Unanswered Questions Ahead of Packers Training Camp

 

The Green Bay Packers open training camp later this week and with that, the team will begin its quest to add another Lombardi Trophy to the case.  With a new head coach and many changes, there are a lot of questions surrounding the team.  Here are some that are still lingering heading into 2019.

Can Matt LaFleur & Aaron Rodgers guide this team back to the playoffs?

Much has been said about first-year head coaches and how their teams tend to take a bit to find their stride.  This also happens to be LaFleur's first time as a head coach.  The last rookie head coach in Green Bay was Mike McCarthy in 2006 and he inherited a 4-12 team.  After a 4-8 start, the team won their last four games to finish 8-8  The following season, they were in the NFC championship game.

It's 13 years later and a lot has changed in the NFL.  LaFleur was hired to reinvent the offense and help Aaron Rodgers return more to form.  

Rodgers is the X-factor in this entire equation but it's not as simple as "if Rodgers is healthy, the Packers should win 10 games" anymore.  He turns 36 this season and has battled major injuries the past two years.  Can he return to the same form that helped the Packers reach the NFC championship just three seasons ago?  Maybe.  The better odds lie with LaFleur creating opportunities that save Rodgers' legs and stress level a bit.

In a recent interview, Rodgers spoke positively about the new offense and also talked a bit about the mechanics of throwing and how he can maintain his abilities.  He's not getting any younger but Rodgers knows it and has seemingly updated his approach to preparing for a new season.  

That said, old habits die hard so don't be surprised in week one to see Rodgers scrambling out looking for Davante Adams or Marquez Valdes-Scantling open down the seam.

Can this running back group shoulder the load?

LaFleur's offense runs the ball a lot.  Aaron Jones has nothing short of star potential - when he's healthy.  Jones has finished both of his first two seasons on injured reserve.  The balance between using Jones to relieve Rodgers and vice versa will be a big key for the Packers this season.

Jamaal Williams has stepped in as the featured back when Jones went down, but he seems best suited as a complementary piece.  Williams is a smart player and he can run block.  His value is higher than most realize, and many of those are outside of Green Bay.  But if called into a regular role early, the Packers' plans will have to change.  He simply doesn't offer anything close to what a healthy Jones can.

Rookie Dexter Williams is a late-rounder and a big unknown right now.  He has reportedly looked good during the team's mini camps this past spring but he's a question mark until the pads come on and games start.  If Dexter is able to get into the rotation right away, he's a huge value and boost to this offense.  If he can't, it puts a lot of pressure on Jones and Jamaal Williams to carry the load and on LaFleur to keep them fresh each week.

How much can the Packers rookies offer right away?

Dexter Williams, as mentioned, will get his opportunities based on the current depth chart.  First-rounders Rashan Gary and Darnell Savage are in different situations. 

Gary will play but he doesn't have to be any type of defensive savior with the acquisitions of Preston Smith and Za'Darius Smith.  And we'll see plenty of all three of them on the field at the same time.  It's an ideal scenario for Gary, who many were surprised to see drafted as highly as he was.

Savage has it all right in front of him.  Adrian Amos was acquired to start but the other spot is wide open with the departure of Kentrell Brice.  The Packers moved up to take Savage with their second first-round pick so it's extremely safe to say that he'll get every single opportunity to earn a starting spot.  Safety has been a pedestrian group since the loss of Nick Collins in 2011 and if Savage is as good as touted, he and Amos could make the best tandem since that time.

Jace Sternberger is in a situation similar to Gary in that he has some veteran help in front of him.  Jimmy Graham, Marcedes Lewis and Robert Tonyan should all return.  That won't keep Sternberger from seeing his opportunities, however.  Neither Lewis nor Tonyan have proven to be consistent pass catchers to this point and that's Sternberger's strength.  His addition to the two-tight end offense will finally create something that opposing defenses have to worry about.

Elgton Jenkins should get worked in as the season progresses and as the Packers prepare to eventually replace tackle Bryan Bulaga.  The addition of Billy Turner keeps some pressure off of Jenkins to step in before he's potentially ready.

