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2019 Team Report: Green Bay Packers

Offensive Philosophy

Aaron Rodgers reportedly chafed at head coach Mike McCarthy's offensive system and desired a new one. This offseason, Rodgers got his wish as the Packers hired Tennessee Titans' offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur as their new head coach. LaFleur's NFL career has been spent under Gary Kubiak, Mike Shanahan, Kyle Shanahan, and Sean McVay, so it comes as no surprise that he tends to favor a heavy zone rushing attack supplemented by a short-drop, quick passing West Coast-style passing game.

Quarterbacks

Starter: Aaron Rodgers
Backup(s): DeShone Kizer, Tim Boyle

Starting QB: Aaron Rodgers enters his 15th NFL season in unfamiliar territory. The Packers and head coach Mike McCarthy parted ways after consecutive losing seasons in 2017 and 2018 that saw Green Bay miss the playoffs for the first time since 2009. As Green Bay's starting quarterback, Rodgers has never played for a head coach other than McCarthy. The hiring of Matt LaFleur was a necessary move as Rodgers enters the final quarter of his career, and he is still playing at a very high level and is surrounded by young talent at the skill positions. Rodgers finished 2018 with the second lowest completion percentage of his career as a starter (62.3%), but that can be forgiven when you consider the fact that three of the Packers top five pass catchers in 2018 (Jimmy Graham and rookies Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown) had never caught a pass from Rodgers prior to the start of the season. Rodgers made up for it in other statistical categories though, recording the second most passing yards (4,442) and the lowest interception rate of his career (.3%, 25 touchdowns to two interceptions). Rodgers 7.4 yards per attempt were also his highest since the 2014 season. Rodgers has a certified stud at the #1 wide receiver position in Davante Adams (the only wide receiver in the NFL with three straight seasons of 10+ touchdown receptions), as well as a bevy of big bodied receivers in Valdes-Scantling (6'4), St. Brown (6'5)and Geronimo Allison (6'3), all of whom averaged over 15 yards per catch last season. With the emergence of Aaron Jones in the backfield, the Packers have a very balanced offense that will give Rodgers the advantage in dissecting opposing secondaries. He remains one of the top fantasy options at the quarterback position.

Backup QB: The Packers made a surprising move prior to the start of the 2018 season, trading backup quarterback Brett Hundley to the Seattle Seahawks for a 2019 draft pick, while effectively handing the #2 quarterback spot to DeShone Kizer, who they acquired in March via trade with the Cleveland Browns. Kizer started 15 games for the Browns as a rookie in 2017, losing all 15 games while throwing for 11 touchdowns and 22 interceptions. The move from Hundley to Kizer appeared to be lateral at best, however the Packers believe Kizer's ceiling is higher than Hundley's, and he will only continue to get better as Rodgers understudy. Kizer appeared in only three games in 2018, completing 20 of 42 passes with no touchdowns and two interceptions.

Running Backs

Starter: Aaron Jones
Backup(s): Jamaal Williams, Dexter Williams (R), Tra Carson, Kapri Bibbs
Fullback(s): Dan Vitale

Starting RB: After missing the Packers first two games of the 2018 season due to suspension, Aaron Jones won the starting running back job over Jamaal Williams and Ty Montgomery, with the latter eventually being traded to the Ravens mid-season. On talent alone, Jones is the superior back over Williams and this is something that is readily apparent when watching the two on tape. In his first two seasons, Jones has averaged 5.5 yards per carry on 214 attempts, which also happens to be the highest yards per carry of any player in NFL history with at least 200 carries. He finished the 2018 season with 728 rushing yards and eight rushing touchdowns to go along with 26 receptions for 206 yards and a touchdown in the passing game. Jones made noticeable strides as a receiver in 2018, but he will have to continue to get better in that area, as well as in pass protection, as this was one of the main reasons why McCarthy never really committed to Jones as the Packers bell-cow running back. Jones is explosive, but also runs with surprising power for a 205 pound running back and was very effective as a red zone runner last season. He is in a great position to succeed this season under LaFleur, who came up under the Shanahan coaching tree and employs the same zone-running scheme that has birthed countless fantasy stars at the running back position. LaFleur recently commented that a "committee approach" would be most effective with Jones and Williams, but Jones is too talented to keep off the field in LaFleur's scheme. Expect Jones to see around 70% of the rushing attempts, with the two splitting passing down duties up the middle.

