It’s been a week since we last saw the Packers take the field, and I must say, it’s felt much longer than a mere week.
Sadly, the offseason has begun.
The offseason isn’t all bad, though. This time of the year gives us a chance to reflect on a successful season, take a look at upcoming draft prospects, and evaluate the current state of the Packers. In this article, we’re going to focus on breaking down the offensive side of the ball and how each position group performed on offense and what changes the Packers might make moving forward in order to get the best performance possible out of each group.
Before I begin, let me just say that from top to bottom, the current state of the Packers offense seems pretty solid; though the performance didn’t always reflect that this season. I didn’t really know what to expect coming into this season from the offense. The team had an emerging running back with Aaron Jones, two new guards in Jenkins and Turner, young wide receivers and a slew of tight ends. While the offense didn’t always operate at peak performance, I was pretty happy with the team that Brain Gutekunst put together.
Let’s take a further look at each position:
For the past couple of seasons, the quarterback position has looked solid in Green Bay. After all, with Aaron Rodgers leading an offense, there seems little reason to be worried. However, something seemed off about Rodgers. Sure, we’ve seen him miss some throws from time to time but it felt as if that were more so this season. I’m not one to criticize the quarterback position at the NFL level. I have no idea what these guys have to read in their progressions, what the play call is or who the primary receiver is on a given play. Even so, there were times that we outright saw Rodgers sail a ball over the head of the receiver on a slant route or throw it just a hair off of where it should have been. Honestly, I’m not too concerned about it. Rodgers is in his mid-30s, made another Pro Bowl this season and did a great job of directing this offense.
The thing that impresses me the most about Rodgers is that he knows how to take care of the football. During the 2019 season, Rodgers threw a mere 4 interceptions. I’m always confident that on the last drive in a game that he is going to make good decisions to ensure that the offense comes out of the drive with points on the board.
When the season was all said and done, Rodgers threw for 4,002 yards, 26 touchdowns and had an average QB rating of 95.4. There’s no reason for fans to panic in this department. And to the skeptics, I say: “R-E-L-A-X. Relax”
The running back position may be the most exciting position on the offensive side of the ball. Aaron Jones had a standout season, with Jamaal Williams being a nice rotation player. When Matt LaFleur took over the reins in Green Bay he did something that Packer fans were begging the team to do; give Aaron Jones the football. Game after game, we consistently saw Aaron Jones get the touches he needed and as a result, we saw the offense do well. Think back to the Cowboys game where Jones rushed for 4 touchdowns en route to a big win over Dallas. It seemed like every time Jones got to the edge that something big was going to happen. With his speed, that seems to be the best part of his game. In 2019 we saw LaFleur’s commitment to the toss and outside zone plays. With a back like Aaron Jones, it makes it easy to operate.
Along with Jones, Jamaal Williams adds a whole new dimension to the running game. Williams, to me, is a hard-nosed back who can lower the pads and pick up the first down. I loved the formation that we saw this year featuring both Jones and Williams in the backfield. Williams can be an excellent blocker and both are effective in the passing game. LaFleur has revamped this offense in this area, using his playmakers in different ways and putting them in the best position possible to succeed.
The offensive line improved in 2019, but there are still a few question marks surrounding this position. With the loss of Lane Taylor early in the season, Elgton Jenkins was asked to step up. The result was one of the best seasons I’ve seen from a rookie offensive lineman.
The offense seemed to favor the run to the left side of the formation, most likely because Jenkins did such a solid job of run blocking. I’ve never seen a lineman make such an easy transition to the NFL. Jenkins was used in a number of ways, but the most impressive was his combination blocks to the second level. The timing was solid play after play. In pass protection, he held his own, though I do think that this is one area he needs to work on.
On the other side of the formation, Billy Turner has some work to do. While I thought Turner did a decent job run blocking, his pass protection was the weakest link in his game. Turner was up and down for much of the season. The biggest thing at the right guard position is consistency. It felt like we saw a lot of pressure come from his side of the formation this season on third down plays. Turner can definitely turn things around, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a battle for the right guard position in training camp.
Corey Linsley had another great season at the center position. Linsley is one of the biggest assets of the offensive line. When I reviewed each game, I always noticed his ability to beat his man in the zone blocking game. The center has the toughest block in zone runs. Usually, he will have a player shaded on his shoulder or have to get to the middle linebacker. Linsley made this look easy each time.
Both Bakhtiari and Bulaga had a decent year, though I do have concerns about Bulaga. As has been with previous years, I still worry about his history with injuries. The right tackle has to be one of the most dependable players on the team. Being a tackle, Bulaga will take a lot of hits that will take a toll on his body. I was impressed with the depth at this position. Jared Veldheer did a fantastic job stepping up in the divisional game against Seattle. To play that well in the playoffs, with little to no experience, speaks volumes to the kind of player he is.
With Jimmy Graham more than likely on his way out, the tight end position is up in the air, though both (probably) Lewis and Sternberger will be on the team in 2020. Sternberger is a player with a bright future. The thing that impresses me the most about him is his flexibility. He has shown that he can line up in a number of different positions. Attached, in-line, in the slot, at the H-back or even as a fullback are all places that Matt LaFleur could line him up in. We saw a little of that throughout the season. Sternberger is a great blocker and has an impressive run after the catch, though a lot of that is based on his college film, as he didn’t receive a ton of reps during the season. The tight end position is a staple in the LaFleur offense. This is one group I can see flourishing in the future.
The wide receiver position is probably the weakest link in the Packers offense right now. Adams is definitely the leader of this group, and I’m hoping that he will elevate the play of the guys surrounding him. Allen Lazard stepped up in a big way in 2019. I felt like he could be counted on to take some of the pressure off of Adams. The biggest thing right now is finding playmakers for Rodgers. I felt like the Packers weren’t the threat in the passing game this year like they usually are. I’d love to see Gutekunst draft a wide receiver with his first-round pick in the draft this year. The wide receiver class is littered with talent across the board.
All in all, the offense was decent this season. I think the challenge for them going into the offseason is simply finding ways to perfect Matt LaFleur’s system. With a new system comes some bugs, but I feel like they will be worked out during the offseason. The talent is there, though I feel like there are a few missing pieces to the puzzle. If those pieces can be added during the offseason, this offense could be something special in 2020.
Follow me on Twitter: @PTTF_Ben