In Matt Lafleur’s first season, the Green Bay Packers came within one game of the Super Bowl. A major reason for this was the team went 8-1 in one-score games and finished undefeated in divisional games. This allowed the Packers to earn a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs. Heading into next season, defensive coordinator Mike Pettine will look to build off a season that saw his defense finish ninth overall in points allowed. Following the 2020 draft, the team will look to transform into a power running team following the selection of running back A.J. Dillion, a transformation from a Packers offense that is used to throwing the ball all over the field under past regimes.
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MVP: Aaron Rodgers
Last season Rodgers had a down year by his standards; however, he still ended up throwing for over 4,000 yards and 26 touchdowns. A significant reason for this was the four games missed by star wide receiver Davante Adams due to a toe injury. Heading into next season, the Packers are better equipped on offense thanks to the emergence of third-year wide receiver Allen Lazard and the rise of star running back Aaron Jones. In another year in Lafleur’s offensive system, look for Rodgers to regain his MVP numbers from past years. As the offense transforms into a run-heavy attack it will open up big-play opportunities down the field.
Offensive Player: Aaron Jones
2020 is a big season for Jones as he will try for the elusive second contract as a running back. Last season Jones had a breakout year, rushing for over 1,000 yards for the first time in his career. He also had 16 rushing touchdowns. A vital piece of the offense, taking snaps at running back as well as wide receiver, he will be a focal point of Lafleur’s offense once again heading into next season. With the increased number of touches in both the backfield and at receiver, Jones will have a monster season. Assuming he does, he will prove to that he is an elite playmaker worthy of a pay raise in 2021.
Defensive Player: Za’Darius Smith
After signing with the Packers last offseason, Smith had a breakout season, recording 13.5 sacks and a forced fumble. Paired with teammate Preston Smith, the duo quickly made up one of the most feared pass rushes in the entire league. Under Pettine last season, the Packers were top 10 in the NFL in blitzing percentage. Heading into next year, Smith will have another monster season in one of the best defensive systems for an edge rusher, making him one of the most feared pass rushers in the league again.
Offensive Rookie: A.J. Dillion
Dillion will become the power back for offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, creating an opportunity for an immediate contribution. Projected to battle for the second running back spot on the depth chart behind Jones, Dillion should see plenty of action on early downs as the team looks to keep Jones’ snap count down. As a big body power back, his specialty is around the goal line. In three seasons in college, he finished with no less than 10 rushing touchdowns and should see plenty of opportunities to finish off drives for the Packers next season, making him a favorite for the team’s offensive rookie of the year.
Defensive Rookie: Kamal Martin
The Packers’ fifth-round pick out of the University of Minnesota will have an immediate impact on the defense. Known for his strong tackling ability and versatility in college, Martin took snaps all over the field during his tenure with the Golden Gophers. A calling card of Pettine, his versatility should allow him to compete for the number two spot at inside linebacker behind free agent acquisition Christian Kirksey. He needs to improve on passing downs as this was a major knock on him heading into the draft and ultimately will lead to him playing on early downs in his career as his coverage skills develop.
Biggest Surprise: Jace Sternberger
Following the departure of Jimmy Graham early on in the offseason, Sternberger appears to have an inside track to earning the starting tight end job next season. After a disappointing rookie campaign that saw him finish the regular season without a catch and appear in only six games due to injury, he began to show flashes of ability during the Packers postseason run by hauling in three passes and a touchdown. Heading into next season, Sternberger should see more snaps at tight end along with being split out at wide receiver as the Packers look to find a consistent contributor at the position since the departure of Jermichael Finley.
Biggest Disappointment: Devin Funchess
After missing 15 games last season due to a broken collarbone, Funchess will look to fight for the number two wide receiver job with Lazard. After a career year with the Panthers in 2017 that saw him catch a career-high 63 passes for 840 yards and eight touchdowns, Funchess has struggled to regain that form the last two seasons. Known for his large catch radius and size, he struggles to create separation on the outside, lacking true game-breaking speed. In a wide receiver room in Green Bay full of young players, his starting job could be gone early on in the season, making this a regrettable free-agent signing for general manager Brian Gutekunst.
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