The Packers will make one last attempt this year to win a ring with Aaron Rodgers. Will they make it past the Conference Finals this time? What impact does any success have on Rodgers’ future after this season?
This cup can actually be kept so short that it can hardly be called a cup. Corey Linsley – Aaron Rodgers’ center for many years – left for the Chargers and LB Christian Kirksey will play for the Texans next season. The same goes for guard Lane Taylor and CB Ka’Dar Hollman, while Montravius Adams (Patriots), RB Jamaal Williams (Lions) and QB Tim Boyle (Lions) also left. WR Devin Funchess will not be competing for the Packers this year either. Only Linsley, Kirksey and Williams really played a significant role last year.
So has something been added? barely. CB Josh Jackson was traded to the Giants in exchange for position mate Isaac Yiadom and WR Randall Cobb came from the Texans on a recommendation from Rodgers. Experienced LB De’Vondre Campbell also came over from the Cardinals. Finally, right tackle Dennis Kelly came over from the Titans. Still, the main event is the fact that Aaron Jones signed a new four-year contract worth $48 million. He could have made a lot more with other teams, but decided to return to the Green Bay Packers.
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The signings of the Green Bay Packers mainly came from the draft. This year – unlike last year – it was not a quarterback. In the first round, the secondary was reinforced with Georgia CB Eric Stokes. In time, he will have to replace Kevin King, who returns this season In the second round there was the replacement for Corey Linsley: Josh Meyers of Ohio State. He will be right in front of Aaron Rodgers as center.
Then WR Amari Rodgers (Round 3), OL Royce Newman (Round 4), DL TJ Slaton (Round 5), CB Shemar Jean-Charles (Round 5), OL Cole Van Lanen (Round 6), LB Isaiah McDuffie (Round 6), and added RB Kylin Hill (round 7) to the roster. Many of these names will (have to) play an important role right away.
Aaron Rodgers, Aaron Jones and Davante Adams. That’s the Packers offense. That was last year and this year will be no different. Certainly the Rodgers-Adams combination was unstoppable throughout the season, while Jones was certainly fantastic at the start of the season.
However, the question is how everything around it will function. Coach Matt LaFleur got his offense back in the top ten in nearly all major categories last year. His unit could be seen as one of the best offenses in the National Football League (NFL). The big question is how the offensive line will hold up. At center is a rookie: Josh Meyers. He will need time to adjust to the NFL. Furthermore, Lucas Patrick and rookie Newman will likely be the guards, while all-rounders Elgton Jenkins and Billy Turner will be the tackles. This is forced to be the line-up until David Bakhtiariis fully fit to return to action on the left tackle. Newman will then be the victim and Jenkins will go back to guard.
In addition, the question is of course who will show themselves in the skill positions next to the three big names. Randall Cobb and Amari Rodgers will mainly be in the slot. Marquez Valdes-Scantling will be the deep threat again, even though the Packers will secretly hope he can be a little more than that. Then there’s Robert ‘touchdown’ Tonyan on TE and all-rounder Allen Lazard. In short: except for the center, the Packers line-up is the same as last year. Given the course of that season, that bodes well. The only other major change is that RB AJ Dillon will take over as Jamaal Williams and Kylin Hill will reprise his role as RB3. For now anyway.
The main question marks are in the defense. The run defense and secondary have not been the strength of this team for years. The Green Bay Packers have clearly worked on that this offseason. Lowry, Clark and Keke will be back on the front line in a 3-4 defense, with Tyler Lancaster and rookie TJ Slaton behind them. Also Rashan Gary could play there. In the OLB position are Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith again, followed by Rashan Gary and Jonathan Garvin as main backups. They have to take care of the sacks.
On middle linebacker — the defense’s strongest position in Green Bay along with safety — there are plenty of options. De’Vondre Campbell will take on the Christian Kirksey role, while Krys Barnes, Ty Summers and Oren Burks are all excellent options.
In the secondary – where it all went wrong in last year’s conference final against the Buccaneers – is the best player in the defense in Green Bay: Jaire Alexander. The cornerback has been a top-5 player in his position for years. He will start alongside Kevin King, while new names Eric Stokes and Isaac Yiadom will back up alongside Chandon Sullivan. At safety things are looking great again, with Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage set to make another deadly duo in this position this year.
The Green Bay Packers offense will be top ten again this year thanks to the presence of Aaron Jones, Davante Adams and Aaron Rodgers. In fact, they don’t even have to be as good as last year. The main question is whether the defense — and especially the run defense and secondary — can make steps and stay fit. If that happens and this defense — led by new defensive coordinator Joe Barry — can be a top 10 to 15 defense and avoid big plays, this team will be the Buccaneers’ biggest challenger in the NFC.
The schedule — with the entire NFC West and NFC South as well as the Chiefs on the schedule this season — is anything but easy. This will affect the record somewhat and cause more defeats than last year. Still, this team is normally going to dominate the NFC North again and qualify for the play-offs. The question that remains is: won’t it end in the conference finals this time?