After coming up short for 2nd year in a row, Packers shaking things up on both sides of ball

  • Article by: NANCY ARMOUR , AP National Writer
  • Updated: July 23, 2013 - 2:57 PM
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Brian Robison (96) pressured Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) in December 2012.

Photo: Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

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Calling the Green Bay Packers underachievers after they won back-to-back NFC North titles may be harsh.

But it's not far off.

Stung by a second straight loss in the NFC divisional round, this time to the San Francisco 49ers, the Packers spent the offseason addressing their weak spots. While coach Mike McCarthy was reconfiguring a porous offensive line that gave up an NFL-high 51 sacks, general manager Ted Thompson drafted two running backs in the first four rounds. Thompson also locked up three of Green Bay's key defensive starters, signing linebackers Clay Matthews and Brad Jones and safety Morgan Burnett to extensions.

"Guys know there's a short window for a team to be as good as we are," receiver Jordy Nelson said after the team's final OTAs. "You've got to make the most of those (years) and that's by winning championships. We know we've been close. We know we've had the team, but came up short."

Five things to watch as the Packers try to stay atop the division:

1. LINING UP: Just as everyone knows you don't get cut-rate insurance for a Maserati, you don't let your MVP (Most Valuable Packer) get knocked around like a milk bottle at a carnival. After seeing Aaron Rodgers sacked an NFL-high 51 times last year — on top of the 36 sacks he took in 2011 — McCarthy had had enough. He shifted tackle Bryan Bulaga and guard Josh Sitton from the right to left side, the better to protect Rodgers' blind side. Marshall Newhouse, who started every game at left tackle last season, moved to right tackle, and the versatile T.J. Lang will play right guard. (Center Evan Dietrich-Smith, who unseated veteran Jeff Saturday by the end of last season, stays put.) "You take your two most accomplished linemen to date to protect the backside of the quarterback," offensive line coach James Campen said in explaining the switch. "(Bulaga and Sitton) are, at this point, the most accomplished guys. And we expect the other guys to be more accomplished, as well."

2. RUNNING BEHIND: With Rodgers at the helm, the Packers are always going to be a pass-oriented team. But they at least need to have the appearance of a running game, and its absence last year was glaring. The Packers ranked 11th in the NFC at 106.4 yards rushing per game, and haven't had a single-game, 100-yard rusher in almost three years. So it was hardly a surprise that Thompson loaded up on running backs early in the draft, taking Alabama's Eddie Lacy in the second round and UCLA's Johnathan Franklin in the fourth. "We'll be better, I promise you that," McCarthy said. "You can write that down. In big letters."

3. CATCHING ON: Losing a 1,000-yard receiver and the franchise's all-time leader in receptions would be a crippling blow to most teams. Not the Packers, who have Nelson, James Jones and Randall Cobb ready to fill the void left by Greg Jennings and Donald Driver. The trio combined for 29 touchdowns and 193 catches last year, and each of the three finished with 745 yards receiving or more. "I believe we have three 1,000-yard receivers in this room," Jones said. "We know the departure of Greg and Donald means more opportunities for us. Do you want to lose guys like that? No. But it gives us the chance to step up."

4. BEING GREEDY: Green Bay ranked in the middle of the NFC last year with a plus-7 takeaway-giveaway differential, but that was largely thanks to Rodgers, whose eight interceptions tied for fewest in the entire NFL. The defense came up with 23 takeaways, and only five of those were fumbles. That's not lost on defensive coordinator Dom Capers, who has made stripping the ball a focus during offseason workouts. "You see all the pursuit and leverage drills," he said. "We're trying to make an emphasis that you get there and punch at the ball. ... The more you emphasize something, the more results you're going to get out of it. So I like what I've seen to this point."

