2018 Season Recap: Green Bay Packers
Division: NFC North
Record: 6-9-1 (1-4-1 in the division), 3rd place in the NFC North
Playoffs: Missed like every Mason Crosby kick vs. the Lions
General Season Review
Coming off of a very disappointing 7-9 campaign (which saw Rodgers exit during week 6 after suffering a broken collarbone, only to return Week 15 against the Panthers when our playoff hopes were shut down for good) where Brett Hundley was the main focus of attention, the Packer made a seemingly unprecedented change, firing defensive coordinator Dom Capers after an atrocious season and much of Green Bay calling for his head. The team also saw long standing general manager Ted Thompson relegated to a senior assistant position, flexing in Brian Gutekunst to the position. Mike McCarthy remained for the year.
In what was a heavily anticipated season for the Green Bay faithful (the 100th season of Packer football), the season got off to a hot start winning the home opener in an incredible comeback down 17 points against the Chicago Bears, as Khalil Mack terrorized Rodgers into leaving the game with a left knee injury, only to make a heroic comeback to Lambeau and stunning the Bears. What preceded for the rest of the season was anything but these results.
The Packers fell off a cliff following a 3-2-1 start, finishing at 6-9-1, ultimately with the firing of the aforementioned coach, Mike McCarthy. More on that later.
In general, the season was full of injuries, unimaginative playcalling, and an overall mess in both offensive and defensive production. Late round rookie WRs were thrusted into action as a result of the injuries to Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison, and much of the team was learning on the fly. The chemistry was pretty evidently off with the rookie WRs, and the offense suffered because of it. Questionable play calling, lack of development of the WRs, and a crushing loss to the Cardinals led to the firing of Mike McCarthy, as well as a big overhaul of the staff.
On the defensive side of the football, the Packers were off to a great start despite a few injuries and a lack of depth at secondary positions. By the end of the season, the starters on day 1 were heavily depleted, only leaving Jaire Alexander and Tramon Williams as the primary starters from day 1. There was a significant improvement in the scheme implemented from Dom Capers, but injuries could not overcome the much needed change on defense from last year. The statistics do not agree on that, but there was a noticeable change in how our defense was playing thanks to Pettine.
There were ultimately too many holes, underperforming units on both sides of the ball, and a scream for change from the Packer faithful. 6-9-1 is not good enough for a team with a perennially talented QB, thus leading to the overhaul of most staff.
So… What Went Wrong?
It’s easy to point fingers as to who could be the main culprit, but there was a lot that hindered a team with a healthy Aaron Rodgers and a squad with something to prove following a disappointing year where Brett Hundley started a majority of the time. In reality, it was a bit of everything that steered the Packers off track.
Lackluster Play Calling: It was evident enough that offense was off for several factors. It starts at the coaching level. Many perplexed by long developing passes on first down, lack of carries for Aaron Jones, and deep passes on 3rd and 2 passing plays, much of the offense felt backwards. It lacked imagination and adaptation to the modern NFL, and it seemed as if it was time to part ways. Nothing to knock about McCarthy in this respect. He’s a good coach, but it seemed like he needed some time off.
Aaron Rodgers: To really understand other reasons why the offense went awry, we need to understand how Rodgers’s health was affecting him down the stretch. To be honest, many don’t really know, frankly I don’t either. However, his chemistry with his young core and the alarming amount of sacks taken and throwaways made was a bit alarming for most. We may never know how much he was hindered by the injury, by scheme, by lack of chemistry, or just needing to focus on mechanics a bit more. This’ll be something of note moving forward into the offseason.
Young Core + Injures Down the Stretch: There’s no excusing the play of the MVP level quarterback through the season, but injuries to starting wide receivers did not help build confidence in his core. Due to the constant injuries to Cobb and Allison, receivers such as Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown, both rookies, were pushed into duty as very raw late round picks. The chemistry was notably off and there was a lack of trust between Rodgers and the young wide receivers. It also didn’t help when many of the defensive starters were lost as the season progressed, and the 11 starters were rarely the same, especially in the secondary.
Drafts Holding Them Back: Many are starting to see the effects of the Ted Thompson era on Green Bay’s talent level. Rodgers was able to propel teams to much higher standards from 2011 to 2016, and his general manager during that stretch was not helping in supplying talent, as well as keeping first round talent around. The last few drafts, notably from 2014 to 2016, were all picks that have all left by now sans Jake Ryan. Nobody from that era was retained in any shape or fashion. The team is behind on talent and it started to show when Rodgers was not playing to his usual standards. The next few drafts will have to be spot on, as well as being aggressive in free agency, from Brian Gutekunst if the team wants to maximize their Super Bowl window with Rodgers at the helm.
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Weekly Game Recaps
2018 Week 1 | Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers
Green Bay Packers
“The leg game”
Optimistic Fan View: Time to do what we always do and beat up on the Bears, heck, they even went and got Mack just for the opener against us.
Game Review: This game is a tale of two halves, and it went from “Okay, we always start out slow” to DEFCON 5 really quick in the first half. Deep into the third we were down by 20. How did this happen? Then it went to the usual late game heroics from our hero Rodgers, some great play by our wideouts and I swear an answered prayer by many fans for Rodgers health and a win against our storied rivals. Hint: We cashed in too soon on that prayer… or did we?
Offensive Review: The offense punted on every possession in the first half. There were even lost fumbles and a pick six. Mack destroyed and brought true havoc down on the offense, even more so when Kizer was in for Rodgers at the end of the half accounting for the pick six.
The play that maybe set the rest of the season into the spiral it became to be was outside pressure from Mack, causing Rodgers to adjust then getting caught up in pocket pressure leading to Robinson rolling up on Rodgers and his leg. This was at the 9:15 mark in the 2nd. Rodgers would not return until the start of the 2nd half. Rodgers could hardly move in the 2nd half. O-line stepped up and knew they had to protect Aaron at all costs. Wideouts made great plays in the 2nd half.
Cobb and Rodgers connect for a GW touchdown against the Bears, name a more iconic duo against the Bears. Longest play of the season and longest touchdown of Cobbs career.
Defensive Review: The defense was keying on some large gain potential plays, getting a few sacks, breaking up some good passes, and even making some 3rd down stops! The wideouts made some great contested catches, the 20 points was more of a testament to the play calling and wideout play of the Bears than the Packers Defense. Little did we know at the time how good the bears would go on to be this season. Bears were able to run the ball effectively on the Packers making some decent gains on the ground.
The game did not end with a 3 and out, that would have been too easy on our blood pressure. Bears made it close to mid-field and Perry came up with the biggest stop of the game, forced fumble sack on a huge 4th down.
2018 Week 2 | Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers
Green Bay Packers
“The game that left both fan bases with blue balls”
Optimistic Fan View: Great the Vikings, last year was a fluke, Cousins is garbage, lets go win a game fair and square.
Game Review: This game sucked. The Packers really did themselves in with the penalties. The ROP calls were complete garbage and aside from the Rodgers injury this may have been the single most influential game of Mike McCarthy’s career. The snowball effect of the poor officiating calls, tie game, and everything that transpired thereafter, no one can tell how things would have turned out had things gone differently.
Offensive Review: Rodgers garnishes a shiny new knee brace.
Seeing Montgomery in the endzone to return kicks makes me sick.
Williams showing us he’s got what it takes to be RB 1, making hard runs up the middle and taking advantage of his plays.
