5 Young Players Who Need To Step Up For the Packers In 2022

Green Bay will have bigger roles for many promising players

The Green Bay Packers main philosophy is the "draft and develop". Sometimes, everyone forgets about the development part of the strategy. While the Packers add new pieces to the roster, it's as important to count on young players to improve - the clear recent example is Rashan Gary, who had a leap in production last season after two uninspiring years.

Moreover, the Packers have many young players. In theory, it's more realistic to expect a growth from them, be it for personal development or for better/bigger usage. So, let's talk about five players who need to get better for the Packers to have a successful season in 2022.

Allen Lazard
Lazard is still relatively young: 26 years old, with four total (and three accrued) seasons in the NFL. Now, he has the biggest challenge of his professional career. After losing Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling, the Packers count on Lazard to be the most productive receiver — at least to start the season, when Christian Watson will be in the early stage of his development and Sammy Watkins will be trying to find his connection with Aaron Rodgers.

"Excited about Allen Lazard," Aaron Rodgers said during mandatory minicamp. "He's been our dirty work guy for most of his career here. Now he's getting an opportunity to be a number 1 receiver. So, I'm not worried at all about him stepping into that role."
 

Lazard, in fact, already had a leap last season after two balanced years in 2019 and 2020. He produced career highs in yards (513) and touchdowns (8, more than the rest of his entire career combined). But now the demand is higher, and the opportunity will be, too. 

AJ Dillon
It's natural for a running back to suffer a decline in efficiency when the volume is higher, especially with so many injury issues on the offensive line as the Packers had in 2021. And AJ Dillon suffered it, going from 5.3 yards per carry in 2020 to 4.3 in 2021. This season, it's realistic to expect that Dillon will be the primary ball-carrier for Green Bay, because Aaron Jones will be heavily involved in the passing attack. If he's able to keep or increase his volume and be more efficient on a play-by-play basis, he could become an elite running back and exactly what the Packers hoped for when they took him in the second round of the draft two years ago.

"I thought we mixed him (Dillon) in a decent amount last year, but apparently not enough. He is a premier back,” head coach Matt LaFleur said. "I think AJ is just kind of scratching the surface of what he can become."

Last season, Dillon had 1,116 total yards and eight total touchdowns. Don't be shocked if he surpasses those numbers in 2022.

Josiah Deguara
Deguara is going into his third year in the NFL, and that's generally when tight ends start to figure it out in the transition process from college. Furthermore, he had no preseason, a shortened training camp and lost most of his rookie season because of the pandemic and a knee injury, and last training camp he was still recovering. Therefore, this year will be his first normal preseason since he entered the league. Deguara is a different player than Robert Tonyan and Tyler Davis, so he's the best option to the h-back role, so important to Matt LaFleur's offensive scheme. Deguara had 245 yards and two touchdowns last season, which is not bad for a third tight end, but his ability to generate yards after reception will be more important in 2022.

Darnell Savage
The Packers invested heavily in Darnell Savage, trading one first and two fourth-round draft picks to select him in 2019, and this offseason they picked up his fifth-year option. It's clear how much the front office likes and values him, but it's also evident that Savage had some ups and downs during his time in Green Bay. Last season was a down year, and now he has a new chance to adapt to defensive coordinator Joe Barry's system. If Savage is able to step up, he'll round out an extremely talented and promising young secondary. Moreover, this is the last year of Adrian Amos' contract, so Savage's role moving forward might be even bigger.

Randy Ramsey/Jonathan Garvin
The Packers cut Za'Darius Smith for salary cap reasons, and haven't added any experienced edge rusher. While they drafted Kingsley Enagbare, it's unfair to expect significant production from a fifth-round rookie. Therefore, any of the older backups needs to solidify himself as a third edge. Maybe it's Jonathan Garvin, who had a similar role last season (he finished the year with 1.5 sacks), or maybe it's Randy Ramsey, who lost the 2021 season with a significant leg injury and has been praised by Brian Gutekunst. Off-ball linebacker Quay Walker might be used as an edge from time to time, but it's essential to have a player from the position and with more NFL experience to create a strong edge rotation.

