Saw an interesting bit of news while perusing the Internets this fine spring evening. Apparently, Brian Westbrook might finally have a job. Unexpectedly, it's not with the Vikings, but maybe the Green Bay Packers. So that got me to thinking, how would that move, and other moves by our rival NFC North teams, affect the 2010 campaign that is about six light years away right now? After the jump, let's take a look at what the Lions, Packers, and Bears have done to try and close the gap on the reigning NFC North champions. Tonight, I'll discuss the Packers off-season so far, and throughout the rest of the week, we'll look at the Bears and the Lions.
Green Bay: Westbrook to the Packers is a very intriguing--and shrewd--move, if the Packers do indeed pull the trigger. When Viking fandom thought the battle was between Westbrook and Tomlinson, I liked what Westbrook has to offer, but I liked Tomlinson a little bit more. The big drawback on Westbrook isn't talent, it's health. Specifically, he's one more concussion from probable retirement. However, IF he does sign with the Packers, and IF he does stay healthy, he would add to an impressive offensive arsenal in Green Bay. Ryan Grant had over 1,200 yards rushing, both Greg Jennings and Donald Driver had over 1,000 yards receiving, and the TE combo of Jermichael Finley and Donald Lee had over 900 yards receiving and 6 TD's (holy crap!). Adding Westbrook to that arsenal makes a dangerous offense scary, I'll be honest.
The problem with Westbrook is an inability to stay healthy, and if they invest a lot of the gameplan into Westbrook and he can't answer the bell, they'll have no one to fall back on if Ryan Grant gets hurt. Their RB corps is dangerously thin, and it seems like they almost have to address the position in the draft. Westbrook is a perfect transitional back for a long term backup to Grant while the rookie watches and learns...as long as he can stay healthy. If it was any other injury but a concussion, this move would really worry me as a VIkings fan. However, I don't think Westbrook will last half the season with whoever signs him. The other big problem Green Bay had, at least for the first half to two thirds of the season, was the offensive linemen perfecting the 'Lookout!' block, specifically against Jared Allen, who amassed 241 Sacks in two games against the Packers last season. Yes, they improved as the season wore on, but it needs to be addressed, and the Packers haven't...other than re-signing the guys who were the ones nearly responsible for Aaron Rodgers being separated from his head through the first 7 weeks of the season.
On defense, it was a mixed bag. They looked great against some very strong offensive teams (Dallas) and had the #1 overall ranked defense statistically, but got absolutely shredded by the VIkes twice and the Cardinals in the playoffs. To address this, they let their best defensive player over the last five years walk as a free agent. Granted, Aaron Kampmann looked about as comfortable as Jesse James and Tiger Woods at a Moral Majority rally in the 3-4, but still, the guy was a playmaker.
So have the Packers gotten any better? So far, no, not really. Especially not in the critical area of the offensive line. But they haven't gotten worse, and they were 11-5 and came within a few plays of winning the division last year, so they remain a very dangerous team.