Third down conversions and allowing the opposing team to get a sack. This ugly problem never went away all season long. Converted on only 30% of third downs this game.
Adams touchdown looked almost identical to his touchdown against the Bears. “One of the shiftiest guys in the game!” -Chris Collinsworth
Defensive Review: Sick blocked punt for a touchdown by Jackson. Gotta love it when special teams shows up in a good way.
Allowed a huge 4th quarter comeback after keeping the Vikes scoreless through 2 consecutive quarters. Even made some great game ending plays that got called back by ROP passer calls by Clay Matthews… SMH… I think a lot of football fans lost their faith in the game that day.
The defense played well but not well enough.
To try and end the game the first play after the Crosby field goal in the 4th to go up by 8, Cousins throws a deep ball that gets picked by Alexander but then it happens, roughing the passer on Clay Matthews. Thereafter the Pack drop 2 sure picks to allow the Vikings to march down the field to score with that scrappy, lunch pail, gym rat, Mankato state fella Theilen. Then Diggs gets that 2 pt conversion.
This game ended the way it did because the Vikings kicker
Gary Anderson, Blair Walsh, Daniel Carlson missed a few field goals (2 in OT) that could have ended the game and seal the deal for the Vikings.
Tough game, shitty calls. Game deserved to end in a tie but not as much as the Packers deserved to win.
2018 Week 3 | Green Bay Packers at Washington Redskins
Green Bay Packers
“What? Oh no, not Peterson again…”
Optimistic Fan View:
HAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA Clinton Dix (See what I did there?)
Game Review: We shouldn’t have laughed so hard before the game started. OT tie hangover combined with shitty weather, shitty play makes it an even shittier day.
Offensive Review: Williams playing well again for the RB 1 spot, but wait!
Drops by wideouts really hurt us early. Not the first time we’ve had the case of the drops.
Jones makes his appearance after sitting the 1st two games. Look out backups.
O-line play still allowing too much pressure and taking penalties at inopportune times otherwise, giving good protection on most plays.
Before the end of the half Zook also calls a strange fake kick? Looks like maybe a botch snap and tried to save the play.
Packers play from behind and must resort to passing, ignoring the run game.
Comeback stymied by penalties, drops, and a crucial fumble by Cobb late in the 4th…
Defensive Review: Defense against the run game just isn’t there. Peterson accounts for 2 touchdowns both short from the goal line.
Cornerback play against the pass was a hamper on stopping drives all game. CBs still did well tackling and when the defensive play calls were right the guys made plays and tackles.
Vernon Davis is still in the league? And why can’t we stop Jordan Reed, he doesn’t even wear gloves.
Jaire Alexander still playing like a rookie but showing glimpses of what he will be.
Haha gets a pick and slaps hands with his to be new teammates.
At the end of the 3rd Clay gets called AGAIN on a clean hit against Smith.
2018 Week 4 | Buffalo Bills at Green Bay Packers
Green Bay Packers
“Throwback to Packer football (Packer fans hide yo cheese curds Kelvin Benjamin eatin’ everything out here!”)
Optimistic Fan View: Here is our chance to get back to a winning record and start on the path to success for the rest of the season!
Game Review: Despite the turnovers on both sides we blanked the Buffalo Bills. What was even sweeter is the Vikings would lose to the Bills hilariously the following week.
Offense Review: Crosby misses an early XP after a rare Graham touchdown, signs of more to come from Crosby? No, he kills one before half from 50+ to extend the lead.
Adam Jones making a strong case to stay RB 1 scoring early.
Rodgers ends his streak after a tipped ball intercepted from Graham to a Bills defender.
Too many FG this game. Offense is getting there but not quite there yet.
Defense Review: Making great 3rd down stops! Nice to see!
Gave the Bills a goose egg, can’t complain there. Fackrell showing up with 3 sacks out of 7 team sacks. Maybe gelling into the Defensive system?
Late in the 2nd Allen flops haRd after Alexander pushes Allen and Martinez gets called for taking off his helmet. Alexander gets his before half when he picked an over thrown ball by Allen.
Clinton-Dix makes a great contested interception in the 3rd.
2018 Week 5 | Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
“Hate to admit it but the Lions always play us hard.”
Optimistic Fan View: New coach who dis? Let's get our W and get home!
Game Review: Another close one! Feeling a bit like we are a coin flip away from being 5-0 or at least 4-1 but offensive sputtering and keeping the defense on the field too long is hurting the team.
Special special teams section: Special teams nightmare. We will come to learn that the special teams coach did in fact not actually coach his player on how to play special teams. Returns called back on holds, Crosby the Silver Fox missed FOUR field goals AND an extra point. We had a roughing the kicker penalty, and 88 still makes me sick seeing him returning kicks.
Offense Review: Offense start the “let's play on hard mode and let the defense know when we are going to snap the ball within a second by waiting for the play clock to run out” bullshit. Rookies start to make themselves known early and often even scoring a TD. Turnovers hurt us here including 2 by Rodgers.
Defense Review: Gave up too many big plays in the secondary including bad penalties, we were weak on our goal line stance too. We played the run well otherwise. This is a few games in a row now where a CB blitz has caused pressure or a sack.
2018 Week 6 | San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers
Green Bay Packers
San Francisco 49ers
“Collusion or not I’m happy it isn’t the playoffs and happy they don’t have Colin”
Optimistic Fan View: Up and coming team, should be an easy “W” on MNF chomp, chomp, chomp.
Game Review: Closer than it should have been.
Offense Review: Rookie wideouts getting more time with Cobb out, passing game clicking on all cylinders. Jones still running like RB 1 to the point I’ll stop saying it now. Adams getting big nasty plays to help tie the game late in the 4th. The GW drive was a thing of beauty and what nuts from our Coach to put the game in Crosby’s foot. Great move.
Defense Review: Niners scored on the opening drive (uh oh). We were hit and miss, we would give up big plays but also nothing exceptional and nothing was fundamentally wrong with the play of the defense. Some great pressure on the QB accounted for the late pick that set up the GW field goal. Team game, team win.
2018 Week 8 | Green Bay Packers at Los Angeles Rams
Los Angeles Rams
Green Bay Packers
“No middle ground, after this it’s Super Bowl or bust…. (We busted)”
Optimistic Fan View: Coming off a bye with a healthy team to slay the giant. Let’s do this!
Game Review: Field looks like shit.
Offense Review: Jones is straight up tearing it up in the first half getting a wonderful 33 yd td, don’t call him no show jones.
We are starting our trend of giving up 3rd down sacks, we did this 3 times this game arguably against the best d-line of the season.
Passing game working, what most of us Packers fan expect for this time of year from our offense. Wideouts even catching balls like crazy, not nearly as many drops and we are taking advantage of wide open opportunities down the field.
Gave up a safety ☹
Defense Review: Mostly great covering by the CBs, we are doing a good job creating pressure with the blitz. We got hoodwinked on a fake punt. Fackrell showing up big with the sacks too this game. McVay made some great half time adjustments.
Then it happened…. Just over 2 mins left, a timeout a piece, all we need is a drive into FG range and we can walk away with a W. BUT NO! Montgomery fields the kickoff (clearly, he wasn’t being coach properly on the situation). Anyway, he takes it out and fumbles the ball and Rodgers never sees the field. McCarthy takes note and gets rid of the symptom (88) and not the problem (Zook).
