD: They went out and signed Vince Young, the former number-one pick of the Tennessee Titans. Young came in, and was given every opportunity to seize that number-two job, but just could not do it. So on the final weekend, as the final roster cuts were being made, they bring in two new back-ups. One, Seneca Wallace, who's been around the league for 10 years. And the Packers also bring in another quarterback to be on their practice squad - former Wisconsin Badgers quarterback Scott Tolzien. I think a lot of folks will remember Scott.
[It's] a really curious turnabout - really starting over with two brand-new quarterbacks to the system, and to the team. But the Packers really haven't had to worry about a back-up quarterback for a generation, with Brett Favre playing every game for 16 seasons, and Rodgers almost doing the same since he took over the reins in 2008.
TB: How does the schedule work for or against Green Bay?
MD: [It's a] very difficult start. It's an imposing task to go to San Francisco, the place where you last played in a game that counted, and it was abysmal. And then, they're going to see Robert Griffin III and the dynamic Washington Redskins coming to town in their home opener; a trip to Cincinnati, which many seem to think is going to contend; and then you catch a break with an early bye; and [then] it's a division rival, the Detroit Lions coming in to town. And then, you go to the Super Bowl champion Ravens! It's a gauntlet for the Packers all year long.
But they have no back-to-back road games on their schedule, and that has not happened since [they were] the Acme Packers in 1921. So if they can just kind of survive after this first month, they could set themselves up for a pretty good run again.
TB: Can they contend?
MD: I think they can. Because they do have one of the top players in the game in Aaron Rodgers. On almost every Sunday, if you just take the quarterback versus quarterback match-up, Rodgers is going to be better than his counterpart. And that gives the Packers a gigantic advantage.