The Green Bay Packers open 2020 NFL training camp on July 28. Here's a closer look at a few storylines:
Brett Favre, after the Packers drafted Rodgers in 2005, memorably said: "My contract doesn't say I have to get Aaron Rodgers ready to play. Now hopefully he watches me and gets something from that." The quarterbacks' relationship was icy -- at best -- that first season but improved over their final two seasons together in Green Bay. It bothered Rodgers, at first, when the Packers drafted Love with the 26th overall pick. But Rodgers knew he'd be hypocritical if he treated Love the same way Favre treated him.
Publicly, Rodgers has said Love is "not to blame at all; he's just coming in excited about his opportunity." Since then, they've worked together only virtually during the socially distant offseason program amid the coronavirus pandemic and won't be in the same room until training camp opens.
"[Aaron's] always been a great teammate the entire time I've been around him -- not just a good teammate, he's been a great teammate," Packers quarterbacks coach Luke Getsy said of Rodgers. "I know once you're actually in the same room, I know Aaron's going to be the best teammate to Jordan and anybody else. I don't have any doubt about that part of it. He's been great."
Davante Adams and then who?
Wasn't this a question last year at this time, too? If you thought Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst would overhaul a position that had only one receiver -- Adams -- catch more than 35 passes last year, you were wrong. The only major addition was journeyman free agent Devin Funchess.
Clearly, coach Matt LaFleur and Gutekunst believe the talent is already there. Why else would LaFleur have fired receivers coach Alvis Whitted and why else would Gutekunst ignore the position in a historically deep receiver draft class? Rodgers has heaped praise on Allen Lazard, who didn't even make the team out of camp last summer yet ended up as WR2 (35 catches, 477 yards and three touchdowns).
They're banking on improvement from deep threat Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who struggled last season, and the return of Equanimeous St. Brown from injured reserve. Keep an eye on Reggie Begelton, who put up big numbers in the CFL.
"Once we got to the middle and towards the end of the draft, I just didn't think there was great opportunity to add a player that was going to make an impact on our roster this year," Gutekunst said after the draft. "You guys know how hard it is for young players at that position to make an impact early on, certainly with some of the guys that we've had in the past -- who became really good players but it took them two or three years to get there. We kind of have a few of those guys who are entering the second or third years of their careers that you expect a lot of them."
Will they extend Aaron Jones -- or anyone else's contract -- before the season starts?
Five starters -- five important starters -- are entering the final season of their contracts this year: running back Aaron Jones, left tackle David Bakhtiari, center Corey Linsley, defensive tackle Kenny Clark and cornerback Kevin King. Jones is perhaps the most interesting study. His massive season last year -- more than 1,500 total yards from scrimmage and 19 touchdowns, tied for the league high -- vaulted him to star status. But we all know how fickle fate can be to running backs.
The two sides have had preliminary talks about a contract extension. Who knows if Jones, who hasn't cashed in big yet because he's making fifth-round money on his rookie deal, might be inclined to take a deal now or be game to see if he can replicate his 2019 performance. Remember how an NFL scout and an NFL assistant coach ranked the Packers' top free agents this offseason in order of who they would re-sign first: Bakhtiari, Clark, Linsley, Jones and King. Maybe that's why Gutekunst drafted running back A.J. Dillon in the second round.
How is their run defense any better than the one the 49ers ran over?
The Packers ranked 23rd against the run last season during the regular season so should it really have been that big of a surprise that Mike Pettine's unit gave up 285 yards on the ground to the 49ers in the NFC title game? The biggest addition the Packers made on defense was veteran inside linebacker Christian Kirksey. He replaces Blake Martinez, who signed with the Giants in free agency.
Kirksey, if healthy, might be able to provide more impact plays closer to the line of scrimmage. Otherwise, it's basically the same unit the Packers fielded against San Francisco.
"You're always remembered by your last performance, and I hate for it to tarnish what we were able to accomplish during the year when we won 14 games," Pettine said this offseason. "We're not going to do that and have this dark cloud hanging over us, but at the same time it's not going to be something we sweep under the carpet. We'll address it, and we'll do it again when the players are in town and it's face to face.
"But it's certainly been a focal point. We're not dwelling on it, but it's something we know if we want to take the next step -- we were a game away, but that was a big step, and they present a big hurdle. If we want to take it, there's a lot we need to get done between now and then."