Dale Money | July 28th, 2019
After a forgettable 2018 season, that along with costing longtime head coach Mike McCarthy his job ended with a mediocre 6-9-1 record and another missed playoff opportunity. They didn’t stand on ceremony, having made a lot of changes in the offseason. The first order of business was filling that vacant head coaching position.
They would end up deciding on, former Tennesse Titans Offensive Coordinator Matt LaFleur. LaFleur has spent time as a quarterback coach, working with both the Washington Redskins and Atlanta Falcons. This will be his first head coaching role.
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After suffering a knee injury in the season opener against the Chicago Bears last year. A hobbled Aaron Rodgers would overcome a second-half 20-point deficit for a 24-23 win. It was an impressive showing to be sure. However he did not seem his usual elite self after that game, for a team that relies a great deal on Rodgers to charge up that offense, not much seemed to be clicking the way we are normally accustomed. But there’s certainly plenty of reason to think he can bounce back under a new coaching staff this upcoming season.
Davante Adams is the clear-cut leader at wide receiver, and with the departure of Randall Cobb. They will be looking to Geronimo Allison to be that possible number two receiver. They brought back Allison for at least one more year, after suffering a number of injuries that cost him 11 games. Before that injury last year, Allison was showing great improvement, as he had a career-best 303 yards and two touchdowns in just 5 games. He has been confirmed as the starting slot receiver.
It’s also looking like second-year player Marquez Valdes-Scantling will end up winning a starting role, he has had a very nice showing in camp so far and looks to be ahead of Equanimeous St. Brown. He caught 38 passes for 581 yards and two scores last season and will look to improve upon those totals, with his impressive field-stretching ability.
After a disappointing 2018 season for Jimmy Graham, in which he picked up just two touchdowns. Given that Graham was the highest-paid tight end in the league last season, his on-field production paled in comparison. However, under the new coaching staff led by LaFleur, new system and with another season working with Rodgers, they gave Graham one more opportunity to show they made the right decision in paying him the rich contract. He still has the potential to provide value, as a solid weapon for Rodgers, it was only two years ago he racked up 10 touchdowns with the Seattle Seahawks.
Brian Gutekunst realizing he needed to make plenty of serious changes on that defense, spared no expense in free agency. They would sign four players, including two outside linebackers in Za’Darius Smith, and Preston Smith. Between the pair of them, they would combine for 12.5 sacks in 2018. The Smiths could be sliding in as ready starters at outside linebacker for defensive coordinator Mike Pettine.
In an attempt to bring stability to that safety position. They targeted safety Adrian Amos, from the arch-rival Chicago Bears. Amos had a career-high two interceptions in 2018, along with nine passes defended and 73 tackles. The Packers would double down at the safety position in the Draft, trading up to snag Darnell Savage Jr. out of the University of Maryland.
The Packers decided not to go early for a corner this year in the draft. They did pick up Ka’dar Hollman out of Toledo late in the 6th round. As of now Jaire Alexander, Josh Jackson, Kevin King, and Tramon Williams are looking like the top names at corner this season. King must prove he can stay healthy, something he’s yet to do in his first two seasons. He has played in just 15 of a possible 32 games.
In what seemed like a surprise move, this past Wednesday former Pro Bowl defensive tackle Mike Daniels was released after seven seasons, shaving off 8.5 million against the salary cap. The day prior to the Daniels release, they announced the re-signing of Dean Lowry, to a three-year deal. Clark, Lowry, and Montravius Adams will now be looked at more than ever to take over leadership roles on that defensive line.
53 Man Roster Projection
Expect them to go with three quarterbacks. It’s still undecided who will win the right to be back up to Rodgers, between Kizer and Boyle. Wilkins should make for a decent practice squad candidate.
On the bubble: Manny Wilkins
The tailback position is set in stone at this point. Jamaal Williams missed out on Saturday practice, nursing a hamstring injury. Its anyone’s guess how long he will sit. It did give Dexter Williams some first-string looks, which could be very beneficial. Vitale has been competing with Malcolm Johnson for that fullback spot. Right now it looks like Vitale has the upper hand, and should make the cut.
On the bubble: Malcolm Johnson
Moore struggled with his hands in the offseason practices, and his spot is shaky right now. Outside of him, I like the other 5 going forward into the season. Scantling should beat out Brown and Kumerow for that third spot behind Allison and Adams.
On the bubble: Trevor Davis
Graham is locked in as the number one guy. Lewis should hold a steady spot on the roster, given his blocking abilities. However, don’t count out Tonyan who could end up being a surprise keeper. Sternberger probably needs a year or so to adjust to NFL defenses, though his workload could increase as the season progresses.
On the bubble: Robert Tonyan
The starting five looks solid and Jenkins will be a key backup on the interior. But beyond that six, the rest of the reserves are up in the air. Jenkins and Madison are both first-year players with untapped potential who could both be future starters. I’m very curious to see how Madison does a year off from football, he should make the 53 man squad.
On the bubble: Justin McCray
With the release of Daniels, the focus falls right on Clark’s shoulders, he has been Green Bay’s best defensive player the last two seasons. Keke will be given every chance to prove himself. The team has shown great faith in their young players up front to fill the void.
Gary will be looking to prove a lot of his naysayers wrong, and by the Packers spending the sort of money they did at edge rusher, he will be amongst some real heavy hitters. Gary’s size and versatility should allow him to line up all across the defensive front and create mismatches. After his first couple of rather forgettable seasons, Fackrell would explode doubling his sacks with 10.5.
On the bubble: Greg Roberts, Kendall Donnerson
Martinez returns for his fourth season and may hold the key to the Packers success. Having started two full seasons, you arent going to find a more stable player on this defense. Is Burks ready to step up in his second season, he certainly has the athletic tools to become a playmaker over time.
These six should be the favorites to fill out the cornerback depth chart. The Packers want to see King and Alexander as their outside corners, which would allow Williams and Jackson to play inside. Jackson managed to stay healthy all 16 games, which is certainly a great sign, given the Packers continuous injury problems. Look for him to improve on his rookie season.
Safety looks pretty much set at the moment, outside of Jones. It’s still possible they end up cutting him in order to open up an extra spot at linebacker.
On the bubble: Sam Ficken
Crosby faces legitimate competition from Sam Ficken, who would be a cheaper kicking option at $495,000 than Crosby at $3.6 million. The possibility of Crosby being cut in place of Ficken is legitimate.
So many new parts to this Green Bay Packers team as we look towards 2019 season. Adding a first-year head coach in La Fleur is certainly a gamble, it will be interesting to see what he can do. If he can manage to get them to the playoffs in his first year, it will be the first time a Packers head coach has been able to do it. This will be the first season since 2006 that Rodgers won’t have Mike McCarthy to look to. Can Rodgers jell quick enough with LaFleur in order to get his Packers into a playoff berth? It’s certainly going to be a test, with the Chicago Bears a potential Super Bowl contender, the Minnesota Vikings should look to have a good bounce-back season after falling flat in 2018. And you got the Detroit Lions that just added Daniels and always a tough out.
I have enough faith in Rodgers, that he should come out firing, the x-factor for me will be Jimmy Graham, he will need to bring some of that 2017 Graham to the team. If he can come even close to that player, it will make that passing attack that much more potent.
Prediction: 10-6 Look for them to do enough to get themselves into the playoffs after a two-year absence, as they battle it out with the Bears for that top spot in the NFC North.
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