The others should all take on depth roles and mostly special teams.  

Is the cornerback position too thin?

Is Kevin King healthy?  Can he stay healthy?  That's a linchpin to this conversation.  King has finished both of his first two seasons on injured reserve.  He showed improvement last season before a shoulder injury ended his sophomore season.

Jaire Alexander should make a nice jump from his rookie season but he can't do it alone.  Beyond King, the Packers have Josh Jackson, Tony Brown, Tramon Williams and Ka'dar Hollman.  Jackson has work to do after struggling badly in coverage, at times.  Brown could end up a gem if he can keep his demeanor under control on the field.  Williams should ideally only be playing in spot duty at this point.  Hollman is a late-round rookie and likely contributes mostly on special teams right away.

This is an area where the Packers will likely be scouring the waiver wire during training camp and preseason.

Is Mason Crosby OK?

Crosby had a rough 2018, by his standards.  He missed seven field goal attempts and two extra points but still posted an 81%.  We've seen Crosby bounce back from a bad season before when he returned improved in 2013 after a rough season prior.  

There will be some competition for Crosby in training camp, but it's hard to say how the new regime will approach it.  Crosby is still valuable in tight situations and after having been in several over his career.  His waning leg strength will start to become a bigger issue as long as kickoffs are still part of the game.

Crosby should hold onto his spot and beware to teams bringing in a new kicker.  Last season was not kind.

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Jason is a freelance writer on staff since 2012 and also co-hosts Cheesehead TV Live, Pulse of the Pack and Pack A Day podcasts.  You can follow him on Twitter here

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Comments (29)

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Coldworld's picture

July 22, 2019 at 06:22 am

Lots of questions and there are a lot more too. Thankfully we are finally almost at the time when pads go on and answers gradually start to emerge. I am looking forward to this camp in a way I can’t say I have in years.

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Guam's picture

July 22, 2019 at 06:50 am

It was only addressed with Rogers, but the biggest question is always health - can the Packers keep their starters on the field most of the season? If that happens I believe this team will be competitive.

Like Coldworld, I am very much looking forward to this season and time when we can talk about real performance and not speculating about what could be.

Go Pack Go!

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Guam's picture

July 22, 2019 at 06:52 am

delete

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Bearmeat's picture

July 22, 2019 at 06:51 am

Agreed with CW. This is an exciting, if nervous time to be a Packers fan. There are a lot of changes to this team, especially on offense. I wouldn't be surprised if it doesn't click for the first month of the season. I would personally be very pleased with a record of .500 or above going into November. I think that will give us a good chance to get into the January dance.

I do think the defense is going to have to shoulder the burden while the offense finds its footing.

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RCPackerFan's picture

July 22, 2019 at 09:22 am

One thing to keep in mind is that the first few games they will be able to surprise teams a bit. There is no track record of what they are going to do. While teams can see what LaFleur did with Tennessee, this is a completely different offense with a huge upgrade at QB.

While they may not fully click for a month or so, they could possibly still manage to do well because of defenses not knowing what to expect.

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Freezn's picture

July 22, 2019 at 11:17 am

I believe our defense will carry us right through the season will be a top 10 defense hands down. I am going to love watching other quarterbacks running for their lives and the young hungry secondary feasting on errand throws.

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stockholder's picture

July 22, 2019 at 07:06 am

I don't see any of those being Questions. A veteran QB as good as Rodgers, will make any Rookie coach look good. Audibles? Bet on it. Rbs: No fix here. They are ready to break out. The one that stays healthy will get the Ball. Rookies: Savage!!! Savage!! Savage! He's the only rookie that must show upright away. CBs; While none may be Woodson. This group will produce the starters the packers had hoped for. Crosby is not OK. If we want OK, then yes. If we want better No. Crosby confidence is shaky. Every Time he kicked last year was a question. The biggest Question I still see is ILB. I believe that will show up on goal line stands. Can they Plug the hole?

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sam1's picture

July 22, 2019 at 07:21 am

Was wondering do you sleep under that Gray Cloud always?