2018 Week 9 | Green Bay Packers at New England Patriots
New England Patriots
Green Bay Packers
“Godgers vs Father time’s son”
Optimistic Fan View: No way we let another ex-vike have a big game against us!
Game Review: We did just that. Patterson had a good game against us.
Offense Review: Another special teams penalty brings back a great return. Jones is getting key 3rd down conversions and is making large gains frequently. Again sacked twice on third downs, also allowing a ton of pressure to get through when we aren’t getting sacked. Rookies making some noise again.
Defense Review: Pats were surgical. I enjoyed the QB pressure we put on Brady early. We had a great 4th down stop too. Liking the direction we are heading with the D.
Crucial roughing the kicker on a 4th and 21. COACH EM UP ZOOK!
Tom makes a big play to Gordon to put the game out of reach.
We also let Patterson run over us all game out of the backfield.
2018 Week 10 | Miami Dolphins at Green Bay Packers
Green Bay Packers
“Surf and turf”
Optimistic Fan View: Miami and Lobster boy don’t stand a chance!
Game Review: Expected game for the way both teams had been playing through the year.
Offense Review: More drops early. Jones is definitely a bright spot on the offense he almost took one long at the end of the first, they fed him for that score to make it 14-3 and the 12 to 17 connection makes me go 6 to 12 frequently. What’s worse than a 3rd down sack? How about a 4th down sack. O-line is not clutch. Also gave up a 3rd down sack a few drives later before half.
Defense Review: Poor run defense early. If Tom Brady is Father time’s son, Gore is his younger brother. We got a great fumble rec early. Fackrell is still a threat in the backfield. Defense making bend do not break strides letting them get field goals rather than touchdowns.
Another Special teams fumble. DO SOMETHING ZOOK! (Surprised pikachu face). More special teams penalties throughout the game. AND a blocked punt.
2018 Week 11 | Green Bay Packers at Seattle Seahawks
Green Bay Packers
“White is nice.”
Optimistic Fan View: I hate these guys but we can get a win in Seattle, I know it!
Game Review: Close game on TNF! Gritty grinder of a game. Early felt like the Packers would have game but then it didn’t happen.
Offense Review: Early points by Jones! Adams and Rodgers are still making magic out there. Tonyan getting his first catch at a great time! Jones was a huge part of the game in the first half. After the first half someone shut off the scoring valve and we didn’t see pay dirt the rest the game. Still moved the ball well but couldn’t get in and penalties hurt us. Another sack on 3rd down a few times. Packers were up 24-20 until 5 mins left in the game. GW drive halted by a bad pass by Rodgers to the sideline.
Defense Review: Huge fumble set up early points for the offense. What should have been a loss went to a huge gain for Rashaad Penny. Wrap him up! CBs not even playing the ball when in good position, causing bad penalties setting up scores for the opposing team. Fackrell getting some big sacks this game too to keep us in it.
Crosby missed one early. Might be the second time he takes crucial points off the board this season.
2018 Week 12 | Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings
Green Bay Packers
“Revenge best served cold.”
Optimistic Fan View: Playoffs are still a reality for us, just gotta get that win in hostile territory.
Game Review: Much cleaner game than the early season week 2 matchup, unfortunately MN finally got rid of their blue balls.
Offense Review: Drove the field well, relied on the run more (thank god) still made plays with the passing game. 12 to 17 is still so sweet. Rookies still very much involved. Graham played with a broken thumb like a beast and came up big in the 4th quarter with some catches. Pressure on third downs given up by the o-line is still an issue, we were sacked twice on third down. We missed on a big 4th down conversion and the second half the offense kind of sputtered.
Defense Review: Alexander has arguably the best play of his rookie campaign a the 11 min mark when he blows up a screen pass to Diggs. One of my favorite defense plays of the year for the Packers. The defense kept us in the game with a little help from
Anderson, Walsh, Carlson, Bailey. It was really a pretty good chess match between the Vikings offense and Packers Defense and the Packers just got bested, blown play calling and bad penalties really accounted for most the points for MN.
Special teams still sucks.
2018 Week 13 | Arizona Cardinals at Green Bay Packers
Green Bay Packers
“It is what it is….”
Optimistic Fan View: Now is not the time to lose our wits about us, we still have a breathing chance at wildcard!
Game Review: This game sucked, it got McCarthy fired and AZ still gets the 1st pick. So I’m not sure if the prayers were answered after McCarthy’s firing or not. Pack were still in the game late but couldn’t make the comeback after a missed kick by Crosby.
Offense Review: Another poor weather game, drops make their way back into the game early but seem to be a one off kinda deal. Rodgers moving well again. This Jones guy is so good, he’s so good, he’s so good, he’s so good. Passing game working well, running game working well. We came up big on a TD 12 t o17 on a 4th and 4 play. Plays like this is what gives me hope. Whitewater Jesus makes his debut.
Defense Review: Not a good start on run defense. Good defense play overshadowed by special team penalties. Once the Cards got into rhythm it was hard to stop their momentum. Card wideouts making plays. After the first half the big plays started rolling in for the Cards and they made the difference.
2018 Week 14 | Atlanta Falcons at Green Bay Packers
Green Bay Packers
Week 14: Atlanta “Just a couple of 4-7 teams playing late season football.”
Optimistic Fan View: Let’s see what this Joe guy has, I’ll give him a shot, I’ll give Philbin another shot.
Game Review: Good scoring game. Packer out on top.
Offense Review: Passing game working well. More passing highlights than rushing highlights, Rodgers throwing dimes out here. Sack on 3rd down, by the CBs of Atlanta and another one. That’s 3 on the day just on 3rd down. Rushing game was 12’s all day. He got late hit and the team stepped up and scuffled to defend his honor.
Up by 20 Packers started feeding Jones, he ate and ate well.
Defense Review: Secondary gets torched early by Falcons’ tough wideouts. Pick six was dope, second best play of the year, wish it meant something.
Run Defense wasn’t great at times. Still kept them at bay. Came up with big sacks in the 2nd half.
2018 Week 15 | Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears
Green Bay Packers
“We are still ahead overall in the rivalry.”
Optimistic Fan View: Bears are good, we can win this game, we always play em’ hard and we have Cobb.
Game Review: Great game, close. Was nice to see the Packers still playing hard against a rival.
Offense Review: Rodgers sacked on 3rd down twice – 5 on the day (once a back sack by Mack.). Playing scrappy though, fighting hard. Williams getting some good highlights and keeping us alive on some 3rd down conversions. I find myself constantly shaking my head in disbelief with the catches and throws that have been occurring between 12 and 17. Packers go for the comeback but in the redzone Rodgers gets picked on a tipped ball.
Defense Review: Early aggressiveness gives up some plays. Howard and Cohen had a day, just couldn’t compete with him out of the backfield. CB pressure on blitz seems to be a common factor. Bears punt coverage was a big deal in the game, Pack started deep in their own territory a lot.
5 of the Packers 7 loses were by less than once score or less. That’s a tough stat.
2018 Week 16 | Green Bay Packers at New York Jets
New York Jets
Green Bay Packers
“The leadership game.”
Optimistic Fan View: Rodgers is a born leader and there is now way he doesn’t ball out this game.
Game Review: Love me some walk off TDs in OT, but man, this was like going into OT with the Browns last year, yeah it’s cool but doesn’t seem right.
