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2018 Team Report: Green Bay Packers
Offensive PhilosophyThe Green Bay Packers' offensive philosophy largely centers around highlighting their MVP quarterback, Aaron Rodgers. They run plenty of no-huddle, trusting Rodgers to find and exploit mismatches and catch the defense in the middle of substitutions; no quarterback in the league draws more offsides penalties or does more damage on the ensuing free plays. Despite the use of no-huddle, the Packers offense is not especially up-tempo, and Rodgers will often drain the entire play clock before snapping the ball. The Packers have three capable running backs who intend to rotate, though the use of no-huddle can leave each individual back on the field for an extended period.
QuarterbacksStarter: Aaron Rodgers
Backup(s): Brett Hundley, DeShone Kizer Starting QB: Aaron Rodgers enters his 14th season in Green Bay looking to get the Packers back into the post-season after an injury plagued 2017 that forced him to miss nine of the team's 16 games. Last season was the first time the Packers had missed the playoffs since 2008, which coincidentally was Rodgers first year as a starter. While Rodgers continues to play at a high level when healthy, there are small cracks that are starting to show in his armor. In his seven starts last season, Rodgers was on pace to throw the most interceptions of his career (six interceptions in seven games) while averaging the second lowest yards per attempt as a starter. Rodgers completion percentage was the third lowest of his career (64.7%) as was his quarterback rating (97.2). Some of this can be explained by the fact that the Packers had their #1 running back spot to Ty Montgomery, a converted wide receiver. There should be more continuity this year despite the Packers letting Jordy Nelson walk away in free agency. The Packers are still very deep at the skill positions, and will bring back Davante Adams, Randall Cobb, Ty Montgomery and second year running back's, Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones. What the Packers lost in Jordy Nelson, they more than made up for at the tight end position, signing one of the top targets in the league in Jimmy Graham. Rodgers plays his position as well as any other player in the league, combining top end arm strength and accuracy with high football intelligence that allows him to break down defenses in a variety of ways. He also has the athleticism to make plays outside the pocket and is sneaky good at picking up yards on the ground. The Packers will only go as far as Rodgers can lead them, and considering they were 4-3 in games that he started last season, they should be able to pick up right where they left off before Rodgers was injured. Backup QB: Brett Hundley had played very well during his pre-season opportunities, but the Packers would have done without seeing how well he fared during the regular season. Unfortunately with Aaron Rodgers season cut short due to injury last season, Hundley was forced to step up and the results were not good. Hundley was 3-6 as a starter, throwing for nine touchdowns and 12 interceptions, while completing 60.8% of his passes and 166.9 passing yards per game. Hundley also chipped in 24.5 rushing yards per game with two rushing touchdowns. Hundley got better as the season progressed, but it was clear that he was not ready to be a starting quarterback. With this in mind, the Packers brought in second year quarterback DeShone Kizer to push Hundley for the backup spot behind Rodgers. Kizer was thrown to the wolves last year in Cleveland, going 0-15 as a starter while completing 53.6% of his passes with 11 touchdowns and 22 interceptions. Additionally, Kizer averaged 28 rushing yards per game with five rushing touchdowns. Combined, Hundley and Kizer only have four seasons in the NFL, but they do have 24 total starts between them. The Packers will ride Rodgers for as long as they possibly can, but by bringing in Kizer, they have started to plan for the future in hopes that either Hundley or Kizer will develop into a starting caliber quarterback by the time Rodgers is ready to retire.
