2019 NFL Season Preview- Green Bay Packers
The Packers went into the season believing they were a championship contender, but finished with their first back to back losing seasons since before Brett Favre joined Green Bay in 1992.
After starting 4-7-1 and losing to last place Arizona at home, head coach Mike McCarthy was fired and replaced by offensive coordinator Joe Philbin who finished the year 2-2. McCarthy spent nearly 13 seasons with the Packers going 135-85-2 including a 10-8 postseason record and a victory in Super Bowl XLV.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers failed to play like a two time MVP as he ranked in the middle of the league in passer rating, completion percentage, and touchdown percentage. Running back Aaron Jones led the league with 5.47 yards per carry and had one of the best 10-yard run rates in the NFL, but missed the final three games with yet another MCL injury. Jamaal Williams is a jack of all trades, but isn't as dynamic as Jones. The Packers released wide receiver Jordy Nelson so they could sign tight end Jimmy Graham and the gamble didn't pay off. While Graham had the third most receptions in franchise history by a tight end, he offered no big play production and was a surprising non factor in the red zone. Lance Kendricks did well in a versatile role but Marcedes Lewis was left out despite his role as a blocker and possession receiver. Geronimo Allison was on pace for a 1,000 yard receiving season before missing the final nine games with a core muscle injury. Randall Cobb missed large stretches of the season with a hamstring injury. Center Corey Linsley played every snap for the second straight season and is one of the league's most underrated interior linemen. The guard play was horrible as Lane Taylor never fully recovered from offseason ankle surgery and the right guard spot was a revolving door.
The defensive line was supposed to be the team's best position group, but was decimated by injuries. Defensive end Mohammed Wilkerson was a big free agent signing, but landed on IR with an ankle injury after three games. Defensive tackle Mike Daniels missed the final six games with a bad foot, and nose tackle Kenny Clark was having a Pro Bowl season with six sacks before missing the last month with and elbow injury. Dean Lowery and Montravius Adams played well in the starters absences. The highly paid outside linebacker tandem of Clay Matthews and Nick Perry combined for just five sacks. Kyler Fackrell was a surprise after a quiet first two seasons and finished with 10.5 sacks. After leading the NFL tackles in 2017, inside linebacker Blake Martinez finished second in the NFL with 144 in 2018 and led the team with 10 tackles for loss. Antonio Morrison stepped in after Jake Ryan missed the season with a torn ACL. Cornerback Kevin King can't stay healthy as he has missed over a full season of games in his two years in Green Bay. Bashaud Breeland played well but missed nine games with injuries. Tramon Williams started the year at cornerback, but moved to safety after Ha Ha Clinton- Dix was traded to Washington. Kentrell Brice couldn't stay healthy and couldn't tackle while Josh Jones has been too unreliable. The secondary that was usually among the league leaders in interceptions finished with just seven picked off passes and three of those were by Clinton-Dix.
The special teams were a disaster. Kicker Mason Crosby missed kicks that would have beat Minnesota in Week 2, forced overtime against Arizona, and missed four kicks in a Week 5 loss to Detroit. With kick returner Trevor Davis out for 14 games, Green Bay returners fumbled eight times and never made an impact.
The team had two Pro Bowlers in quarterback Aaron Rodgers and wide receiver Devontae Adams while left tackle David Bakhtiari was named first team All-Pro. Even with his struggles, Rodgers led the league in touchdown to interception record and set an NFL record 402 attempts without an interception. Adams was a one man receiving corps as he finished with 111 receptions for 1,386 yards and 13 touchdowns. Bahktiari has made three straight All-Pro teams despite just one Pro Bowl and continually beats his man one on one while having his best season as a run blocker.
The first pick of the rookie class looks like a star, but the jury is still out on the rest. Cornerback Jaire Alexander was up for any challenge and led the team with 11 passes defended. Cornerback Josh Jackson finished second on team with 10 passes defended but was fourth among all corners with eight penalties. Inside linebacker Oren Burks was billed as a coverage linebacker, but the team ended up using a safety in the role. Wide receiver J'Mon Moore struggled with dropped passes and bad route running. Punter JK Scott displayed a strong leg in training camp but faltered as the season went on. Wide receiver Marquez Valdes- Scantling finished sixth among rookie receivers in catches and yards. Wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown got valuable playing time after Geronimo Allison was injured. Long snapper Hunter Bradley barleybwon the job in training camp, but had just one bad snap all year. Undrafted nose tackle Tyler Lancaster was a workhorse and led the defensive line in tackles per snap.