Backup RBs: Jamaal Williams has had an up and down start to his NFL career, looking like a lead-footed plodder half the time and an effective jack of all trades running back the other half. He was given the chance to carry the load for the Packers the first two weeks of the 2018 season, but failed to make much of an impact, averaging 3.4 yards per carry on 31 attempts. While his teammate Jones has the highest yards per carry in NFL history with at least 200 attempts, Williams has averaged only 3.7 yards per carry through his first two seasons, playing in the same scheme with the same offensive lineman. Williams does not have an elite skill to hang his hat on, so it easy for him to get bottled up at the line of scrimmage if opposing defenses concentrate on stopping the run. Williams is at his best as a receiver on third downs, averaging 9.1 yards per catch on 52 receptions over the last two seasons. He is solid but unspectacular, which isn't going to cut it when the competition has the elite raw skills of a guy like Jones. He does provide the Packers with depth at the running back position and can be effective as a #2 option, but the days of this being a competition between the two backs came to an end last season. Looking to add some depth behind Jamaal Williams, the Packers selected Dexter Williams with the 194th overall pick (22nd pick of the sixth round). Williams was a four star recruit coming out of high school but largely disappointed in his time at Notre Dame. He dealt with some off the field issues (missing all of the 2016 season) and was suspended for the first four games of the 2018 season. He made the most of his opportunities the rest of the season though, rushing for 995 yards and 12 touchdowns on only 158 carries (6.3 yards per catch). Williams is 5'11, 212 pounds and ran a 4.57 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. He has a nice blend of strength, speed and agility and is a patient runner with very good vision. The biggest concern is he doesn't have an elite strength and was not much of a pass catcher at Notre Dame (only 22 career catches). Considering the fact that Jamaal Williams has a very similar profile, but is a very good pass catcher, Dexter Williams was picked more for his ability to provide depth as opposed to challenging Jones or Williams for playing time his rookie season. Tra Carson is a bruising north/south running back at 5'11, 227 pounds and has a deliberate, powerful running style. He bounced around the Bengals practice squad for a couple years before catching on with the Packers last season. He is there to provide emergency depth behind Williams, and although he is a surprisingly natural pass catcher for a player of his size, he doesn't have the versatility of Williams and will face competition for the #3 running back spot.

Fullback: The Packers have utilized their fullbacks quite often in the past, with John Kuhn and Aaron Ripkowski being favorites under Mike McCarthy. Under LaFleur, the Packers will utilize as a zone blocking scheme, but Vitale is more of a jack of all trades fullback than a true traditional blocker. He has soft hands and played all over the field in college, so it will be interesting to see how the Packers utilize his talent. He has bounced around the league up until now and never caught on anywhere for too long, so it will not be surprising to see the Packers bring in some competition for Vitale this off-season.

Wide Receivers

Starters: Davante Adams, Geronimo Allison, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Equanimeous St. Brown
Backups: J'Mon Moore, Jake Kumerow, Allen Lazard, Teo Redding, Trevor Davis