Running BacksStarter: Jamaal Williams
Backup(s): Ty Montgomery, Aaron Jones
Fullback(s): Aaron Ripkowski Starting RB: After moving on from Eddie Lacy in 2017, the Packers put their running game in the hands of converted wide receiver, Ty Montgomery. They also used two draft picks on Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones. While the Packers weren't quite sure what they had at running back to start the season, by the end of the year the position had developed into perhaps the deepest group on the offensive side of the ball. A big part of that was the play of Jamaal Williams. Williams started seven games and finished with 553 yards rushing on 153 carries (3.6 ypc) and four touchdowns, while also catching 25 passes for 262 yards and two touchdowns. Williams is a very decisive runner, when he locates the first hole he immediately turns it up-field and gets downhill quickly. At 6'0, 215 lbs. Williams has the thick body of a bell-cow back, with the versatility to match. In the six games where the Packers gave Williams 20+ touches, he averaged 105 totals yards with five touchdowns. The Packers will use a running back by committee approach this season, however Williams will head that committee to start. With his ability to play on all three downs and in the red zone, Williams is in the enviable spot of being the lead back on one of the league's most explosive offenses. Backup RBs: Ty Montgomery and Aaron Jones will both get opportunities behind Jamaal Williams this season, and if last year is any indication, both are capable of handling the starting spot when called upon. Montgomery is the more versatile of the two, doing most of his damage through the air last season. He rushed 71 times for 273 yards (3.85 ypc) with three touchdowns, while also catching 23 passes for 173 yards and a touchdown. Montgomery could find his role changed again for the third straight season though, as the departure of Jordy Nelson has created a hole at wide receiver. Montgomery was switched to running back when the Packers had a real need at the position, but with Williams and Jones providing depth at the position, the more immediate need is at wide receiver. The hybrid running back/wide receiver position is all the rage in the NFL these days, and Montgomery could fill that role perfectly for the Packers. Of the Packers three running backs, Aaron Jones was by far the best runner, and it wasn't close. While Williams (3.6 ypc) and Montgomery (3.8 ypc) both averaged under four yards per carry, Jones averaged 5.5 yards per carry, rushing for 448 yards on 81 carries with four touchdowns. He also chipped in nine catches on 18 targets for 22 yards. Jones also brings an explosiveness to the Packers backfield that Montgomery and Williams lack. He had six runs of 20+ yards last season, tied for 11th in the NFL, and he did so on only 81 carries. Many Packers fans will remember Jones beating the Bucs in overtime when he scored a long touchdown on his first touch of the game. Jones did run into some trouble last season when he was arrested for speeding and admitted to smoking marijuana, so there is still the possibility that he could be suspended by the NFL and/or the Packers. Regardless, he has the talent and skillset to play an important role for the Packers this season. Fullback:
Wide ReceiversStarters: Davante Adams, Randall Cobb
Backups: DeAngelo Yancey, Geronimo Allison, Trevor Davis, J'Mon Moore [R], Marquez Valdes-Scantling [R], Equanimeous St. Brown [R], Michael Clark Starting WRs: For the first time in his career, Aaron Rodgers will come into training camp without his #1 wide receiver, Jordy Nelson, a Green Bay Packer. The Packers let Nelson walk in free agency, where he signed with the Oakland Raiders. Nelson was a big part of both Rodgers and the Packers success over the year, but waiting in the wings is Davante Adams, and make no mistake about it, he has been waiting to step in as Rodgers go-to-guy. Since being drafted in 2014, Adams has had an up and down career due in large part to injuries, as well as some minor bouts with concentration issues related to catching the football. Adams has made great strides the last two years though, finishing with back to back 74+ catch seasons while averaging 941 yards receiving. Adams is also the only wide receiver with consecutive seasons of 10+ touchdowns (12 touchdowns and 10 touchdowns, respectively). Nelson did most of his damage down the field, but Adams is targeted more frequently in the short and immediate passing game. He runs crisp routes and uses his short-area quickness to take drag routes and slants up field and gain yards after the catch. Randall Cobb will also be called on to help fill the void that Nelson left. Since his breakout