Source: Dylan Buell/Getty Images
The last two seasons haven't been too kind for the Green Bay Packers. For the first time since the mid 2000's the Packers missed the playoffs in back-to back seasons, and questions were being raised on whether Aaron Rodgers is still an elite NFL quarterback. With a new coach and a new GM, the Packers will look to break their playoff drought.
Last season Green Bay averaged a little less than 24 points, that ranked 14th in the league, and combined for only for 376 points. Only in 4 games last season did Green Bay scored 30 or more points, and those 4 teams were non-playoff teams. Green Bay's offence at times couldn't get into a rhythm and too much responsibility hinged on Aaron Rodgers.
After Mike McCarthy got canned after their week 13 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, Joe Philbin took over for their final 4 games. The offence felt more aggressive and the plays felt more suited for Aaron Rodgers. Green Bay also had issues getting first downs and moving the ball more consistently for a full 60 minutes, however, with Matt Lafleur being an offensive brainiac, the Packers offence have chance to become tops in the league. Though there isn't much proven talent after Devante Adams.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling looks like he could have a breakout season and be a reliable second choice for Rodgers. Lafleur's offence also gives Rodgers a sense of freedom to spread the ball on the field. Lafleur knows he has some work to do but gaining the confidence of his quarterback is a good start.
Rodgers isn’t the Aaron who will have a big impact on the Packers offensive attack; the other is a running back from the University of Texas at El Paso, Aaron Jones.
Jones has the potential to become a significant part of the Packers offence. The last two seasons he has averaged 5.5 yards per carry, the most in the NFL with a minimum of 100 carries. Jones will be the feature running back for the Green Bay Packers. He’s hard to tackle, he takes care of the ball (fumbling it only once in 214 touches), and has a lot of confidence as the feature back. It's been years since the Packers have had a guy that they can count on running the ball, and barring any injury Jones could rush for over 1000 yards.
When Rodgers missed a bunch of games during the 2017 season there was only one glimmer of hope for the Pack Attack, Devante Adams. That season brought him to his first Pro Bowl, and last season blew up hitting career highs in receiving yards and touchdowns. The last three seasons Adams has combined for 35 touchdowns. He's just the third Packer ever to hit three consecutive years with double-digit touchdowns. Adams, just like Jones, is vital for Aaron Rodgers and Lafleur's offence.
The Packers didn't waste much time during the off season in signing new players on their defence. Preston Smith and Za'Darius Smith. Both players are not big star players but are hard working and have potential. Preston Smith played solid defence the last 4 seasons with Washington. A run stopper who can pressure the QB, Smith isn't a household name but the Packers feel he could work in their system quite well. Za’Darius Smith played in Baltimore last year and racked up a career high 8.5 sacks. He became one of the key figures on that Ravens front seven last season playing alongside Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dummervil.
The Packers defence has gone through some major changes in the past year. Ha Ha Clinton Dix, Mike Daniels, Clay Matthews, and Nick Perry all said goodbye to Lambeau Field. Year one under Mike Pettiine’s eye saw some big improvements, the Packers ranked 8th in sacks, and their pass defense rose from 23 to 12 in the league.
Jaire Alexander did a good job taking over for Clinton-Dix in the secondary. The Packers picked him in the first round in 2018 and already he's been able to become a big part of the defense. Kevin King needs to be healthy and help Alexander give the Packers that one two punch at cornerback. He's quick like Alexander and had a big interception in their game against San Fran last year which helped them pull off the win. However, King's time in Green Bay could be up if he keeps missing games due to injuries.
Rashan Gary and Darnell Savage Jr. can be mainstays on the Packers defense for years to come.
Savage had a great combine, he had the eighth fastest 40-yard dash and second among safeties. He also posted with the third highest vertical jump. Out of 8 interceptions he had in Maryland, two of them were run back as picks six. The only knock against him so far is his size, but his tape at Maryland is impressive.
Rashan Gary was the 12th pick in this year's draft. Gary looked like a beast at times at Michigan. His potential is high, and if healthy he’ll be a run stopper with the ability to disrupt the Quarterback. He did suffer from a shoulder injury last year and just recovered from minor neck injury. The hope is once fully healthy he’ll be a force.
The Packers schedule is tough to start but softens in the second half. The first 4 games of the season sees them playing the Bears and Vikings back to back, and then they have tilts with Denver and Philly. There's a good chance the Pack can split their first 4 games. From week 5 till week 10 the Packers have easy games against the Lions and Raiders. With a likely loss to the Chiefs, close matchups with Dallas, LA (Chargers), and Carolina follow as they head into the bye.
After that, it gets a little easier. The Giants, Redskins and Niners can be chalked in as wins, and the final three games are all divisional opponents, the Lions, Bears and Minny. The potential for a 10-6 record is there.
Depending on how tough the NFC playoff picture looks, the Packers will be a wildcard team but everything needs to fall into place, and that includes a healthy Aaron Rodgers. Expect the Packers back in the hunt in 2019/2020.