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RCPackerFan's picture

July 22, 2019 at 08:03 am

Can Matt LaFleur & Aaron Rodgers guide this team back to the playoffs?
- Yes!
Rodgers is still the Best QB in the League. Now we add LaFleur who will bring a much different looking offense. The offense will no longer be an offense that is predictable.
Lets also not forget that the offense has some great players besides Rodgers. Adams and Bakhtiari are pro bowl players. Linsley could be one as well. Bulaga when healthy is one of the better RT's in the league. He will be another year removed from his torn ACL. Aaron Jones is a dangerous RB who has been underutilized . Jimmy Graham is looking for redemption. They have a trio of 2nd year WR's looking to take steps. MVS IMO could be a star. He has that Javon Walker in his prime type of play making ability.

I'm very excited for this offense! It may take a few weeks to be firing on all cylinders but I think Rodgers will make a huge difference in getting it going faster!

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BoCallahan's picture

July 22, 2019 at 08:18 am

SH & RC,
I’m with you guys! I haven’t been this excited about an upcoming season in a while. I believe we have the pieces in place to get to the post season. Health is always an unknown factor. Let the games begin!

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RCPackerFan's picture

July 22, 2019 at 09:13 am

That will be a huge key to this year. Health! We have some really talented players and we need to keep everyone healthy!

But as far as talent, I think we are more talented then what some of the experts want to give us.

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Bearmeat's picture

July 22, 2019 at 08:30 am

I was just wondering what your doctor says about your diet, RC? It can't be healthy feeding on those rainbows and sparkle ponies all the time! ;)

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RCPackerFan's picture

July 22, 2019 at 09:17 am

Not going to lie I'm curious to see what WebMD says about that kind of diet. lol

While it may not be the healthiest of diets I do know that rainbows and sparkle ponies taste a lot better then aluminum foil hats. That definitely isn't good for you Bearmeat. I suggest stop eating your hats.

:)

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dobber's picture

July 22, 2019 at 01:17 pm

Sparkles aren't the problem...it's glitter. Glitter will tear you up. Don't ask how I know.

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Freezn's picture

July 22, 2019 at 11:22 am

I agree and with Pettines defense apposing Quarterbacks will be running for their lives and sometimes getting planted in the turf. I like mike new defense and his new linebacker coaches who have coached great linebackers on other contending teams. This defense will get better every game. Quarterbacks be ware of the green and gold

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RCPackerFan's picture

July 22, 2019 at 09:11 am

How much can the Packers rookies offer right away?

Savage will most likely be a day 1 starter. If everything goes right he should be the only true starting rookie.

Gary will most likely be a rotational guy from day 1. I expect him to play a lot and be a key player for Pettine and the defense.

Jenkins to me will be in the mix to start, but if all goes well he will be one of the top backups at OG and OC.

Sternberger I think will get playing time but I think it will be more situationally and in special packages. With Graham and Lewis ahead of him he has a great opportunity to learn in his rookie year.

Keke Kingsley will hopefully be a rotational DL. He could be another one of those chess pieces that Pettine can enjoy playing with. Moving him around creating mismatches.

Hollman maybe a surprise player at CB. The early signs in the offseason were good. He is a guy who should be a special teams player right away and will create good depth.

Williams is an ideal fit for this offense. He has that slashing one cut and go type of ability. He also seems to have good hands. I expect him to be a part of the offense throughout the year. RB is a position that rookies usually can come in and make an impact. Don't be surprised if Williams contributes as a rookie.

Summers is an interesting player. He has the abilities. He could be a really nice find in the 7th round. I wouldn't expect him to play much as a rookie on defense though. More special teams.

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Cheezdik's picture

July 22, 2019 at 09:32 am

How did Kevin King look good in any way? He struggles big time tackling receivers and looks weak. If he doesn't step it up this year it's safe to say that Dead Head Teds genius decision to pass on Watt was even worse than everyone but him knew.

