We continue our “Scouting the Enemy” series with a look at the Atlanta Falcons’ Week 8 opponent, the Green Bay Packers.
Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers have gotten the better of the Falcons in recent meetings, but Dan Quinn will hope to continue his success over the Pack from his time in Seattle.
The Packers offense hit a roadblock it couldn’t overcome last season, reeling from the loss of Jordy Nelson. Was 2015 simply an anomaly or a worrying sign of what’s to come?
To take a closer look at the Packers, I spoke with Lombardi Ave editor Raymond Rivard.
What have you made of the Packers offseason? What have they done well, not so well?
RR: Free agency and the Packers don’t necessarily go together in a single sentence (unless it applies to signing their own players), but when it comes to the draft and undrafted free agents, that’s where Packers GM Ted Thompson does his best work.
This year was no different. Though many think that first-rounder Kenny Clark was a reach, Thompson had to do something with his defensive line. B.J. Raji took a year’s leave of absence and Mike Pennel was suspended for the first four games. While that puts a huge hole in the Packers’ D-line, the team wasn’t really set with those guys anyway, so adding Clark should help the team in the long run. Is he ready as a starter? We’ll see.
In addition, the Packers added to the offensive line, wide receiver corps and at inside and outside linebacker, so the overall look of the Packers will once again change… for the better.
What went wrong offensively for the Packers last year, and have they done enough to put it right this offseason?
RR: The first thing that went wrong was when Jordy Nelson went down with a knee injury in the preseason. While James Jones did an admirable job of filling in for Nelson, in the long run he wasn’t Jordy Nelson. It was amazing how the loss of a single player disrupted the continuity of the offense.
One could just feel that this team wasn’t the same. In addition, the Packers never got the tight end game squared away last year. However, with the addition of Jared Cook this offseason, that position should be much improved. Add in a more svelte Eddie Lacy and the hopes that WR Davante Adams returns to what we all expect and you’ve got a recipe for improvement.
The Packers also completed some additions to an already-solid offensive line that should help the team not only this season, but well into the future.
Probably most understated last year was the shakeup in the coaching duties, most specifically the decision by Mike McCarthy to give up play-calling. Things changed when he took it back, but if there was a regret to be had for McCarthy, it was his decision to give up those duties. I think he learned a lot with that failed experiment and won’t let something like that happen again.
This season is six removed from the Packers’ last Super Bowl run. Would another failure put Mike McCarthy under pressure?
RR: In a word – no. McCarthy has established his system in Green Bay and is there for the long run. Yes, the expectations are high for the Packers this season and many are saying it’s “Super Bowl or bust.” But whether the Packers reach the Super Bowl or not shouldn’t affect McCarthy’s place in Green Bay. We all know how tough it is to get to and win a Super Bowl. Yes, it would be great if Green Bay did it again, but if they don’t, McCarthy won’t be fired.
What are the key storylines to watch at training camp?
RR: Jordy Nelson’s return and how the wide receiver position shakes out; whether Eddie Lacy comes into camp in shape and returns to the player he was his first two seasons; how the linebacking position shapes up with Clay Matthews moving back to OLB – and how the young linebackers step up; and most of all – making sure everyone stays healthy!
What are realistic expectations for the Packers this year?
RR: The Packers will win at least 11 games, but will win the NFC North with a 12- or 13-win season. Expectations every year for the Packers is nothing short of a Super Bowl title and such is the case again this year. Is it realistic? Absolutely.
It appears that Aaron Rodgers is all in this season and many are predicting a career year for him. We all know he wants to win at least one or two more Super Bowls before he is finished and if there’s any player in the league poised to do so, it’s him.
We’d like to thank Ray Rivard for taking the time to talk to us. Be sure to check out Lombardi Ave for great coverage of the Green Bay Packers.