Starting WRs: With the Packers releasing long time #1 wide receiver Jordy Nelson last season, Davante Adams was moved into his spot and responded with an incredible season that ranked among the very best in franchise history. He finished with 111 receptions for 1,386 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2018, the third consecutive season of 10+ touchdown catches for Adams, which made him the only wide receiver in the NFL to accomplish the feat over that span. Adams consistency is his hallmark, as he had either a touchdown or 100+ receiving yards in 15 of his 16 games last season, and the only game he did not reach those thresholds, he caught eight passes for 81 yards. Adams has come a long way since his rookie season where he struggled with drops and lapses in concentration, but the physical tools were always there. Adams has made himself into one of the more complete wide receivers in the NFL, capable of working the sidelines or the middle of the field, as well as playing both outside or in the slot position. With Randall Cobb gone in free agency, Adams should see more work in the slot in LaFleur's offense. He ran roughly 20% of his routes from the slot in 2018 and was highly successful when running inside routes, so an increase in that department only further elevates Adams potential ceiling in 2019. As of right now, Allison, Valdes-Scantling and St. Brown are competing for the #2 and #3 wide receiver positions, with all of them bringing roughly the same skill set to the table in the form of big bodied receivers who can make plays down the field. All three receivers averaged over 15 yards per catch last season, with Valdes-Scantling leading the way with 581 yards on 38 catches with two touchdowns. Allison was off to a great start in 2018, recording 19 catches for 289 yards and two touchdowns in the Packers first four games, but was injured in week four and had only one catch for 14 yards in week eight to show for the rest of his season. The Packers did sign him to a one year deal worth 2.8 million dollars this off-season, so he is definitely in the teams plans for the 2019 season. St. Brown didn't get a whole lot of opportunities in his rookie season, but was able to make some big plays when his number was called, including two games of 89+ receiving yards. He led the Packers receivers with 15.6 yards per catch and barring a breakout campaign from both Allison and Valdes-Scantling, he should see his opportunities grow in his second NFL season.

Backup WRs: Despite being the first of the three rookie wide receivers drafted in 2018, J'Mon Moore finished the season with only two catches for 12 yards. He was active on game day 12 times, but in his own words, Moore had quite a bit of trouble adjusting to the speed of the NFL game. Not the physical speed, but rather the mental speed in terms of knowing his assignments, coverage and being in the right spot when a play would break down. This is a very important part of the game when Rodgers is your quarterback, but it seems that Moore is confident that he can correct those parts heading into his second season. Jake Kumerow provides the Packers with solid depth as the #5 wide receiver and played very well in preseason, which translated to eight catches for 103 yards and a touchdown in 2018. Allen Lazard was a productive collegiate player, but will have trouble at the pro level when he can't out-muscle his defenders. He will face competition to make the Packers active roster in 2019.

Tight Ends

Starters: Jimmy Graham
Backups: Jace Sternberger (R), Marcedes Lewis

Jimmy Graham was brought to the Packers to give them another threat in the red zone and be a reliable target in the middle of the field. At his age and point in his career, his athleticism was not what it was early in his career where he could run past defenders and out-jump them and high point the ball, but he still has the size and savvy to be an advantage for a player with Rodgers accuracy. He finished with 55 catches (on 89 targets) for 636 yards and touchdowns, which falls short of what the Packers expected from him. He did have some impressive moments early in the season, but as the year progressed, he looked much slower and heavy footed on tape and the Packers should be looking to groom his replacement through the draft. The Packers selected Jace Sternberger with the 75th pick overall in this year's draft (12th pick of the third round). Sternberger is coming off a 48 catch, 832 yard and 10 touchdown season for Texas A&M, where he was named a consensus First Team All-American and All-SEC. Sternberger tied the record for most touchdown catches in a season by a tight end, and finished second nationally among all tight ends in receiving yards. While he does not have elite athleticism like that of TJ Hockenson (9th overall pick) or Noah Fant (21st overall pick), Sternberger is a solid route-runner with good hands, and has enough speed to be dangerous down the seam for Rodgers. Sternberger will have to work on his blocking and probably gain some mass in order to match up with edge rushers at the NFL level, but he was used in-line at Texas A&M and has the tools to develop into an NFL starter. The Packers will let Sternberger learn from Graham over the next season or two, and the hope is that he will be ready to be a full-time starter by 2021. Marcedes Lewis provides depth behind Graham, which is why Green Bay resigned him to a one year deal this off-season. Lewis was active for all 16 games, and started four games when Graham was hurt, but finished with only three catches for 39 yards. He is there for emergency purposes only at this stage in his career.

