In Week 6 of the Dallas Cowboys 2016 schedule, the team will be returning to the scene of the crime. They will head up to Lambeau Field and play the Green Bay Packers, bringing back memories of Dez Bryant's infamous catch/non-catch in the 2014 playoffs. That play will live on in Cowboys folklore forever, but we're past that now, this is 2016, not 2014.
This will be the Cowboys second game against the NFC North in 2016, their designated in-conference division opponents for the year. The Cowboys and the Packers have had a rivalry of sorts over the years, going all the way back to the Ice Bowl. Also, Jason Garrett had one of his greatest games ever with a thrilling comeback win over the Pack on Thanksgiving in 1994.
The Packers have been a powerhouse team basically since the mid 90s with only a few dud seasons thrown into the mix. Aaron Rodgers is one reason they have been able to continue their dominance after they moved on from Brett Favre. The Cowboys inability to pressure a one-legged Rodgers in the 2014 playoff game was as much or more of a contributing factor to that loss than the call on Bryant's catch.
Let's see what's up with the Packers this year from our friends at Acme Packing Company.
Green Bay Packers
Notable free-agent additions:
TE Jared Cook, OLB Lerentee McCray
Notable free-agent departures:
CB Casey Hayward (Chargers), DT B.J. Raji (retirement), WR James Jones (FA), QB Scott Tolzien (Colts), FB John Kuhn (ascended to heaven - actually just a FA)
Packers send Nos. 57, 125 and 248 picks in 2016 draft to Colts for No. 48 pick (OT Jason Spriggs)
Draft picks expected to contribute as rookies:
DT Kenny Clark: With Raji retiring, Mike Pennel suspended for the first quarter of the season and Datone Jones moving to outside linebacker, the team expects Clark to play a lot early on, likely as the starting nose tackle or five-tech.
ILB Blake Martinez: With Clay Matthews moving back to outside linebacker, veteran Sam Barrington and rookie Blake Martinez will battle for the starting inside spot next to second-year man Jake Ryan. Head coach Mike McCarthy already praised Martinez for his minicamp work, particularly his coverage ability. With Barrington still recovering from last year's foot injury, Martinez holds the early lead. Even if he doesn't win the job, Martinez should play extensively in the nickel, dime and sub packages.
Biggest offseason addition:
DT Kenny Clark: While Jared Cook garnered plenty of attention given the Packers' offensive struggles last season, Clark should end up playing a more significant role in 2016 and in future years. If not immediately, Clark should at some point become the team's new starter at nose tackle, a critical position in Dom Capers' defense.
Biggest storyline heading into training camp:
Eddie Lacy's weight loss: After playing most of the 2015 campaign visibly out of shape, Lacy has worked this offseason to remodel his body. Though hardly svelte, the running back looks closer to his 2013-14 figure. If his production can also return to form, the Packers offense should avoid the inconsistencies it dealt with most of last season.
Under-the-radar storyline heading into training camp:
Defensive line depth: Mike Daniels and Letroy Guion have carved out niches along the defensive front, but the other starting spot as well as the depth behind them remains unsettled. Mike Pennel could become the starter at the five-tech once he returns from suspension, but until then the Packers have to decide between fourth-round rookie Dean Lowry, Datone Jones (who has mainly moved to an outside linebacker role) and a mostly faceless group of undrafted rookies and second-year players.
Notable injuries heading into training camp:
Jared Cook's foot surgery: Just added this offseason as a street free agent, Jared Cook has already undergone surgery on his foot. Though he has expressed confidence that the situation should resolve itself by training camp, the offense could endure some hardships if his injury lingers. The Packers don't have another tight end with both his experience and athleticism on the roster, and they need as many big bodies capable of exploiting the middle of the field as possible.
Jordy Nelson's knee: The Packers expects Nelson to return by the start of training camp, but after missing all of 2015 the team has taken a very cautious approach (you likely won't see him in the Hall of Fame game in August).
So BTB, can the Cowboys take the Pack down this time?