Offense Review: Jones out, Cobb out. Still getting heavy pressure and sacks on 3rd down. If I was a D coordinator against the Packers, I would bring pressure every down.
Rookies taking care of business and making good plays.
Williams doing what he needs to as a backup RB, he’s also so good x4.
Whitewater Jesus comes away with his first TD in the NFL.
Packers drive the field and tosses one up to Adams to seal the deal.
Defense Review: Darnold throwing some good passes, carving up the depleted secondary. Seriously, he threw some balls and those balls were caught.
ST finally gives up the big one on a kickoff for 99 yards, surprised this hasn’t happened more frequently this year.
Why the Rangers have to trade away Zucc?
2018 Week 17 | Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers
Green Bay Packers
“Is this season over yet?”
Optimistic Fan View: We can get revenge at home, I know it!
Game Review: Got blanked at home against the Lions who have an atrocious record at Lambeau.
Offense Review: Clearly couldn’t get anything going. Rodgers still in the game. Kizer is in the second, take a look at the possible future amirite? Even he gets sacked on 3rd down.
Defense Review: Should be called the Green Bay Turkeys on defense because we keep getting carved up. It really hasn’t been that bad but damn today was bad. Gave up some big plays and even ANOTHER punt fake for a touchdown. McAfee gives a wonderful commentary. Zenner ran all over us the rest of the second half.
Quite the addition he's been. Already a leader in the defense, Alexander was one of the highest rated rookie corners according to PFF. He passed the eye test, challenging #1 WRs and being the most consistent piece of the defense. Notably, his best performance came against the Rams in week 8, where he logged 5 defended passes.
A primarily zone coverage corner for his one year starting at CB in Iowa, transitioning to man coverage was not easy for Jackson, especially when he was thrusted into action as a result of the secondary injuries and Tramon Williams moving to safety. He was picked knowing it would be a project to help him learn man coverage, but he has shown flashes, but most likely needs another offseason to learn all the technique.
Unfortunately for Burks, he was only relegated to special teams as he (most likely) could not learn the defense well enough and could not fill in an ILB position after the injury to Jake Ryan. It does not seem like the coaching staff is very high on him, and his chances to play would lie in learning the defense and improving his technique a lot more.
The same situation for Burks also happened with Moore, who was mainly pushed into special teams after a case of the drops in training camp and through the preseason. He saw some action in returns, where he promptly lost that job due to fumbles, but was ultimately relegated to just special teams. He logged a few snaps in the regular season at WR, but they were mainly extremely limited and did not show much.
The team never got to see Cole Madison, as he faced a tragedy when his best friend committed suicide mainly due to CTE. It is unlikely he will be playing football.
Quite an interesting pick here, but the team did need a punter. He had some good days, mostly bad days, but with a new special teams coach, his performances can only improve following the firing of Ron Zook.
Not only does he win the best name of any player from the draft, but he got the opportunity to have meaningful playing time following the injuries to our main core of wide receivers. He flashed a lot of potential, especially being picked knowing he is very raw with a lot of athletic ability, but still needs to improve on route running. As of now, he's more of a guy who can run go-routes to stretch the field. He can be a lot more if he develops over the season to crisp his route running.
Similar to Valdes-Scantling, St. Brown is a very raw, has incredible athletic ability and size, but needed to fix his route running and chemistry. St. Brown also showed plenty of flashes, notably his best performance coming against the Jets (5 catches, 94 yards). An offseason with Rodgers and an opportunity to improve route running will give both rookie receivers a chance to explode in Matt LaFleur offense.
Bradley was the only starter to be picked up here, who started all 16 games as the long snapper. Looney and Donnerson were primarily practice squad players until they got limited action towards the end of the year due to injuries.
Notable Free Agent Signings
Quite a disappointment in general for Packer fans, despite the best numbers we have seen from a Packers TE since the Jermichael Finley days. Ultimately, he was brought in to be a redzone weapon for Rodgers, who only managed to log 2 touchdowns through the year. There has been clamoring for his release, but he's being brought back for 2019 to (probably) see how he will mesh in Lafleur's scheme.
After just 2 full games, he suffered a very unfortunate injury where his ankle got rolled very uncomfortably. It didn't seem as if his effort really increased on his 1 year prove it deal. He was still relatively ineffective for the meaningful snaps he got in.
He provided a strong veteran presence in the locker room. Relatively average as a stopgap starter at CB while our other young cornerbacks developed, and he eventually moved to free safety, performing at an average level. Much of the purpose was to get a good mentor, which he was, to help guys like Alexander and Jackson.
Brought back into Green Bay on a one year deal, he continued to be very underwhelming (the same as last year) and eventually lost his starting spot, once injuries started to pile up, to the likes of Josh Jackson and Bashaud Breeland.
Speaking of Breeland, he was brought in during the middle of the year to help the starting unit. A young option at 27, he performed a bit above the average level, and was eventually a fairly relevant part of the secondary. Injuries sidetracked him at the beginning, but he was well worth the 1 year deal.
Molding into a starting free safety during his first few years in Green Bay, his production in 2018 dropped off massively from his Pro Bowl year in 2017. The front office did not see him as a part of the future, and sent him to Washington.
After a significant blunder against the Rams on a kickoff return, the emergence of Aaron Jones, and a lack of snaps for the WR-converted RB, he was sent to the Ravens.
First Team All-Pros: 1, David Bakhtiari (LT)
All-Pro Voting Counts: David Bakhtiari, LT (19 votes), Davante Adams, WR (4 votes), Jaire Alexander, DB (1 vote)
Roster Strengths and Weaknesses
QB: Despite the down year for Rodgers, it's realistic to believe that once he recovers in the offseason and gains chemistry with his rookie WRs, that he can go back to being the All-Pro type player we know him to be.
Interior DL: The combination of Kenny Clark and Mike Daniels has provided a really strong pass rush up the middle. Kenny Clark is playing at an elite DT level and Daniels has continued to be a good run stopper up the middle and provides a consistent pass rush. Dean Lowry as depth, along with Kyle Lancaster, have also proven to be good options.
RB: Aaron Jones has proven he can make a lot with a limited workload, so his next step is to prove he can handle the rock a lot more under Matt Lafleur. Jamaal Williams has been a good backup as well as one who can be much more physical.
LT, C, RT: Despite a need for depth at offensive line, left tackle David Bakhtiari and center Corey Linsley have solidified themselves as franchise lineman for the future, performing at very high levels this season. Bryan Bulaga has amassed some injuries, but played at a serviceable level when he was in the game.
Weaknesses/Free Agency Needs
EDGE: Boy, do the Packers need to find a consistent pass rusher. Between the rotation of Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, Kyler Fackrell, and Reggie Gilbert, the highest sack total came from Kyler Fackrell at 10.5, where he amassed 3 sacks in 2 games and 4.5 in the rest. This is not a sustainable total when the team has two great interior pass rushers. Perry has not been playing up to his contract especially.
CB/S: The cornerback problem will most likely get better with time, as the rookies continue to develop and depth pieces such as Breeland and Josh Jones develop, but the bottom line is that the defense lacks a real playmaker in the secondary outside of Jaire Alexander. Safety especially, where Kentrell Brice, Josh Jones, and Tramon Williams will not suffice as a unit.