season in 2014 (91 catches, 1287 yards and 12 touchdowns), Cobb has failed to exceed 80 catches, 900 yards or six touchdowns. In past seasons, Cobb was used primarily in the slot, and will most likely see that role continue in 2018. Cobb has had some problems staying healthy, which will be a big concern as his target volume increases, but the Packers can overcome some of these issues by using him creatively in space, as well as coming out of the backfield. He will be given every opportunity to live up to the potential that we saw him display earlier in his career. Backup WRs: With respect to the battle for the #3 wide receiver spot, Geronimo Allison and Trevor Davis will come into camp with the most experience, but neither has done enough to distinguish themselves from the rest of the pack. Green Bay has always done a great job of replenishing the position through the draft, and this year was no exception. The Packers addressed their need of finding big bodied receivers in the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds of the draft, taking J'Mon Moore (6'3), Marquez Valdez-Scalding (6'4) and Equanimeous St. Brown (6'5). Moore is the most physical of the three, and his long arms and athleticism to make plays down the field. Although he lacks the top end speed of Jordy Nelson, the Packers view Moore as his long term replacement. Valdez-Scalding and St.Brown are not polished NFL receivers just yet, but bring impressive size/speed potential to a team that can take their time and develop them properly. Clark is a 6'7" basketball convert who stuck with the team at the end of the 2017 season and will attempt to beat out the rookies and other young receivers for a spot on the final roster.
Tight EndsStarters: Jimmy Graham
Backups: Lance Kendricks, Emanuel Byrd, Marcedes Lewis While the Packers have never been big spenders on the offensive side of the ball in free agency, they made up for losing Jordy Nelson by signing tight end, Jimmy Graham. It is safe to say that the Packers have not had a receiving threat like Graham since Jermichael Finley retired. Green Bay will not be getting the 80+ catch, New Orleans version of Graham, but with the talent at wide receiver and running back, they won't need him to be. Graham brings size, speed and physicality to the Packers receiving corp, and will help to free up Adams and Cobb on the outside by demanding safety attention in the middle of the field. With Graham and Adams, Aaron Rodgers now has two of the top red zone options in the league, which should go a long way in pushing him towards the top fantasy spot in 2018. Graham is not known for his blocking prowess, which is one of the reasons why the Packers held onto Lance Kendricks despite him not stepping up in the passing game last season after Martellus Bennett was cut mid way through the season. Emanuel Byrd is an undrafted project who was cut at the beginning of last season, before working his way back onto the time after injuries depleted the position. He is no way a threat to Graham or Kendricks, but did make the most of his opportunities in 2017 and could secure one of the last spots on the active roster if he can continue to make plays in camp. Marcedes Lewis was added after the draft and should help as a blocker and allow Graham to run more routes without making the offensive predictable when he is on the field.
Place KickerMason Crosby: The Packers have rarely been among the top field goal attempt teams during Mason Crosby's tenure as their kicker, but 2017 took things to an absurd low. Green Bay had the fewest attempts and makes in the league, and Crosby still managed to miss four kicks, including two from under 40 yards. Only two kickers that played all 16 games had fewer points and they were first-year kickers playing for the worst two teams in the league. A lot of this can be chalked up to the offensive struggles once Brett Hundley took over, but Crosby hasn't been a startable fantasy kicker since 2014. He's merely bye/injury fill-in material.
Kick and Punt ReturnersKick Returners: Trevor Davis Trevor Davis was one of the feel-good stories of Green Bay's offseason last year, as he rebounded from a rookie year marred by several awful fumbles, impressed the coaches with his work ethic over the offseason, and beat out all comers to earn back the return specialist job. Going into 2018, he's no longer the underdog. Punt Returners: Trevor Davis Trevor Davis was one of the feel-good stories of Green Bay's offseason last year, as he rebounded from a rookie year marred by several awful fumbles, impressed the coaches with his work ethic over the offseason, and beat out all comers to earn back the return specialist job. Going into 2018, he's no longer the underdog.
