- There might be some initial growing pains, but expect this Green Bay team to be in contention for an NFC North title.
The 2019 NFL season is just a few weeks away, so Andy Benoit makes a few predictions for each NFL team. Today he looks at the Green Bay Packers, who finished 6-9-1 and third in the NFC North in 2018.
After an up-and-down start, Green Bay’s offense becomes one of football’s most explosive. Aaron Rodgers acclimates, well enough, to new head coach Matt LaFleur’s scheme. Under Mike McCarthy, Rodgers was rarely asked to play on schedule, which contributed to the inconsistency that dogged Green Bay’s offense the last two years, but LaFleur demands precision from his future Hall of Fame QB. Green Bay’s unbalanced and condensed formations, presnap motions, first-down play-actions and intertwined route combinations play to Rodger’s sharp football IQ, ballasting his reads and timing. He regains his assassin-like accuracy.
The passing game runs through Davante Adams, who yields another 1,300-plus-yard season. With Geronimo Allison, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown all 6' 3" or taller, the deceptively shifty 6' 1" Adams plays slightly out of position as Green Bay’s predominant slot receiver. No problem; in LaFleur’s scheme, the slot receiver attacks downfield as much as he does underneath, perfectly suiting the sixth-year pro.
Coordinator Mike Pettine’s defense remains boom or bust, which is common in a scheme built on disguise, coverage diversity and blitzing from depth, where corners and safeties become pass rushers. With so many different DBs playing different spots each week, Green Bay’s defensive looks are hard to anticipate and, at times, equally hard to execute. But Pettine’s approach works more often than not, thanks largely to the sterling young cover-corner duo of Kevin King and Jaire Alexander, whom Pettine is comfortable matching one-on-one respectively against big and quick receivers.
The Packers generate more sacks and turnovers, thanks to a top-notch run defense that creates the additional obvious passing situations where Pettine can showcase his disguises and pressures. The Packers preach destruction more than discipline, with defenders taught to defeat their blocker first and worry about their run gap second. Green Bay has the D-line talent to play this way—315-pound mega-athlete Kenny Clark and strong eighth-year veteran Mike Daniels are elite. In addition, first-round pick Rashan Gary, a hybrid edge player, is promising, and unheralded role players Dean Lowry, Tyler Lancaster and Montravius Adams provide excellent depth.
BOTTOM LINE: The perennial NFC North-contending Packers are back, though they initially resemble the nine-loss Packers of the last two years as this offense works to gain its footing in the new scheme.
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