5. BIG MONEY: In his first five years as a starter, Rodgers has won a Super Bowl title, been the NFL's MVP and set the single-season NFL record for quarterback rating (122.5 in 2011). He set another record in this offseason: signing a five-year extension that's worth as much as $110 million, which will make him the highest-paid player in NFL history. But Rodgers insists the riches won't change him — or remove the sizeable chip on his shoulder that's been such a big part of his success. "Always working on things," he said during Green Bay's minicamp, "trying to get better."___AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

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Cincinnati 4 Bottom 8th Inning
Baltimore 5
Boston - WP: J. Kelly 9 FINAL
NY Yankees - LP: S. Greene 4
Detroit - WP: P. Coke 4 FINAL
Cleveland - LP: C. Allen 2
NY Mets - WP: J. Niese 8 FINAL
Miami - LP: B. Penny 6
Philadelphia - WP: K. Kendrick 4 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: M. Minor 0
Toronto - WP: R. Dickey 8 FINAL
Tampa Bay - LP: J. Hellickson 2
Milwaukee - LP: Y. Gallardo 1 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - WP: J. Arrieta 7
LA Angels - LP: C. Wilson 3 FINAL
Houston - WP: B. Peacock 8
Chicago WSox - WP: D. Webb 6 FINAL
Minnesota - LP: L. Oliveros 3
Texas - LP: M. Kirkman 1 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: J. Frasor 2
Pittsburgh - LP: J. Locke 4 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: A. Wainwright 6
San Francisco 12 Top 9th Inning
Colorado 7
Seattle 6 Bottom 8th Inning
Oakland 0
Washington 0 Top 7th Inning
Los Angeles 4
Arizona 1 Top 8th Inning
San Diego 1
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
Seattle
Buffalo 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
New Orleans 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Atlanta
Minnesota 9/7/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Cleveland 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Jacksonville 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Oakland 9/7/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
Cincinnati 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Washington 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Tennessee 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
New England 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Carolina 9/7/14 3:25 PM
Tampa Bay
San Francisco 9/7/14 3:25 PM
Dallas
Indianapolis 9/7/14 7:30 PM
Denver
NY Giants 9/8/14 6:10 PM
Detroit
San Diego 9/8/14 9:20 PM
Arizona
Miami-Florida 13 FINAL
(25) Louisville 31
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
SMU 9/6/14 11:00 AM
North Texas
Fla Atlantic 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(2) Alabama
Buffalo 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Army
(24) Missouri 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Toledo
Arkansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
(7) McNeese State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(19) Nebraska
Central Mich 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Akron 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Western Ill 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(18) Wisconsin
(20) Kansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
(4) Oklahoma 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tulsa
Western Ky 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
SC State 9/6/14 11:30 AM
(23) Clemson
Navy 9/6/14 12:00 PM
Temple
UAB 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Miss State
South Alabama 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Kent State
New Mexico St 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Colorado 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Fresno State 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Utah
(2) Eastern Wash 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Washington
(14) USC 9/6/14 2:30 PM
(13) Stanford
Ohio U 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Middle Tennessee 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Minnesota
Northern Ill 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Missouri State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Ball State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Iowa
Maryland 9/6/14 2:30 PM
So Florida
Eastern Mich 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Florida
Georgia Tech 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Tulane
(15) Ole Miss 9/6/14 3:30 PM
Vanderbilt
Old Dominion 9/6/14 5:00 PM
NC State
(7) Michigan State 9/6/14 5:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(17) Arizona State 9/6/14 6:00 PM
New Mexico
Louisiana Tech 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
San Jose St 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(5) Auburn
East Carolina 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(21) So Carolina
Duke 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Troy
Idaho 9/6/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(15) Sam Houston St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(12) LSU
Michigan 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(16) Notre Dame
Lamar 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(9) Texas A&M
Northwestern St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
BYU 9/6/14 6:30 PM
Texas
Citadel 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(1) Florida State
San Diego St 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(21) North Carolina
Virginia Tech 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(8) Ohio State
Memphis 9/6/14 9:00 PM
(11) UCLA
Colorado State 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Boise State
Air Force 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Wyoming
Oregon State 9/6/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Texas Tech 9/6/14 10:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Toronto 12 FINAL
Hamilton 13
Edmonton 13 FINAL
Calgary 28
Brt Columbia 9/5/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Saskatchewan 9/7/14 3:00 PM
Winnipeg
Minnesota 78 FINAL
Phoenix 96
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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis Noon
Sep 14 - vs. New England Noon
Sep 21 - at New Orleans Noon
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pm
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pm
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit Noon
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo Noon
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay Noon
Nov 2 - vs. Washington Noon
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago Noon
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay Noon
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina Noon
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets Noon
Dec 14 - at Detroit Noon
Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

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