Green Bay Packers February Scouting Report
This is the second year in a row that QB Aaron Rodgers was injured. Only this year it happened in week one. Then two of the top 3 wide receivers got hurt and missed most of the season. That provided two rookies a chance to get some major experience. Three of the five offensive line positions early on became a game of musical chairs – with a different group every week. The top two running backs stayed healthy until after mid season. The top tight end broke a finger, making it more difficult to catch a pass. The defense seemed like they could put it all together for a change. But as if it were a theme for the year, injuries started. The top corner draft pick missed a few games before asserting himself. The other top corner got hurt early and disappeared on injured reserve for the season. One of the two top outside linebackers got hurt and disappeared for the season. One of the top inside linebackers blew out his knee and was out for the year. Then the top free agent line man got hurt and went out for the year. Later another top defensive lineman would also join him on injured reserve.
In case you haven’t been keeping track that is six defensive preferred starters missing major time. Their backups were injured as well in some cases. The revolving door of free agents was busy all year. That doesn’t take into account that the roster had a fifty percent turnover at the start of the year from the previous year. Good luck trying to pick consistent fantasy team participants from that mess. But there were some bright spots. Some of the younger players started playing better. The rookies got much needed playing time. And some of the reinforcements actually worked out. Green Bay is armed with about 44 million in cap space and 10 draft picks going into this offseason. So you know there will be more players in Green Bay. The Packers have 12 unrestricted free agents (UFA), 2 restricted free agents (RFA), and 7 exclusive rights free agents (ERFA). The more notable ones will be mentioned. To date there is no mention of using either the transition or franchise tags.
First, let us look at the front office. GM Brian Gutekunst, the head coach, and Russ Ball – a chief financial officer all report to President Mark Murphy. This went under reported last year. But this year we got to see this reorganization in action as they selected the new head coach. The coaching changes included a new head coach – Matt LaFleur. All the assistant coaches on the offensive side are new except for the running backs coach. On defense, DC Mike Pettine is still there – as is almost all his staff. There is one new assistant. There is also a new special teams coach in town. Only time will tell if this whole arrangement works.
On Offense, the Packers should be set at running back for next year. Who the number three guy is remains a mystery, but there are three roster candidates. Last year tight ends TE Jimmy Graham and TE Mercedes Lewis were signed as free agents. TE Lance Kendricks and TE Robert Tonyan filled out the roster. This year Lewis and Kendricks are free agents. While Graham was on a pace to set Packer records (in terms of receptions and yards) for the position for a while last year, they need a more consistent threat. At WR the Packers have one UFA – WR Randall Cobb. They also have a RFA - WR Geronimo Allison. Maybe Allison stays, but Cobb is likely gone. They also have WR Devante Adams, WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling, WR Equanimeous St. Brown, WR Jake Kumerow, WR J'mon Moore, WR Trevor Davis, WR Allen Lazard, and WR Teo Redding. Scantling and St. Brown got experience. Kumerow was out most of the year, but played well when he returned. Moore had issues figuring out how to play. Davis couldn’t stay healthy. And the other two are new. On the offensive line the ERFAs include; OG Justin McCray, OG Lucas Patrick, and OT Adam Pankey. That means none of them are going anywhere unless the Packers want them too. Only OG Byron Bell is an UFA. All that seems good until you realize three of the starting five could not finish the season – and a couple missed a chunk of the season. So you say what about the backups? OT Kyle Murphy, OG Lucas Patrick, among other backups missed major time because of injury. OT Jason Spriggs has failed to develop as expected. OT Alex Light was not ready yet. All this caused the Packers to keep more linemen then they would have otherwise to have enough guys to be healthy enough to field a line. Draft pick OG Cole Madison, one of the best PAC-12 offensive linemen, did not report. The Packers will make an announcement concerning him in the coming days. So this is looking like a wasted pick. Green Bay could use some durable and talented guys on their offensive line.
On Defense, there are seven UFAs. Two of them are OLB Clay Matthews and ILB Jake Ryan. Matthews has seen better days but if will come back at a cheaper rate, he could move inside and strengthen the middle. Ryan was out with a knee injury all year. He is a preferred starter. But injuries keep him off the field often. It might be time to move on from Ryan. It might also be time to move on from OLB Nick Perry. If they decide to move on from all three, there will be at least one free agent and at least one draft pick here. Moving on from Perry could be difficult because of his injury history and his contract. Green Bay would have eat a sizable chunk of money to cut him. OLB Kyler Fackell was a surprise last year getting 10.5 sacks. ILB Blake Martinez played very well last year and is the star of the group. He just needs a consistent player to pair with. If that is ILB Oren Burks, Matthews, another player on the roster, a free agent, or a draft pick then so be it. Last year there was a remake at corner back. UFA includes CB Devon House and CB Bashaud Breeland. If it were up to me I would bring Breeland back. He was signed as result of injuries and had 2 pick sixes in limited action last year. CB Kevin King and CB Jaira Alexander are shut down corners. The problem is staying healthy. King was out almost all of last year and Alexander missed a good chunk of the season with injuries. Veteran CB Tramon Williams played more than he should have and that took its toll. But the guidance he provides to the younger players in invaluable. CB Tony Brown was signed as a result of injuries and had a rough start. But he started playing well as the season progressed. Draft pick CB Josh Jackson showed that his speed (or lack of it) could be a liability at the corner position. He may be a better fit at safety. The other two on the roster are CB Natrell Jamerson and CB Will Redmond who were also signed as a result of injuries. Right now they have 4 capable corners – look for some help here. At Safety, S Morgan Burnette was traded last year. S Kentrell Brice is a RFA. Two player signed during the season last year S Eddie Pleasant and S Ibraham Campbell are UFAs. Others on the roster are S Josh Jones who is still a question mark when it comes to being assignment sure. S Raven Greene who was a rookie last year played some and found his way to injured reserve. S Tray Matthews and S Jason Thompson were also signed during the past season. The Packers could use an impact player at the position.
On special teams two draft picks from last stuck and will probably be on the roster next year. LS Hunter Bradley won the job out of training camp and played well during the season. P PJ Scott was drafted and performed well in training camp. But he wore down as the season went on. Hopefully some adjustments in his off season training will help. K Mason Crosby is the place kicker. I don’t think he will have any training camp competition. The Packers still have 24 roster spots open as of now. So changes will continue this season. Next month we might have some free agency answers. We may have some clues on how it affects the draft. Until then...
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