3 steps to success: Packers need Aaron Rodgers to benefit from running game

Kirby Lee-US PRESSWIRE

Green Bay has relied on Aaron Rodgers for quite a bit of its success recently, but the addition of two rookie running backs could greatly help the Packers' offense this season.

The Green Bay Packers weren't as successful as they probably hoped last season. They still made the NFL Playoffs, however, and entered the offseason with the ability to continue building around Aaron Rodgers, too.

The team had quite a few pieces to fill in around the former Most Valuable Player, too, because a slew of veterans either left for more money or retired after Green Bay finished an oddly disappointing 11-5 season.

Gone are former standouts like wide receivers Greg Jennings and Donald Driver, defensive back Charles Woodson and starting center Jeff Saturday. Green Bay's front office elected not to replace any of their departing veterans with similar players around the league, however, and instead is hoping to use what many consider a solid draft class (along with its own lesser-known backups) to fill the gaping holes the departing veterans left in their wake.

So what will constitute a successful season for the Packers in 2013? Let's dive in.

3 Steps To Success

1. Aaron Rodgers needs to remain spectacular
Rodgers has been mostly spectacular for the Packers since taking over for Brett Favre five seasons ago. If Green Bay is going to win a second Super Bowl under his command, he'll need to stay spectacular until the team can be less reliant on the All-Pro quarterback.

2. Rookie running backs will have to produce early
Green Bay hasn't really had a consistent ball carrier while Rodgers has led the Packers' charge, but the front office went out of its way to draft two running backs that should complement the passing game -- and each other -- nicely this season. If either Alabama's Eddie Lacy or UCLA's Johnathan Franklin can produce like they many project they can, Green Bay could be able to play deeper into the playoffs this season.

3. Unproven players need to step up
The Packers lost a bevy of players that contributed to the team's past successes, but believe that they have younger, cheaper and equally capable players waiting in the wings. The offensive line will be very important, but the pass-catching crew will need to make sure there isn't a breakdown in their abilities — and the front seven on defense has to show more as well.

3 Feats Toward Failure

1. Leaning too much on the passing game
The Packers have been very reliant on the passing game over the past couple of years, and although they've won quite a few more games than they've lost, it's becoming easier for teams to key in on Aaron Rodgers down the stretch. If Green Bay isn't able to establish a more consistent running game, trouble could loom late for Green Bay.

2. The defense will have to move closer to the level of the offense
The Packers' offense has spent a lot of time on the field, as Green Bay's defense hasn't been able to consistently stop most high-powered attacks. If Clay Mathews doesn't get the necessary help on his side of the ball, it will be tough for the Packers to compete with fellow high-octane offenses.

3. Offensive line play must improve
Green Bay's offensive line has undergone quite a few changes over the past few years, but nothing — not even spending early draft picks — has helped. If that continues to be the case this season, the running game will likely continue to be lackluster, and Rodgers will have to keep making players after being run out of the pocket.

Ultimate answer

The Packers probably already have the "ultimate answer," a top-flight quarterback that led the team to a Super Bowl victory without all of the necessary ingredients not long ago. The times are a-changin', however, as last season's sub-par finish obviously showed.

The "ultimate answer" then, essentially, is everything working as planned — if the drafted running backs are as good as advertised, the offensive line has a modicum of success and the Packers were correct in allowing their aging veterans to walk — things should turn out just great for the famous franchise.

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