Interior OL: The need for depth is omnipresent, but the guard situation needs to be addressed after a down year from Lane Taylor and a rotation of Justin McCray and Byron Bell not working. Lucas Patrick has shown some potential, but prospects from the draft will most likely be needed to address these issues.
ILB: People may not agree with me on this, but there absolutely is a need for another ILB to help out Blake Martinez. Despite the fact that he is a leader in the defense already, he looked lost much of the time. It didn't help that guys like Antonio Morrison and Oren Burks did not particularly develop into contributors, to the point where the second ILB spot was always below average and inconsistent. Hard hitters can go a far way, but there certainly is a need to find another prospect or develop depth pieces more to have another contributor in the middle of the defense.
Round 1, Pick 12
Round 1, Pick 30 (from Saints)
Round 2, Pick 44
Round 3, Pick 76
Round 4, Pick 108
Round 4, Pick 112 (from Redskins)
Round 5, Pick 140
Round 6, Pick 172
Round 6, Pick 182 (from Seahawks)
Round 7, Pick 204
Current Cap Space: $35,266,760
One of the more regretful signings from the Ted Thompson era. After a breakout year in 2016, Nick Perry has never eclipsed 10 sacks and has been too constantly injured to keep around. This move would save roughly 3 million if he were to be cut in June, and the team currently has younger members with potential such as Kyler Fackrell and Reggie Gilbert, who both could be flexed into starting jobs if Clay Matthews walks and Nick Perry is cut, along with possible rookies drafted.
Despite the rumors that he will most likely not be cut, there’s reason to believe the Packers could move on this year or if he does not improve in LaFleur’s offense next year. He is a veteran presence in a TE room which could see another addition through the draft, but with Marcedes Lewis, Lance Kendricks, and a young man with a lot of potential in Robert Tonyan, there may be too much invested in his contract to keep him around.
This one is much more unlikely and one that I personally am more against, but he’s almost 36. Despite the fact he was playing at a serviceable level at both cornerback and free safety, aging is certainly an issue. He’s on a relatively cheap contract so he’s not a very big cap casualty, but there’s concern in his age and the thought of finding younger replacements.
Coaching Staff/Offseason Hires Review
After an underwhelming 12 games to start the season off, McCarthy was fired following a loss to the Cardinals at Lambeau. Very concerning for the Packer faithful, but it appeared to be best for both sides. After Joe Philbin took over as interim head coach, nothing notable occurred in that span and he could not acquire the permanent head coaching job, and moved to the Vikings to become an offensive line coach.
The new golden boy in the bay. Brought in from the Titans following his first offensive coordinator stint calling plays, he shined as a candidate who was young and could bring new ideas to the offense that much of the Packer faithful believed was becoming stale and unmodernized. This hiring follows the trend of hirings such as Mike Holmgren and Mike McCarthy, brought as young coordinators lacking coaching experience to spark the team. LaFleur’s chemistry with Rodgers and his ability to win over the locker room will be key as the Packers head into the offseason.
Hired in the 2018 offseason following the firing of Dom Capers, he was a breath of fresh air. To many, he was an instant improvement, and it showed in the first few weeks. However, the core he was dealing with included many young players and injuries to most of the opening day starters towards the end of the year. It will be interesting to see how he can both help LaFleur, as Pettine has head coaching experience, as well as helping young guys acquired from the draft and the young secondary.
Following the Ted Thompson era, President Mike Murphy turned to Gutekunst to manage free agency and gaining more ground lost from Ted Thompson drafts. His first offseason as general manager came with mixed results, highlighted by several free agent signings which failed to pan out. Jimmy Graham was lackluster and evidently not the same player as he was in New Orleans and Seattle, but notably had the most receiving yards by a tight end in Green Bay since Jermichael Finley. However, his two touchdowns were an underwhelming count for someone brought in to help in the red zone. The one year deal for Muhammed Wilkerson was cut short following an ankle injury in week 3, however there was little impact in his first two weeks of playing time. Davon House was relegated to a depth piece after atrocious play once he was pushed into action. However, he did have a solid find in Bashaud Breeland, who became a starter in the defense and could become a key piece moving forward, if he chooses to re-sign with Green Bay following his one year contract expiration. Gutekunst had a very mixed bag for his first offseason, but the upcoming one may be his most important, to both find Aaron Rodgers more weapons to work with and to improve a defense with massive holes in the secondary and pass rushing positions.
Full Roster Review: Offense
The first and foremost thought on everyone’s mind coming into 2018 was something like “what will Aaron Rodgers revenge tour look like?” After his 2017 season ended, first in Minneapolis in week 6 — breaking his collarbone via a hit from Anthony Barr, that would later be the basis for the oft-criticized roughing the passer calls of 2018 — and then again in week 15, after a loss to the Carolina Panthers that sealed their playoffs chances. The answer to this question was a series of frustrating misfires, a clear breakdown in communication between head coach and star quarterback, and the realization that Rodgers can only blanket so many larger team issues.
Fans who closely followed the Packers in the years leading up to 2018 were aware of Rodgers growing frustration with the coaching staff, his tendency to turn the game into a schoolyard style, and the front office inability (or lack of desire) to surround him with a cast of talented supporting players. These deficiencies were often highlighted in big games with competent opponents — I.e. the 2016 NFC Championship game vs. Atlanta — and the glare of these deficiencies became blinding by the end of 2018. Rodgers was forced to utilize a young crew of receivers, absent his career long go-to Jordy Nelson (released, now in Oakland), headlined by one of the teams few bright spots — Davante Adams — and rounded out by and aging and oft injured Randall Cobb, rookies Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown, and tight end Jimmy Graham… This list of supporting cast members seems noteworthy because it underlines the larger issue in Green Bay — Rodgers is surrounded with the most inexperienced and talent deficient group of his career — on both sides of the ball.
After a contract extension that made him football’s highest paid player — earning about $33 Million per year — Rodgers’ career faces a strange impasse; either the team will realize the narrowing window they find themselves in and surround him with the talent needed to compete with the likes of Los Angeles, New Orleans, Chicago, etc… Or they slip further into the mediocrity brought on by the end of the Ted Thompson era, and Rodgers becomes a cautionary tale of how to mishandle a game’s most talented player.
After Rodgers was lost to a broken collarbone in 2017, the Brett Hundley show began… And brought with it a clear need to address the backup quarterback situation in the offseason. Green Bay acquired DeShone Kizer from the Cleveland Browns in exchange for cornerback Damarious Randall — a former first round pick, who excelled in Cleveland at a Safety position, where he never played in Green Bay.
What little Green Bay saw of Kizer this year didn’t inspire confidence in the move. In what felt like some kind of nightmare deja vu, Kizer entered the game week one — after Rodgers succumbed to a knee injury, which he’d later return from — and threw for 55 yards and an interception, which Khalil Mack returned for a touchdown.
The consistent knock against Kizer is his inexperience. He decided to forgo two remaining years of eligibility at Notre Dame and entered the league with an abundance of talent, but an underwhelming set of skills and understanding of the game. Which is what showed in his two regular season appearance — loads of raw talent, tied to a inability to read the game. It’s doubtful Kizer will be anything more than Rodgers backup during his stint in Green Bay, but hopefully the new coaching staff, along with Rodgers, will turn him into a serviceable backup — one who can competently manage a game when the unthinkable happens.