Opponent Passing YPG
Opponent Rushing YPG
After the disappointing 6-9-1 season, the team searched for a new head coach for the first time in 13 years. The search led the team to hire former Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur to be the new head coach.
Under LaFleur, the team brought in Nathaniel Hackett to be the new offensive coordinator. Hackett served the same position with the Jacksonville Jaguars last season. Although the team decided to retain defensive coordinator Mike Pettine.
Notable Additions- G Billy Turner, LB Preston Smith, LB Za'Darius Smith, S Adrian Amos, K Sam Ficken
Notable Departures- WR Randall Cobb, TE Lance Kendricks, DE Mohammad Wilkerson, DT Mike Daniels, G Nick Siragusa, LB Clay Matthews, LB Jake Ryan, LB Antonio Morrison, LB Nick Perry, CB Bashaud Breeland, S Kentrell Brice
Packers 2018 Highlights
2019 NFL Draft
Thanks to trading back with New Orleans last year, the Packers held the 12th and 30th overall picks in the draft. With two first round picks, the team has make changes in order to get back to their winning ways. Most notably by upgrading positions like tight end, guard, and outside linebacker.
The Packers need stability and playmakers at tight end after one year stints by Jared Cook, Martellus Bennett, and the failure of Jimmy Graham.
After letting TJ Lang left via free agency two years ago, the team needs a permanent fixture at right guard.
Clay Matthews and Nick Perry have underperformed the last few seasons and now both are gone. The team needs a high lebel edge rusher who can collapse the pocke.
When they finally came on the clock to pick, Green Bay ended up selecting Michigan defensive end Rashan Gary with the 12th overall pick. Gary was viewed as the strongest defensive end in the draft class, but was criticized for a lack of production in three years of playing time. With their second first round pick, the Packers traded up with Seattle to draft Maryland safety Darnell Savage Jr. with the 21st overall pick. Savage is very physical for someone his size, but was too easily baited by play action and double moves.
Other Notable Draft Picks:
Elgton Jenkins, C, Mississippi State- Top pass blocking center, lacks aggressive demeanor
Jace Sternberger, TE, Texas A&M- Explosive playmaker, one season as a starter
Kingsley Keke, DE, Texas A&M- Nice fluidity for big man, needs stronger base
Ka’dar Hollman, CB, Toledo- Very good speed, extremely raw
Dexter Williams, RB, Notre Dame- Runs hard through holes, charcte concerns
Ty Summers, LB, TCU- High motor, average lateral agility
Rashan Gary Highlights
What To Expect
The Packers have expectations to get back to the playoffs under their new head coac, but there are still some noticeable holes on this team.
Aaron Rodgers has the highest passer rating in league history, but it has to be said that he can’t carry this team forever as he will be 36 by the end of the season and coming off his second worst season in terms of completion percentage. Aaron Jones is one of the more underrated running backs in the league and he along with Jamaal Williams form a solid duo that can do just about anything. Jimmy Graham has to show he’s worth keeping around after a disaster season. If not, the door will be open for Jace Sternberger to take over. Devontae Adams should continue to shine as one of the league’s top receivers and having Geronimo Allison back gives The team a solid number two receiver. Billy Turner helps fill the void at right guar, but there are still questions about Lane Taylor’s production and right tackle Brian Bulaga being injury prone.
With Mohammad Wilkerson gone, the defense will look to Dean Lowery or Montravius Adams to be the full time starter. The overhaul on the linebackers corps leaves Blake Martinez as the leader of the group. Rashan Gary and Preston Smith are likely the starters on the outside while Oren Burks is the most likely to join Martinez on the inside. With the addition of Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage, Tramon Williams will be moved back to cornerback but likely only as a nickel or dime man.
The team brought in San Ficken to compete with Mason Crosby in hopes of pushing the ladder to be better or be forced out of Green Bay.
Like I said with my Cincinnati Bengals season preview, teams are looking for the next Sean McVay. While Matt LaFleur served under McVay in 2017, he struggled last year in Tennessee as it took him three months to figure out to just give the ball to Derrick Henry. Aaron Rodgers will keep the team competitive, but given the strength of Chicago, Green Bay will likely be battling Minnesota for second place in the NFC North and the final NFC wildcard spot.
Best Record They Can Hope For: 9-7