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Spock's picture

July 23, 2019 at 08:27 am

I disagree with this completely. King IMHO was one of the better tacklers on the team. He was the anti-HHCD on defense showing a willingness to put his body at risk tackling bigger guys. I was worried about his shoulder when I'd see him stick those guys. Don't know where you are getting the "looks weak" and "struggles" to tackle. I certainly didn't see that in the games I was able to watch. It was commented by many that the defense played better and seemed to have a more aggressive attitude when King was on the field.

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dobber's picture

July 23, 2019 at 09:09 am

CBs in general tend to be among the weaker tacklers if only because they bring the least mass to the table. They can't hold up to a lot of impacts and they know it. I think King has been a willing tackler.

That said, I agree with you, Spock: over the last two years, this defense has been better when King plays. I think he's a very important piece in the puzzle for how this defense will look in 2019. Hopefully, though, with Alexander, TWill moving back to CB, and a year under the belts of Jackson and Brown (runnin' on empty-y-y-y), they'll have the depth to handle the attrition that always seems to hit that position on most teams.

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Duneslick's picture

July 22, 2019 at 10:52 am

What about inside LB. Martinez is average to good depending on who you are talking to. The other inside LB position was terrible. After Burks and Jones failed we had players cut by other teams starting.

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dobber's picture

July 22, 2019 at 01:13 pm

Burks lost a chunk of his rookie year to a shoulder injury. Give him a full camp in the second year in the system and see how he does. I think it's too early to label him a failure.

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fthisJack's picture

July 23, 2019 at 07:42 am

anyone saying Martinez is average needs to be institutionalized.

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Leatherhead's picture

July 22, 2019 at 01:58 pm

I think the key to success for us is how quickly we can get the ball out of ARods hands. 30 throws, not 40. Quicker throws, in a pocket of protection, not running around.

Throw less. Run more (aim for 30 runs) Throw quickly. And this way, your QB isn’t broken by December.

Jones and Williams could use some help, and I’d certainly try to keep Jones healthy until the end stretch.

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dobber's picture

July 23, 2019 at 09:12 am

I agree with you in that 22 attempts per game just won't cut it. I think 30 is a little high given that over the past 3 seasons, 3 teams hit 30 attempts per in 2018, 5 in 2017, and 2 in 2016, and given that the offense will still run through QB1. I think 25-28 would be a good goal.

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PatrickGB's picture

July 22, 2019 at 02:25 pm

Old School, you said it well. Quicker plays will keep defenders on their heels. Save the long developing play for the dagger after the other teams defense is spent.

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Cubbygold's picture

July 22, 2019 at 02:42 pm

I'm as excited as anyone about this defense, but I'm wondering if expectations are way off at this point. Maybe 15th in the league is a great outcome, rather than expecting top-10.

According to overthecap.com, only 6 teams are spending less on their defense than GB is in 2019. That includes teams like the Chiefs, Giants, Raiders and Redskins. Top spending teams are the Texans, Browns, Jaguars, Vikings, Panthers and Broncos. Spending doesn't guarantee a great/poor defense, but it's certainly correlated.

Guess it just shows how much GB is relying on a youth movement on defense. If there's any cap space left, maybe some depth should be added. Morris Claiborne, Tre Boston or Eric Berry...

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Nick Perry's picture

July 23, 2019 at 05:20 am

Most of the teams you mentioned who are spending the "Big Bucks" on the defense might not have the number of players the Packers do on rookie contracts. Thompson drafted so poorly, especially in 2015, that the Packers don't have many players on 2nd contracts.

Take the FA they signed this offseason and the Packers have Daniels and...

You can add in Tramon Williams if you want but you get the idea. Now next season this changes a bit I'd imagine. Martinez should be resigned, maybe Dean Lowry but after that...Hmmmm

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Doug Niemczynski's picture

July 22, 2019 at 06:33 pm

Well, the rookie's still need to come in with the idea that they will be starting and make plays!!! Lots of them..like rookie of the year candidates!!

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Cartwright's picture

July 22, 2019 at 10:06 pm

I'm still suffering from the Capers years. More than in any year in a while I'm looking forward to seeing how the defense does. If King can stay health for a season because I think his presence is key, we go from a top ten prediction to top five.

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