Jones became one of the few consistent playmakers on Green Bay’s offense, eventually leading the league at 5.5 yards per carry. Drafted out of UTEP in the 5th round of the 2017 draft, Jones has provided a spark to this offense every time he’s on the field… He just hasn’t spent enough time on the field. Aside from the two-game suspension Jones served at the opening of the season (violation of the league's substance abuse policy), his health remains one of the only question marks marring the early portion of his career — after battling knee injuries over the course of the 2017 season, Jones finished 2018 on I.R. after an MCL sprain knocked him out of the week 15 battle with Chicago. On top of injuries, Jones struggled to get touches in Mike McCarthy’s running-back-by-committee, which paired him with Jamaal Williams and Ty Montgomery — and though he often proved the most competent and consistent of the three runners, he rarely out touched his backfield mates.
So 2018 was ultimately a mixed bag for Jones — he excelled in nearly every opportunity he was given, but was hamstrung by limited opportunities. He’s undoubtedly a large part of the plan moving forward in Green Bay and is more than likely seen as a fixture of Matt LaFleur’s offense heading into 2019. A big play waiting to happen, if Jones can stay on the field, all of Green Bay is better for it.
Drafted in round 4 of 2017 out of BYU, Williams became a quick favorite of Mike McCarthy and the offensive coaching staff for his pass blocking acumen and no nonsense, north-south running style. A solid change-of-pace back, who’s serviceable in passing and running downs is a great luxury in the NFL — and one the Packers have found in Williams — but the insistence McCarthy felt to give Williams and Jones the same amount of touches or even a similar amount of snaps was a foolish miscalculation, and one that was often echoed among the crowd cheering for an end to his time in Green Bay. Williams gets a bad rep among fans who preferred Jones explosive style, but Williams is a more than competent runner, who will surely be better utilized in the incoming scheme — one that gave great success to Derrick Henry in the back half of last season — and his big games at the end of last season in Jones’ absence are hopefully a sign of things to come.
On only 26 carries, Montgomery totaled 105 yards and served exclusively as a passing down back and special teams operator — primarily returning kicks. The converted wide-receiver, in his third season in the backfield, failed to take the leap many had hoped for/expected after he scattered moments of brilliance across the last two seasons. Montgomery sealed his fate with Green Bay in week 7 — returning a kickoff out of the end zone (after being told to take a knee) and fumbling, soiling an opportunity for Rodgers to lead the team to a last minute victory. Montgomery was dealt to the Baltimore Ravens the next day.
Tae Adams defines what is often described as “The Packer Way” — a draft and develop style that was the touchstone of Ted Thompson’s roster building philosophy. Growing pains related to drops, poor blocking and unpolished route running were the story of Adams career, until a breakout season in 2016 cemented him as Rodgers No. 2 receiver, learning from Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb as they faded from their respective primes. Fast forward two years and Adams is the premier receiver in Green Bay — racking up 35 touchdowns over the past three seasons (an NFL best) along 3,268 yards in that span.
Adams represents one of the few offensive bright spots of 2018 and was one of the few offensive pieces Rodgers could consistently lean on. He shined in the absence of Nelson, who was one of the only members of the receiving core who drew red zone targets, before being moved to Oakland in the offseason. He was only was reception (111) short of breaking the Packers single season record (held by Sterling Sharpe) and sat out the week 17 loss to Detroit due to a knee injury. One of the few concerns with Adams moving forward are concussions — he has recorded three in his career — and many fear one or two more could knock him out of the league entirely. This, obviously, is a concern for any player, but it wasn’t enough to keep the packers from extending Adams’ contract before the 2018 season. Safe to say the NFC North will have to deal with one of the NFL’s most lethal connections for another few years.
Heading into his 8th NFL season, Cobb was a primary question mark on Green Bay’s offense — was McCarthy working with the dynamic slot receiver who’d become one of the team’s most reliable targets and leaders… Or the aging, injury prone Cobb who’s decline in success dated back to 2016? Unfortunately, it was the latter…
Cobb’s seasonal high point occurred opening night — scoring the go-ahead 75-yard TD, capping a nine reception, 142 yard night… Which made up over a third of his final 383 yard seasonal total — a stat that really sums up the drop off in production Cobb’s experienced the last few years. He’s popped up here and there, contributing a big play or key reception in a moment of need, but is absent when the team was hurting. Cobb’s future in the NFL is up in the air, but he’s more than likely played his last snap in Green Bay, and despite the limited upside he’s provided since his heyday in 2014, he’ll be missed.
Allison was one of the more exciting prospects on the Packers’ roster heading into 2018 — entering his third season in the NFL and positioning himself as the teams no. 2 receiver after an impressive camp and preseason. He cemented that excitement with solid performances weeks 1-4 — racking up 29 receptions 289 yards and 2 TD’s — but a nagging hamstring injury kept him off the field until week 8, where he was limited to one catch. More bad news followed as Allison landed on I.R. week 9, following a groin injury.
Allison’s key to success next season will be a combination of health and staving off a young group of talented, but unproven receivers below him. He’s talented enough to do it.
Drafted in the 5th round of 2018, MVS materialized as the top rookie WR on the roster — emerging week 5 with 7 receptions, 68 yards and a TD against the Lions. Between weeks 5 and 10, he totaled 21 receptions for 361 yards and 2 TD’s, second on the team over that stretch. MVS slumped with the rest of the team down the stretch — not reaching more than 5 receptions or 40 receiving yards again until week 16.
All said, MVS flashed brilliance numerous times in 2018 and represents a bright future at what’s sure to be a talented and competitive wide receiver group, but as was the problem in GB all year, he lacked consistency and was absent at pivotal moments. MVS will need to polish his routes in the offseason and become a more physical receiver — utilizing his 6’4” frame more advantageously.
The rest of the receiver depth chart lacked, well, depth… A host of rookies made little or no impact. Equanimeous St. Brown highlights the list, flashing his skills a number of times and racking up 89 and 94 yards in weeks 5 and 16, respectively, but never stringing together consistent performances — St. Brown poses a threat to GMO’s position in the depth chart more than anyone else. J’Mon Moore struggled to adjust mentally to professional football — logging just 2 catches for 15 yards, after being drafted in the 4th round of 2018’s draft, and touting back-to-back 60 catch, 1000 yard seasons at Missouri before entering the NFL. Moore was debatably Green Bay’s most interesting WR prospect out of 2018 picks, but he’ll need to prove himself in camp this offseason to remain with the team. Fan favorite Jake Kumerow spent most the season on I.R. after making a name for himself in preseason. A hard-nosed possession receiver, Kumerow will need to polish his skills to excel in a new offense. Trevor Davis continued to contribute little more than punt returns, and stands to be overtaken in that category by Jaire Alexander.
It’s something of a ritual in Green Bay to bring in aging tight ends who are exiting their prime and watch them weigh down the offense — Jimmy Graham represents the pinnacle of that trend. He’s no Martellus Bennett, because Graham seemingly wanted to be on the field, he was more like Jared Cook — occasionally flashing brilliance, but frustratingly underwhelming. Graham is a shell of the dominant receiver who terrorized the NFC South from 2011 to 2014 and he was significantly less productive at the goal line than his years in Seattle — where his 16 TD’s were more than likely a product of their offensive scheme, as his numbers outside the red-zone declined. Graham was brought in to replace Jordy Nelson, but his lack of connection with Rodgers was quite evident.