Photo: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

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Wendell Ferreira covers the Green Bay Packers for Zone Coverage and Cheesehead TV. He is a Brazilian journalist with over a decade of experience covering the NFL, soccer, NBA, and MMA. Follow him on twitter at @wendellfp  

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Comments (11)

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TarynsEyes's picture

July 19, 2022 at 02:58 pm

Placing the step stool in front of players is fine and is something that every player should expect when camp opens etc. The issue is how many steps are on that stool and how many steps are expected and actually achievable based on prior play time, whether short or long.

I question whether Lazard can make the jump from 3-4 guy to #1 or the strong #2 that's been the thinking since Adams departed. No doubt he has had his moments, but to fill those openings it takes more than a moment here and there.

Dillion's steps will be based on the two most involved in the decision-making, MLF, and Rodgers, as we know Dillion has the talent and mass, but both can be negated if game strategies don't blend as one. Dillion can still get his stats, but it doesn't guarantee team success.

Savage must play to the level of faith they have in him, or at least, he cannot do less.

Deguara, any step he takes that is a forward step is icing.

The rest mentioned, well, should there really be a step stool? Let's see them plant their feet first, less Garvin as IMO, his feet are planted and near cemented to what he is.

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Guam's picture

July 19, 2022 at 04:08 pm

Similar thoughts about Lazard - I think #1 is a reach. I would be happy to see him get to a solid #2 and that will require a step up.

I also thought the author could have discussed some young members of the O-line. Myer, Runyan, Newman and Van Lanen also need to step up another notch to help the Packers. I doubt all of them will step up, but the Packers will need solid play from at least three of the four to have a good O-line.

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stockholder's picture

July 19, 2022 at 06:19 pm

Other than Dillon. Your 5 might not be here next year; "even if they do step up." The Packers won't over -pay any of these guys. The common Theme, " is show me the money." And the cap problem will impact that.

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13TimeChamps's picture

July 19, 2022 at 04:21 pm

For the life of me, I'll never understand how many fans on here continue to refer to Dillon as Dillion. It's not exactly a difficult name to spell. Stockholder I understand...he butchers everyone's name. C'mon people, show the man a little respect by spelling his name right.

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HawkPacker's picture

July 19, 2022 at 04:54 pm

Gee, a down vote. I wonder who that is from?

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13TimeChamps's picture

July 19, 2022 at 06:21 pm

I couldn't care less about upvotes/downvotes. Personally, I wish they would get rid of that option. It might force people to explain why they disagree with you instead of the easier, anonymous thumbs down.

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stockholder's picture

July 19, 2022 at 06:26 pm

It wasn't me yet. I changed it just for you. Dillion is slang. Faithful.?

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13TimeChamps's picture

July 19, 2022 at 06:35 pm

Dillion is slang? Ok, you lost me there. But it wouldn't be the first time.

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splitpea1's picture

July 19, 2022 at 04:34 pm

At least one of the rookie receivers will need to step up, that's for sure. We don't like to think about one of our veterans limping off the field due to injury, but it will probably happen at some point.

Ditto for the backup edge rushers and whoever the third safety turns out to be.

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LLCHESTY's picture

July 19, 2022 at 05:31 pm

I think Dillon's big jump in touches comes next year when Jones is gone. That's when he'll have to show he can be a workhorse back with 275 carries and possibly 300+ touches. Jones had a higher average per rush than Dillon last year, it makes no sense to lessen his carries. Ekeler had 206 carries and 94 targets in 16 games for the Chargers and is a smaller back than Jones.

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PatrickGB's picture

July 19, 2022 at 08:21 pm

I have been thinking about the knocks on Lazard. It’s not his size or speed or even his hands that people are not confident about. The last few years Adams has had an uncanny ability to get open and be on the same page as #12. Nobody else has come close. Therefore all the other WR’s have been labeled #3 or lower. Perhaps with Adams gone and more opportunities to catch the ball then the number of completions get spread about the roster. Lazard seems the most likely of the returning vets to catch the most balls. It’s true that he is no Adams when it comes to separation but my guess is that he will step up and become our new #1 WR. And once that starts to happen then the others will get their own opportunities too. Probably none will get over 1,000 yards but the aggregate will be close to previous years numbers for the room as a whole.

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