PFF: Packers Must Bolster Upper Middle Class

Aaron Rodgers (Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY)

ProFootballFocus.com examined the Packers' roster; we compared it to the starting lineups of the other 31 teams.

The Green Bay Packers have as much elite talent as any team in the league.

But do they have enough solid starters to challenge for a championship?

That's the question as the Packers embark on their 2014 season, with one more week or organized team activities and a three-day minicamp preceding a five-week siesta before the start of training camp.

ProFootballFocus.com examined the Packers' roster late last month using a color-coded talent scale similar to what teams use. PFF's wrapup of the starters for all 32 teams appeared as an Insider piece on ESPN.com on June 5. PFF uses 24 starters — with 12 on each side of the ball to reflect a third wide receiver and a nickel cornerback.

The verdict: The Packers have the eighth-best starting lineup in the NFL, according to PFF's formula. They have three "blue" starters, with Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews and Josh Sitton considered elite players. That's tied for tops in the league. However, on a team that has prided itself for years on its depth, they are one of six teams tied for ninth with 11 starters who are considered above average: three "blue" (elite), two "green" (high quality) and six "light green" (good). On the flip side, the Packers have a total of six starters who are "orange" (below average), "red" (poor), "gray" (not enough information) or "purple" (rookie). Twelve teams have fewer than six, and four other teams also have six. So, as far as playoff-caliber teams go, the Packers have a fairly large number of suspect starters.

(Packer Report did the math for all 32 teams, with a chart in the subscriber forums.)

The top-heavy nature of the Packers probably doesn't come as a surprise, considering the team's records with and without Rodgers last season.

Green Bay's potential rebound comes from the return of injured players and the potential for growth among its corps of second- and third-year players. Not all of them are starters but several have key roles.

Receiver Randall Cobb and cornerback Casey Hayward are considered "light green" (good) starters. Based on their performances when healthy in 2012, they'd be considered "green" (high quality) starters. Bryan Bulaga, Julius Peppers, Nick Perry and Morgan Burnett are considered "yellow" (average) starters. Can the 34-year-old Peppers be more productive in fewer snaps than he was with Chicago last season? Can Bulaga and Perry stay healthy? Can Burnett rebound from a disappointing 2013?

David Bakhtiari, B.J. Raji, Datone Jones and Mike Neal are among the "orange" (below-average) contingent. Bakhtiari and Jones are players in position to take a big leap in their second seasons, Raji is back at nose tackle, which is his "natural" position, according to defensive line coach Mike Trgovac, and Neal should be more comfortable in his second season as an outside linebacker.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.

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