Rumors are The Pack intends to retain Graham and give him another year to produce. His 3-year, $30M contract is looking like a head scratcher and he’s owed $5M on March 15th. He’s 32 years old. The Packers struggled to use their tight ends properly under the previous coaching staff, so Grahams struggles can be taken with a asterisk, but a massive output next season would be surprising.
Like Jared Cook, Kendricks is a former St. Louis Ram who has failed to impress in Green Bay. Kendricks struggled with drops (3) and has caught only 37 passes in his two seasons with the team, after recording a 50 catch, 499 yard season in his final year with the LA Rams. Kendricks will be a big part of the soul searching at TE this year.
Lewis was brought in as one of the league's best run blocking tight ends. A physical specimen, who spent the majority of his career marooned on bad Jaguars offenses, Lewis seemed prime to shine in Green Bay — lining up beside one of the best rushing offensive lines in the league according to DVOA… But we know the story at this point — McCarthy ran a run-averse offense, Rodgers developed a habit of checking out of run plays, and Lewis spent the season marooned on the sideline, instead of just in a bad offense.
With LaFleur running the offense, alongside his old coach, Nathaniel Hackett, Lewis makes a ton of sense as far as returning next year. LaFleur seems committed to running the ball — Lewis is one of the league's best blocking tight ends. Lewis turns 35 in May and will probably only demand the veteran minimum salary.
Tonyan deserves a look in next year's offense, after flashing his skills on a 54-yard TD against Seattle week 11. He’s an impressive athlete who would be cheap to retain.
Full Roster Review: Defense
Let’s start with the good news — Green Bay seems to have found a lockdown cornerback. Jaire Alexander was taken with the 18th pick of last years draft, after the Packers moved back from number 14 to select the sixth defensive back they’ve taken in the first two rounds of the last five drafts. In just 13 games, Alexander finished second on the team with 66 tackles and first in pass defenses with 11. He showed up in big games — shadowing Brandin Cooks week 8 and consistently competing with both Julio Jones and Adam Thielen in tough matchups — for the uninitiated, getting torched by premier receivers is another Packer ritual.
Alexander will need to stay healthy in year two, but has both he ability and confidence to shine in this league. Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine relies heavily on corners — often times placing them on an island to open more options in pass rushing situation — so Alexander is sure to be a fixture of this team.
Williams missed just five snaps in 2018. Five snaps. He’s 35 years old. He also finished 5th on the team with 54 tackles, which may more about the lackluster defense than anything, and yet Williams decent production during his return to Green Bay was one of the few pleasant surprises this season. Though Williams turns 36 this coming season, Green Bay may be wise to retain him another year and brace for a sudden drop off. Williams was able to stay on the field seven more games than 2nd year corner Kevin King and the idea of letting him fill in at the paper thin safety position this coming season isn’t half bad.
An undrafted free agent out of Alabama, Brown was elevated from the practice squad week 3 and started seeing action as early as week 4 — as injuries already began taking a toll. Brown is a high effort player with a solid motor, but he tends to get over aggressive and give up big plays. Brown finished with 34 tackles and 2 forced fumbles. Proper coaching and more familiarity with Pettine’s scheme could aid in shaping Brown into the next Sam Shields or Tramon Williams — both undrafted free agents.
Jackson started 10 out of 16 games, to the tune of 49 tackles and 10 pass breakups. His seasonal highlight came early, week 2 against Minnesota on a punt he both blocked and recovered for a touchdown. The 2nd rounder out of Iowa only started two seasons at cornerback before entering the NFL and the rawness in his style of play became more evident as the year went on. He went from intercepting 8 passes his final year at Iowa to none as a rookie in Green Bay. fine tuning his technique and getting better in man coverage (grabby, grabby) will be his key to success next season.
King hasn’t played a full season in the NFL yet. No, not just that he’s missed a game here and there in his first two seasons — he has only played 15 games. The Packers’ first selection in the 2017 draft (pick 33), King is a sorta of relic to Ted Thompson’s idlic version of the cornerback position — 6 foot 3, long arms, strong at the line of scrimmage — a lengthy speedster meant to line up across from the Julio’s and O’dell’s of the world… But it just hasn’t materialized. Every once in a while we see King flash a dazzling set of tools, and for a moment the future looks bright, it just hasn’t happened enough the last two years. Meant to serve as the lockdown starter opposite Jaire Alexander, King will be playing for his future with the team in his third year in the league.
The NFL is harsh business and can even punish someone as talented as Bashaud Breeland, who originally signed this year with Carolina, only to have his 3-year, $24M contract voided due to a foot injury. He came to Green Bay at the end of September and ultimately played seven games with the team — his highlight performance coming week 14 against the Atlanta Falcons, earning the highest defensive grade of anyone on the team all season (94.8). Breeland is 27, looked healthy in limited action and adds depth and experience to a team lacking both.
Davon House returned to Green Bay on a one-year deal, after a stint in Jacksonville. He was mostly ineffective, until landing on I.R. in late September — giving way to the Breeland deal. He turns 30 in July and didn’t look like his old self this year. Will Redmond was brought up from the practice squad as a fill-in, only to finish on I.R. as well… Anyone seeing a trend?
Let’s start with some bad news — Ha Ha Clinton-Dix found rock-bottom as a Packer this season. HHCD was never the answer at safety for Green Bay and regardless of how much pundits like him he played scared, shy of contact and was a liability in the secondary. It’s baffling to see him considered such a high-tier free agent still. Anyone watching Green Bay consistently knows the holes of his game inside and out. His attitude toward the team deteriorated in his final weeks, eventually admitting he didn’t feel confident he’d be on the team following the season (in reference to his upcoming contract-option). He was ultimately dealt at the trade deadline for a fourth round pick in this years draft — a steal for the former first rounder out of Alabama.
More bad news — Kentrell Brice didn’t do anything to cover up the safety issues caused by Clinton-Dix. In fact, Brice may have been a large faction of the problem. Brice proved to be a focal point of opposing offenses, constantly getting targeted, then beat in coverage. He wasn’t much better as a tackler, though he did finish tied for sixth on the team with 49 tackles. Brice didn’t force a single turnover all season and was beat in the open field again and again. The Packers would be wise to part ways with Brice in the offseason and mitigate the damage done in their secondary.
Green Bay was such a hodgepodge at the safety position all year, most of the players don’t need a full blurb — primarily because most of them are either no longer with the team, or they won’t be by the start of next season. Mind all of you this is a team that let both Morgan Burnett and Micah Hyde walk in the last two seasons… Jermaine Whitehead was having a middling season, before being released following an ejection in New England. Whitehead may have been the victim of a bad stretch of games in Green Bay, but he wasn’t the focal point of issues at the time. He was more than likely seen as another Ted Thompson pick that failed to pan out. Josh Jones is likely to be the last man standing at safety from last years group and he took a marginal step forward last season. Jones plays a downhill style and wants to be in the box to meet running backs and tight ends, but lacks an instinct for the ball on the back end. Look for him to get a ton of shots to prove himself this season. Eddie Pleasant played in 5 games and continued to get beat. The 31 year old has bounced around the league and looks unlikely to be back next year. Safety is possibly Green Bay’s most needy position, even worse than edge-rusher, and they’re sure to drain some more draft capital on this position come April.