Place Kicker

Mason Crosby: Mason Crosby had another acceptable season last year in both fantasy and NFL terms. He missed 7 of his 37 field goal attempts, but six of those misses were from 40+ yards. He finished in the top 10 in scoring and flirted with the top five when distance bonuses are added. Crosby's down 2017 was chalked up to the loss of Aaron Rodgers after he returned to his typical scoring levels last year, and there's hope that the departure of Mike McCarthy can boost the offense and Crosby's output even further this year. He's an excellent Plan A kicker pick in the final round.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Trevor Davis, Jamaal Williams

Trevor Davis has had quite an up-and-down NFL career. As a rookie in 2016, special teams fumbles landed him in the coaches' doghouse. As a sophomore in 2017, he overcame those fumbles to be a stellar and dependable return specialist. In 2018, he was set to reprise his role until a hamstring injury landed him on IR and cost him his season. Davis should be healthy for 2019, which is a good thing, because in his absence the Packers lacked any sense of stability on kickoff returns.

Punt Returners: Trevor Davis, Tramon Williams

When return specialist Trevor Davis lost his 2018 season to hamstring injury, the Packers were forced to shuffle several players in on punt returns, eventually settling on Tramon Williams, a 35-year-old safety whose last stint as a regular returner came back in 2010. While Williams is still around if needed, the Packers undoubtedly hope that Davis will be healthy enough to resume his normal role in 2019.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: David Bakhtiari, Lane Taylor, Corey Linsley, Justin McCray, Bryan Bulaga
Key Backups: Jason Spriggs, Elgton Jenkins [R], Billy Turner, Lucas Patrick, Adam Pankey

Left tackle David Bakhtiari had a monster campaign, resulting in first team All-Pro honors. Bakhtiari has become one of the best blind side protectors in the game. Left guard Lane Taylor has the ability to swing to tackle and center Corey Linsley does a good job making the blocking calls. Right guard Justin McCray has subbed all over the line due to injury and will finally get a chance to win a starting position. The team has brought in second round rookie Elgton Jenkins from Mississippi State and Billy Turner from free agency, and either could send McCray to the bench. Right tackle Bryan Bulaga is solid when healthy and the team hasn't quite given up on former second round pick Jason Spriggs. Overall this is a top-tier line with interesting depth, led by their star at left tackle.

Team Defense

The Packers were an anemic fantasy team defense on the surface, but a closer look reveals that they were a consistent strong play at Lambeau, with big games against the Vikings, Bills, 49ers, Dolphins, and Falcons. New head coach Matt LaFleur kept defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, and GM Brian Gutekunst helped Pettine by adding Za'Darius Smith and Preston Smith to give the team their best edge rush combo since Nick Perry looked like a hit opposite Clay Matthews. Gutekunst also splurged on defense in the first round with supreme athlete Rashan Gary and Bob Sanders clone Darnell Savage. Gary has a torn labrum that might limit his first year contributions, but he can fit in multiple places in the pass rush in small doses. The secondary is young and should take a step forward this year. The unit might not be worth drafting because of a season opener at Chicago, but with home dates against the Vikings, Broncos, and Eagles up next, they will be a Week 2 waiver wire priority for streamers.

Defensive Line

Starters: DE Dean Lowry, NT Kenny Clark, DE Mike Daniels
Backups: DE Kingsley Keke [R], NT Tyler Lancaster, DE Montravius Adams

Starting DL: Losing Muhammed Wilkerson and having to start Dean Lowry feels like a downgrade, but Wilkerson did not play much last year due to a leg injury suffered in week three. Lowry filled in admirably for him, logging a career-high three sacks and 44 combined tackles. Lowry is entering his fourth year with the team and last year's performance has given the retained defensive coaching staff confidence that he can be the starting 5-technique end. Kenny Clark had his fifth-year option exercised by Green Bay as they work toward a lucrative long-term deal. The elbow injury that held him out the last three games of the season should not be a problem coming into this new season. Mike Daniels also got banged up late last year, missing the last six contests of the season with a foot injury. Prior to this injury, he had missed only two games in his seven-year career. Daniels told the media he is fired up about being back from injury. "I can say the team has a very, very big chip on its shoulder," Daniels said. "I know me, personally, I went down in November and I've just been fuming ever since. I'm excited to get a chance to hit somebody coming into July."