Offensive LineProjected Starters: LT David Bakhtiari, LG Lane Taylor, C Corey Linsley, RG Justin McCray, RT Bryan Bulaga
Key Backups: Jason Spriggs, Kyle Murphy, Cole Madison, Lucas Patrick, Adam Pankey Left tackle David Bakhtiari had an All-Pro performance last season and is the cornerstone of this Packers' offensive line. Right tackle Bryan Bulaga is underrated but also a very good player when healthy. Left guard Lane Taylor and Center Corey Linsley are solid players who control the point of attack. Right guard Justin McCray filled multiple spots last season when starters were injured and the team is rewarding McCray with a starting job. Overall, this Packers' offensive line enters the season as a top-tier option.
Team DefenseThe Packers defense suffered with the rest of the team after they lost Aaron Rodgers, with 9 of their 21 takeaways coming in the five games Rodgers started and finished before his collarbone was broken. They made changes in the defensive coaching staff after the season, replacing Dom Capers with Mike Pettine, and signed Mohammed Wilkerson to help a thin defensive line. Pettine coached Wilkerson early in the defensive end's career with the Jets, so he could help him find his game. Clay Matthews and Nick Perry will relied on to generate edge rush with Mike Daniels penetrating from his five-technique defensive end spot. The secondary will need 2017 second-round pick Kevin King to elevate his game, and old Packers starter Tramon Williams to keep his career reclamation going after a strong season for Arizona last year. The team did spend their first and second round picks on corners this year, and first-rounder Jaire Alexander could provide a Marcus Peters-esque presence in the slot. Third-round linebacker Oren Burks could help in coverage, a sore spot for Packers inside linebackers in recent years. With Rodgers back and new blood on the coaching staff, the Packers will be a good matchup play at home once again.
Defensive LineStarters: DE Muhammed Wilkerson, NT Kenny Clark, DE Mike Daniels
Backups: DE Montravius Adams, NT/DE James Looney [R], DE Dean Lowry Starting DL: Under former General Manager Ted Thompson, the Packers were known for being nearly inactive in free agency. Under new GM Brian Gutekunst, all that changed. In particular, the team made a splash when they added Muhammed Wilkerson in free agency. Previously with the Jets and last year with the Seahawks, Wilkerson is looking for a fresh start. Upon joining the team, Wilkerson said, "There is a lot more in this tank, and I know that. I'm ready for this change and the doubters, I'm ready to pretty much shut them up. And people will still talk of course, as people will, but it's a motivation for me, definitely." Mike Daniels continues to play well and earned his first Pro Bowl appearance last year. In a recent interview, he credited his increased production to the coaching staff allowing him to stay on the field on third down more often than in previous years. After coming back from an ankle injury, Kenny Clark logged his first sack of his young career and totalled four and a half sacks by season's end. As he heads into his third year, the team remains confident he can build upon that late season breakout. When asked about the outlook of the defensive line for this year, he said, "We have a lot of good defensive linemen, a lot of good depth and a lot of competition, too. It's only going to make us better." Backup DL: An early camp foot injury hampered much of Montravius Adams' development and he only managed 65 sacks across seven games. Now that he is healthy, the team will demand more of Adams in the second year. Brian Gutekunst said of Adams at the Combine, "We always look for a big second-year jump. That's kind of been a staple of Mike's program. Montravius kind of got sidetracked with the injury and stuff (but) we expect big things from him." Dean Lowry remains a rotational option that performed well in his second year with two sacks and 34 total tackles. James Looney was a seventh-round pick out of California who many scouts saw as being too light to hold up on the interior of a 3-4 line. Looney will battle in camp to see if he can stick on the roster.