Martinez led the team in tackles (144) for the second straight year and finished as the NFC North’s highest rated linebacker (74.8). He also set a career high in sacks (5) and gave himself a lot of runway to take off next year — his first contract season. Martinez played all 16 games — more than you can say about most the linebacking core — and should be the cornerstone Pettine builds around going forward. The 4th rounder from 2016 is just 25 years old and is one of the few sure things on the roster.
Acquired from Indianapolis just before the season began, Morrison was solid — playing all 16 games and racking up 47 tackles, five tackles for loss and a sack. Morrison’s a more than competent player, but he may find himself as a fill-in or backup if Green Bay decides to upgrade the position during the draft.
A third round pick in 2018, expectations were high for Burks, but like many things in 2018, Burks was a bit of a dud. He injured his shoulder early in the season and spent most of his time as a fill-in and special teams player. He seemed overmatched in many cases, struggling to read plays and find the ball or meet players at the point of attack. Teams don’t shrug it off when their third rounder comes out flat, so expect Burks to get lots of attention from the coaching staff this offseason, along with plenty of opportunities to prove himself in 2019.
The third year edge rusher was destined to be a rotational player who spotted Nick Perry and Clay Matthews, as he had been the previous two years, but injuries and an urgency to make an impact led Fackrell to 10.5 sacks and 42 tackles. Fackrell is one of the few pieces on D that Mike Pettine can feel sound about heading into 2019, as edge rusher seems to be their primary concern next to safety. He will likely start the season atop the depth chart at edge and his 2018 breakout is hopefully a sign of things to come.
What to do, what to do, what to do… Matthews has been a trademark of the Green Bay defense for ten years now. He’s one of the faces of the franchise. And from all recent reports, Green Bay isn’t going to let him walk away unless someone makes a really decent offer. Matthews finished with only 3.5 sacks this season. His effectiveness has dwindled and dwindled for years. In fact you have to go back to 2014 to find the last year he posted double digit sacks. It’s possible he played a bit scared following the multiple horrendous roughing the passer calls, but his own comments on the subject suggest otherwise. Matthews is 32 years old, well past his prime and too expensive for the output he provides. The Packers shouldn’t be expected to pay up for such a player with as many question marks as Matthews retains, but if it happens, no one should be surprised.
*Writer bangs head against wall* why? Why? Why, Ted, WHY? Before signing his 5-year, $60M extension in 2016, Perry was an oft-injured question mark of a player. He flashed brilliance, made a lot of solid plays, but missed game after game after game. His 11 sacks in 2016 seem like an utter fluke and he’s missed 11 of 32 games since then. There isn’t much that can be said in way of defending Perry at this point — he seems like Thompson’s final guy punch — but boy, does this one hurt or what? Perry was supposed to be the answer at a position Green Bay has been putting bandaids on year after year. Now, he’s a sure thing to be cut and head to free agency, before the Pack has to cough up $6M more at the beginning of the season.
Jake Ryan tore his ACL in the final year of his rookie contract — similar to the pilot coming over the speaker to tell passengers “they’ve lost cabin pressure”… Ryan figured to be a fixture in the middle for Green Bay, but now his future in the NFL at all is in doubt. He logged 80-plus tackles in the two season prior, so the talent is there. GB will just have to wait and see how his rehab goes. Reggie Gilbert played in all 16 games and had his moments — finishing with 38 tackles and 2.5 sacks. He figures to be back next year and build on what should be considered a successful step forward in 2018. Kendall Donnerson was a late round pick in 2018, but never saw the field. A bit of a head scratcher there, but Donnerson could/should become a pass rushing specialist this upcoming year if they give him a shot. James Crawford played all 16 games and logged more special teams snaps than any other player — as a rookie. Let’s see if he can build on that in 2019… Linebacker is the more than likely the biggest question mark on this team and they’ll spend a fair amount of draft picks addressing it this April.
Clark is finally getting the recognition league-wide that he deserves after finishing 2018 with 55 total tackles and 6 sacks. He played over 90% of his snaps this season, before landing on I.R. after week 13 with elbow and tricep injuries. Kenny’s just 23 and has already materialized as a premier pass rusher and run stopper. Pettine would be wise to build this interior line around him, before focusing on Mike Daniels. Clark’s here to stay and should be mentioned in the same breath as guys like Geno Atkins and Fletcher Cox soon enough.
Like Clark, Daniels only played a fraction of the season — 10 games — and landed on I.R. Before that, Daniels struggled to adjust to Pettine’s new scheme. He was consistently buried by double teams and found it difficult to make his way to the QB — finishing with just 2 sacks. He’s not fading fast, they way Perry or Matthews have, but Daniels looked significantly less effective in 2018 than the year before — where he was one of the few consistent defenders. Look for Daniels to bounce back in a push to secure one more large contract before the twilight of his career.
Coming to Green Bay on a one-year “prove it” deal, Wilkerson struggled to get off the ball and was beat down by opposing offensive lines left and right… That was before he broke his foot week 3 against Washington. Wilkerson is a two-time all pro who was criticized near the end of his time with the Jets for having attitude and conditioning issues. He’s 29 and because his injury happened so early, he had essentially and entire year to both rest and (hopefully) learn the new defensive system. Whether Gutekunst decides to bring him back is anyone's bet, but paying somewhere just above the veteran minimum for a guy with Wilkerson’s pedigree could pan out long run.
Dean Lowry was one of the last men standing on the d-line at years end, logging 45 tackles and 3 sacks, logging time in all 16 games. He’s a flexible player, who can spot multiple roles in a fill-in capacity, but hardly stands out on tape. Montravius Adams hasn’t been on the field nearly enough in his first two years and the lack of playing time speaks volumes considering most his competition landed on I.R. A talented athlete, with motivation and conditioning problems coming out of college, Adams never hit the ground running to start a season and if he doesn’t do so in 2019, he may be out a job. Adams’ roster spot was overtaken mostly by Tyler Lancaster, a 2018 UDFA promoted from the practice squad early in the season. Lancaster impressed the coaching staff and made an immediate impact in the absence of some of the more polished interior linemen. He’s someone to watch and hopefully makes the team after camp.
Highs and Lows
The rookie Equanimeous makes his first big play of his budding career
Davante Adams puts a stake in the Jets
Aaron Rodgers is terrorized by the Bears
Ty Montgomery makes a critical mistake… which gets him shipped out
Adams was 2 catches short of the Packers catch record
What a whirlwind of a season overall. Despite the turmoil faced in the middle of the season and the general disappointment this season turned out to be, the future is bright under Matt LaFleur. There's a lot to be excited about among the Packer faithful, which is change. Something many have longed for a long time, and we can see the results soon enough. A general manager going into his second year who is willing to be aggressive, a young head coach and young offensive staff to compliment him, and a proven defensive coordinator running his defense in Green Bay for the second year. There's a lot of potential in the team and it seems as if the Packers are being written off very quickly or very off the radar at the moment. The core may not mesh in their first year, but there's a lot to work with having a respectable draft capital and young talent on both sides of the ball to grow in the system. Can the trend of young head coaches in Green Bay continue to have success, or is the Super Bowl window closing in Green Bay? Only time will tell.
I would like to thank u/TwainTheMark, u/gbp_320, and u/TheBeardedYouth for their contributions to this post, as well as u/therealDoctorKay for giving me the opportunity to write this for the first time.