Backup DL: Montravius Adams continued to grow last year and saw significant playing time as both starters ahead of him went down. Tyler Lancaster, who was also pushed into significant playing time last year, showed signs of development as well. A fifth-round pick in this year's Draft, Kingsley Keke will be a beefy interior option for the group. Packers scout Charles Wells said of Keke, "This is a big guy who is athletic, can play across the front. He's long. He's got feet, hips, closing speed. He had production in the SEC. Another big guy with athleticism who adds versatility to us."

Linebackers

Starters: ILB Blake Martinez, ILB Oren Burks, OLB ZaDarius Smith, OLB Preston Smith
Backups: ILB James Crawford, ILB Ty Summers [R], OLB Kyler Fackrell, OLB Rashan Gary [R]

Starting LBs: There has been a great deal of turnover with this group, despite the retention of Defensive Coordinator Mike Pettine. Blake Martinez remains the only starting linebacker fixture when comparing the roster to last year's. Next to him, Oren Burks, who was a rookie selection last year, will hope to stay healthier and take on the coverage responsibilities on nickel downs. Burks played in just four games last season. The Packers took the trite phrase "you can never have too many pass rushers" quite literally. They made significant financial investments in free agents Za'Darius Smith and Preston Smith and spent premium draft capital to acquire Rashan Gary. With Nick Perry and Clay Matthews finally out of the picture, Green Bay will hope for better production from this group.

Backup LBs: The backup group is largely unproven and it could be problematic if the interior linebackers are called into action this season. Undrafted free agent James Crawford has not played but a single snap in the NFL, and late-round rookie Ty Summers is a positional convert from quarterback. Though Summers has athletic ability in spades, he will have a great deal of developing to do before he is ready to compete at the professional level. Kyler Fackrell is another holdover from the previous coaching regime, and while the team invested at his position in the offseason, he is growing as a player. He registered ten and a half sacks last year. The Packers took Rashan Gary at 12th overall and likely value the positional versatility that Gary has to line up from multiple places on the defensive front and rush the passer.

Defensive Backs

Starters: CB Jaire Alexander, CB Kevin King, SS Adrian Amos, FS Darnell Savage [R]
Backups: CB Tramon Williams, CB Josh Jackson, SS Tray Matthews, FS Josh Jones

Starting DBs: One of the few bright spots for the Packers last season was that rookie Jaire Alexander was ready to start when pushed into duty and greatly exceeded expectations. Kevin King has come along perhaps a little more slowly due to multiple injuries the last two years. However, due to a lack of depth, the Packers have little choice but to start him. Adrian Amos was signed away from rival Chicago. Entering the prime of his career, he will help to stabilize a unit that was in a tailspin after dealing Haha Clinton-Dix away to Washington. He'll likely have rookie selection Darnell Savage man the free safety spot next to him. Savage has blazing speed and was frequently looking to pick off passes in his time at Maryland. He may struggle to cover larger tight ends, so it is possible this responsibility could be relegated to another team member.

Backup DBs: Thankfully, the team still has 11-year veteran Tramon Williams to fall back on in an emergency scenario. Last year's second-round pick Josh Jackson has been understandably slower to develop than Alexander, but did get significant snaps last year that bode well for continuing development. Josh Jones can play either strong or free safety in a pinch, but has been best suited to play nickel linebacker so far in his career. Tray Matthews is a longshot, but one to keep in mind if Jones fails to hold on to his backup role. A former Auburn Tiger who was very productive in college, Matthews bounced around to the Vikings and Colts practice squads before landing with the Green Bay practice squad late last year. He will certainly figure into the competition for a primary backup spot with the current lack of safety depth on the roster.

Last modified: 2019-05-24 15:22:03