LinebackersStarters: ILB Jake Ryan, MLB Blake Martinez, OLB Clay Matthews, OLB Nick Perry
Backups: ILB Kendall Donnerson [R], MLB Oren Burks [R], OLB Kyler Fackrell, OLB Vince Biegel Starting LBs: Jake Ryan is a starter for now, but the team seems to be growing weary of his inconsistent play and athletic limitations. His regression last season may be one of the reasons the Packers took a linebacker on Day 2 of the Draft. Finally able to stay healthy, Blake Martinez led the team with a whopping 94 tackles and 48 assists. He's slated to take signal calling duties for this defense, a role that previously belonged to departed Morgan Burnett. Clay Matthews may become a versatile, movable piece in new Defensive Coordinator Mike Pettine's scheme. Matthews is in the last year of his contract and it remains to be seen if the Packers will extend his contract so that he can play the rest of his career in Green Bay. Like Matthews, Nick Perry also continues to be a mainstay for the Packers pass rush. He and Matthews combined accounted for over a third of the quarterback hits and quarterback sacks the entire defense generated in 2017. Backup LBs: The team kept its tradition of taking mid-to-late round shots at linebackers, hoping to find successors to Jake Ryan and Clay Matthews in particular. They may have found Ryan's eventual replacement in Vanderbilt's Oren Burks. Burks is an athletic, sideline-to-sideline option who will need development, but has better physical tools than Ryan. Kendall Donnerson from Southeast Missouri State was a seventh-round selection that has the size and athleticism required for the position, but is very raw. The Packers are counting on him to provide special teams contributions and depth now with the idea that they can perhaps coach him up. Kyler Fackrell and Vince Biegel will need to step up if they are to be part of the rotation beyond this year. Fackrell is entering his third year and has done little to suggest he can be an eventual starter. Biegel has shown flashes of promise in his short career, but has also struggled with health so far. He had screws inserted in both feet at the conclusion of his rookie campaign.
Defensive BacksStarters: CB Tramon Williams, CB Kevin King, SS Josh Jones, FS Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix
Backups: CB Josh Jackson [R], CB Jaire Alexander [R], CB/FS Quinten Rollins, SS Kentrell Brice Starting DBs: The secondary in particular was a disappointment for the Packers last season. The team gave up on Damarious Randall, trading him away in a deal for DeShone Kizer. They have re-signed an old face in Tramon Williams, who spent the previous three seasons with the Browns and Cardinals. Speaking of Williams, Head Coach Mike McCarthy said, "He looks great. He doesn't look like he's changed since the day he left. I'm excited that he's back and he'll definitely give us outstanding leadership there in the secondary." Kevin King will get the nod to start next to Williams. Due to injuries, King was brought up to the starting unit last year, but himself suffered a knee injury and a broken hand that closed his campaign early. Morgan Burnett left for the Bills in free agency and so Josh Jones will be promoted to the starting spot. The former rookie Jones played nickel linebacker last season until injuries forced him into full-time duty as a safety. The team believes he has the versatility to make this transition permanent. Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix is ready for a bounce back after struggling in 2017. He recently wrote of himself, "Down year for me but I'll take it and be back stronger and I'm betting on myself. I hold myself to a higher standard, but blessed to be recognized in the top 100 of this competitive league." Clinton-Dix often had to play out of position due to injuries and coverage problems in the secondary. The Packers hope the heavy investment they made in the Draft to improve this unit will prevent history from repeating itself. Backup DBs: Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson were the team's first and second-round selections, signaling the team's mandate to fix the leaky secondary. Alexander is a ballhawking corner who will serve as the team's nickel option while he prepares to eventually start. Jackson is a larger, instinctive corner who wins the ball at the catch point. He'll eventually be asked to cover the bigger receivers that the Packers have struggled to defend in recent years. Quinten Rollins spent the majority of last year injured, his second year battling nagging problems. A permanent move to free safety may help Rollins, who has struggled with the nuances of corner play. Kentrell Brice stepped in to the starting strong safety role last year and played well. While it's expected Brice will remain a backup, Coach McCarthy has not dismissed the possibility of Brice starting, telling reporters, "I look for him to fight for a starting position." Last modified: 2018-06-17 11:26:40