With the month of July finally here, it means the 2019 football season is right around the corner. This year at Pack To The Future, I plan on bringing you a new part of my work, which I’ve dubbed “PTTF grades”. I’ve dabbled in bringing you articles grading out players, but this year during the offseason I have tried to fine tune the way that I want to bring you grades and help you track the progress of the Packers, through grading. What I have decided to do is grade out position groups as a whole using an A through F grading scale. I found this method to be one of the easiest for readers to understand and grading position groups as a whole cut down significantly on time. I still want to bring you my “Xs and Os” and weekly scouting report articles during the season, so I had to make sure that I wasn’t overloading my time doing grades. I feel like it is important to bring you grades though, as this is the way that I track how well each position group is doing throughout the season.
Packers training camp is just around the corner, so I knew it was time to evaluate the roster and get an idea of where the Packers are before they head into camp. We saw big shakeups at several position groups on both sides of the ball. Every training camp is important, but this is going to be one of the most important camps in recent years. With new faces, both players and coaches, it will be interesting to see how everyone meshes together. After evaluating the roster through film study, here’s what I came up with for my first edition of PTTF grades in the 2019 season:
It would be hard to grade a position group with one of the best players in franchise history anything less than an A. We all know what Rodgers is capable of, so I don’t think I need to dive into that too much. It will be interesting, however, to see how he operates in this new offense. I’ve done extensive research on LaFleur’s offense this offseason and I personally think Rodgers could have a big year. LaFleur’s offense has the perfect mesh of a vertical passing attack and the quick, 3 step drop, horizontal game. Reads will have to be much quicker for Rodgers as the passing attack will be quick hitting. Many of LaFleur’s concepts are a quick 1-2 read. High-low reads are a common occurrence in the passing game. LaFleur might even sprinkle in a decent amount of RPOs, though I hope he doesn’t do much. RPO protection often leaves a quarterback in a bad position as opposed to the standard 5 and 6 man protection.
Running Back: B+
This is one position group I’m really excited to see this season. Aaron Jones could have a breakout year in the new offense. I feel like Jones does especially well in the zone run game. He has the vision to hit the cutback for big gaining plays. I think LaFleur will recognize this as one of his strengths and will roll with more outside and inside zone running plays. Jones could have had a Pro Bowl type of year last year if he had gotten the carries. I really think that Aaron Jones could be one of the best running backs in recent Packer years.
Jamaal Williams adds another dimension to the running game. He is a hard-nosed, downhill runner. We could see some big-on-big run concepts and let Williams get behind his pads and get 3-4 yards a play. It would be the perfect way to complement Jones’ running game. Both Jones and Williams could be the 1-2 punch in the running game.
Rookie running back Dexter Williams could get a bulk of the carries in preseason. He comes from Brian Kelly’s zone run game out of Notre Dame. This offense also really stressed the cutback and put the running backs in a good position to see the cutback and hit it. Williams has a good ability to plant his foot in the ground and change direction. We could see something similar this year in Green Bay. If Williams has a good camp, he could be a contender to be the third-down back this season.
Tight End: C+
It is no secret that Matt LaFleur loves the use of the tight ends in his offense. Many times what I saw on film was multiple tight ends on the field every drive. Two and three tight end sets are the norm. Because of this, this position will be one of the most vital in this offense this season. Jimmy Graham did not have the season that we all thought he would last year. His blocking ability is the biggest concern, and in this offense, you must be a good blocker. The tight end has to get a punch on the edge player and get to the second level linebacker in a lot of LaFleur’s running schemes. The biggest concern for Graham coming into camp has got to be blocking. I think he’s a good vertical threat, but tight ends can’t afford to be too one-dimensional. If he can improve with his run blocks, we could see a much better year out of Graham.
Marcedes Lewis was a fun player to watch on film last year and one that is one of the better blocking tight ends on the team. The flipside for him will be working on getting out of his breaks in the passing game. I’m thinking that Lewis gets a number of snaps with the first team offense in camp and during the preseason, but time will tell. He’s been a great addition to the team.
I think fans are particularly excited to see rookie Jace Sternberger this season. The thing that I loved about Sternberger’s game was the flexibility he had. I feel like he’s good enough to play the H back position, in line and detached. LaFleur can really get creative with how he wants to use a player like him.
Wide Receiver: B-
Davante Adams certainly is the leader of this group and I expect him to have a Pro Bowl year again in 2019. There are so many things that Adams does well, and the rest of the league is starting to take notice. I love the way he creates separation and gets involved in the blocking game on outside runs. Adams is a physical player in both the pass and run game and I expect him to elevate the play of everyone in this position group.
A lot of fans are excited to see what Marquez Vales-Scantling can do this season. He showed glimpses of what he is capable of last season, but I think he will have a big second year. His routes look crisp and well timed. He is another player who does well in both the vertical and horizontal passing game, something that will work in well with this new offense. Rodgers could look to target him more and more throughout the season and work on chemistry, something that is vital between a quarterback and his wide receivers.
Don’t sleep on St. Brown or J’Mon Moore. Those are two young players who have great potential in this offense. I was a little disappointed that I didn’t see as much from Moore as I thought I would in 2018 but I still feel like he could rotate at the X spot and get some reps in 4 WR sets.
Offensive Line: B-
The offensive line seems to have noticeably strong and weak points. One of its strong points is left tackle David Bakhtiari, who is the leader of the offensive line. Bakhtiari is emerging as one of the better left tackles in all of the NFL, and rightfully so. He looked smooth on tape and adjusted to rushers with ease. He has a tremendous kickslide and really gets back and sets the width of the pocket. I didn’t see many downsides to Bakhtiari last season, and I’m expecting him to have a Pro Bowl season this year.
One of my favorite players to watch is center Corey Linsley. He was probably the most underrated player on the Packers last season. Ever since he stepped in a few years ago at center he hasn’t disappointed. The Packers running scheme often asks for the center to get a punch on the nose tackle and get to the second level. Linsley did so very smoothly. Rarely did he seem affected by the presence of a nose tackle head up over him or shaded. He put a ton of great stuff on film last year, and he’s going to have another big year in 2019.
My biggest concern with this group is on the right side. Bulaga seems to have question marks surrounding him each season if he can stay healthy. He’s a dependable tackle and very effective but I believe the key for him is staying healthy. We will also have a chance to see what newly acquired guard Billy Turner can do. From what I saw on film, Turner is an excellent drive blocker and solid with his double teams. I feel like him stepping into the right guard position will be a big help in the running game. The right guard spot has been a trouble for the Packers these past couple of seasons.
All in all, the offense looks decent heading into camp. While there are a few things that need some tuning, I feel confident that we will see a much more productive offense in 2019. Keep in mind, these grades will change from week to week, so keep an eye out for them here at Pack To The Future.
The defensive grades will also be released later this week here at PTTF.
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