Green Bay Packers
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Inside Slant | Notes, Quotes | Strategy and Personnel |
QUARTERBACKS (D-plus): Starter - *Aaron Rodgers. Backups - Brett Hundley, Joe Callahan.
Rodgers was having another Pro Bowl-type season before suffering a broken collarbone in Week 6. He tried coming back in Week 15 with the season on the line in Carolina. But Rodgers wasn't himself, threw three interceptions and went back on the injured reserve list two days later. No. 2 Brett Hundley simply wasn't the answer. Hundley's passer rating of 70.6 was miserable and he set a new record for most consecutive passes at home (162) without a touchdown pass. No. 3 Joe Callahan doesn't appear to have the size (6-foot-1) or arm strength to have much of a future in the league.
RUNNING BACKS (C): Starter - Jamaal Williams. Backups - Aaron Jones, *Ty Montgomery, Devante Mays, FB Aaron Ripkowski, FB Joe Kerridge.
Montgomery, a converted receiver, suffered broken ribs and a wrist injury and went to the injured reserve list on Dec. 1. In his stead, rookies Williams and Jones impressed. Williams is more of a plodder, but led the Packers in rushing yards (556) and was second on the team with six total touchdowns. Jones is more of a home-run back who averaged 5.5 yards per carry and finished second on the team with 448 rushing yards. The Williams-Jones combo could be a dangerous one in future seasons, and it's unclear if a place remains for Montgomery.
TIGHT ENDS (F): Starter - Richard Rodgers (UFA). Backups - Lance Kendricks, Emanuel Byrd.
The Packers gave Martellus Bennett a three-year, $21 million contract last offseason to solve their tight-end woes. Instead, Bennett claimed to need a shoulder surgery after quarterback Aaron Rodgers was injured, the Packers released him and filed a grievance with the NFL for $4.2 million of Bennett's signing bonus. Holdover Rodgers and free-agent addition Kendricks did little to impress. Rodgers caught just 12 passes for 160 yards and one touchdown, while Kendricks had 18 receptions for 203 yards and one touchdown. The Packers desperately need to find an impact player here in either the draft or free agency.
WIDE RECEIVERS (D): Starters - Davante Adams, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb. Backups - Geronimo Allison, Trevor Davis, Michael Clark, Jeff Janis (UFA), DeAngelo Yancey.
The Packers answered one of their top offseason questions when they inked Adams to a four-year, $58 million deal. Adams established himself as Green Bay's No. 1 wide receiver in 2017, and if he hadn't been knocked out of two games due to illegal hits, he likely would have had Pro Bowl-worthy numbers. Green Bay faces tough decisions, though, with Nelson and Cobb - who both are scheduled to make more than $10 million in 2018. Each player has seen a substantial decline in production since inking their contracts, and the Packers can ill-afford to pay three receivers in excess of $10 million. None of the reserves have shown enough to believe they are starting caliber players.
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (C): Starters - LT David Bakhtiari, LG Lane Taylor, C Corey Linsley, RG Jahri Evans (UFA), RT *Bryan Bulaga. Backups - T *Kyle Murphy, T/G *Jason Spriggs, G Justin McCray, G Lucas Patrick, G/T Adam Pankey, T Ulrick John, C Dillon Day.
The original starting five had the makings of a top-10 unit. But Bakhtiari missed the first four games of the season with a hamstring injury, then Bulaga suffered a torn ACL in Week 8. In all, Green Bay's No. 1 offensive line played together just 57 snaps all season. Bakhtiari did have a terrific year and was rated the No. 1 left tackle in football by Pro Football Focus. Linsley was as steady as it gets and signed a three-year, $25.5 million contract in the final week of the season that will keep him off the free-agent market in March. The right side of the line, though, is a huge question mark this offseason.
DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (C): Starters - DE Mike Daniels, NT Kenny Clark, DE Dean Lowry. Backups - DE Quinton Dial (UFA), NT Montravius Adams.
Clark, a second-year player, might have improved more than any player on the roster. In the month of December alone, Clark posted 4.5 sacks and finished fourth on the team in that category. Daniels had another steady year in which he had 5.0 sacks, forced a fumble and had 49 total tackles. Lowry, a first-time starter, was up and down. Adams, a rookie third-round pick, made just one tackle in seven games. The Packers desperately need him to take a major jump in his second year. Dial was a stopgap who might be elsewhere in 2018.
LINEBACKERS (D-plus): Starters - OLB Clay Matthews, ILB *Nick Perry, ILB Blake Martinez, OLB Jake Ryan. Backups - OLB Ahmad Brooks (UFA), ILB Joe Thomas, OLB Kyler Fackrell, OLB Vince Biegel, OLB Chris Odom, OLB Reggie Gilbert, *David Talley.
This unit is expected to produce the big plays in the 3-4 defense Green Bay has employed since 2008. In 2017, the group failed miserably. Matthews (8.5) and Perry (7.0), the two highest paid players on the defense, both missed time with injuries and combined for 15.5 sacks. With little depth at the position, Green Bay needed double-digit sacks from both players. Martinez tied for the NFL lead in tackles (144), but struggled in pass coverage. Others like Fackrell, Ryan and Biegel look like backups, at best. Green Bay needs an infusion of talent for this group in April's draft.
DEFENSIVE BACKS (D-minus): Starters - CB Davon House, S Morgan Burnett (UFA), S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, CB Damarious Randall. Backups - CB *Kevin King, CB *Quinten Rollins, CB Josh Hawkins, SS Josh Jones, SS Marwin Evans, S Jermaine Whitehead, CB Lenzy Pipkins, S *Kentrell Brice, CB *Demetri Goodson, CB *Herb Waters, CB Donatello Brown.
The Packers had just 11 interceptions and allowed opponents to throw 30 touchdowns. Opponents also posted a ridiculous 102.2 passer rating. Clinton-Dix had a miserable season, and his half-hearted effort in Week 17 was an embarrassment to the entire organization. House tried battling through a bevy of injuries, but was picked on repeatedly. Randall was told to get off the sideline for conduct detrimental to the team during a Week 4 win over Chicago, but rebounded and had his best year. Burnett was steady, but could leave in free agency. King, a second-round draft pick in 2017, showed flashes before shutting it down with a shoulder injury in early December.
SPECIAL TEAMS (C-minus): K Mason Crosby, P Justin Vogel, P *Jacob Schum, KOR/PR Trevor Davis, LS Brett Goode (UFA), LS *Taybor Pepper.
Vogel, an undrafted rookie from the University of Miami, had a solid first season. Vogel averaged 44.4 yards per punt with a net of 41.6. Crosby, the old pro, made 15-of-19 field-goal attempts (78.9 percent) and was so-so on kickoffs. Crosby has perfected his onside kick form, making that a new weapon for the Packers. Davis averaged 22.8 yards on kickoff returns and 12.0 yards on punts. Davis' 65-yard punt return late in the Cleveland game helped the Packers avoid becoming the only team to lose to the Browns in 2017.
OVERALL GRADE (D-minus): Green Bay had the look of a contender early in the season. The Rodgers injury showed that was a mirage, though. The roster needs an infusion of talent - either through the draft or free agency - meaning the new general manager has a lot of work to do.
*Asterisk indicates player ended 2017 season on injured reserve.