The state of Wisconsin has become a gathering ground of sorts for some of the world’s greatest athletes. There are currently 4 players between the Packers, Brewers and Bucks that have won the MVP award in their respective sports. What’s most impressive is that 2 of those awards came in the last year, now it’s up to Aaron Rodgers to give Wisconsin a clean sweep on MVPs. Solidifying Wisconsin as one of America’s top sports states.
Most recently, Giannis Antetokounmpo took home the NBA MVP award after an incredible season for the Milwaukee Bucks. Giannis finished the season averaging over 27 points per game while shooting an impressive 57% from the field. He also managed to bring down 12.5 rebounds per game and made his presence felt defensively as well, averaging 1.5 blocks per game and over 1 steal a game. Their season may have ended sooner then he had hoped for but that won’t take anything away from the fact that Giannis had a dominant season and should only get better as he gains more experience.
Turning our attention to baseball, throughout the 2018 season, Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich put on some of the most incredible performances I’ve ever seen in my time watching the MLB. He finished the season with 36 home runs and 110 RBI all while posting a very impressive .326 batting average. He seemed to only get better as the year went on. Yelich had 10 home runs in the final 25 games of the season as well as plenty of other huge at-bats on their way to a playoff berth. The Brewers got themselves a stud in Yelich and he should be knocking balls out of Miller Park for years to come.
As you can see, Wisconsin has 2 consecutive MVP awards and now it’s time to complete the trio. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers is the team’s best candidate to win the award and I’m going to take us through exactly what we need to see from him to get it done. I will also highlight a couple of players who could be key in getting Rodgers back to his usual MVP level.
First and foremost, Aaron Rodgers MUST stay healthy for a full 16 games if he wants any chance at the award. That has been an issue as of late with 2017’s broken collarbone and last seasons fractured tibia coming to mind. Even though he did not miss any games with that knee injury in 2018, it clearly hindered his ability to be the Aaron Rodgers we’ve all come to expect. Luckily for Rodgers, his new head coach Matt Lafleur has already emphasized his desire to get the ball out of Rodgers’ hands quickly and efficiently. I don’t think we’ll see Rodgers bouncing around the pocket for 7-8 seconds waiting for something to develop anymore. This offensive system is geared towards quick throws and an up-tempo style of play.
Coach Lafleur’s philosophy may seem contradictory to what we’ve seen in the past from this offense and that’s a very good thing. In the past, Packers wide receivers were consistently left on an island, forced to beat cornerbacks on 1-1 isolated routes turning every throw into a tight window and making it difficult to get in any kind of rhythm.
That won’t be the case in this new offense. We’ve already heard from Rodgers speaking on the creativity of Lafleur’s offense, “It’s going to be different. It’s going to look different, formationally and with motions” he also added that he thinks he can “put his stamp” on the offense.
The NFL in 2019 is not the NFL of 2008 when Rodgers began starting for the Packers. The use of pre-snap motions and creative formations have become a staple of some the leagues best offenses and the Packers must implement it as well.
Another huge factor in whether Rodgers will get back to his usual self will be the development of last years rookie wide receivers. In 2018, rookie wideouts Marquez Valdez-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown both showed some flashes but nothing on a consistent basis. The 3rd receiver in that group is J’mon Moore who had by far the most disappointing rookie season of the 3 and will need to step it up if he wants to see more playing time.
Getting back to Scantling and Brown, I’m very excited about what they can add to this offense in year 2. Scantling brings the most excitement as he has consistently been called the “star” of OTA’s. Rodgers even added that he’s had a “fantastic spring” and is becoming an “every-down player”. That’s high praise for a 2nd-year guy from a quarterback like Rodgers. I think we’ll see plenty of Scantling opposite Davante Adams and he should excel in that role, especially on vertical routes where he can show off his 4.37 speed.
Before I continue to highlight a couple of players Rodgers needs to get his 3rd MVP award, I want to once again stress the importance of pre-snap motions and creative formations. Defenses have gotten so fast that you can’t expect your guys to win every 1-1 matchup they face. Implementing a strong dose of pre-snap motions will force the defense to react instead of act. When an offense sends a receiver across the formation, it puts the defense at a disadvantage before the ball is even snapped. It forces linebackers and safeties to watch the motion, pulling their attention away from the real focus of the play. Look at teams like the Rams, Saints and Chargers to see how just how valuable those motions can be. If Lafleur can integrate these philosophies into the offense in a smooth and smart way, it will make them nearly impossible to stop.
Now I want to turn my attention to a couple of guys who I think will be crucial to Rodgers and the success of this offense.
I want to start with last years free agent acquisition, tight end Jimmy Graham. The 2018 season was a disappointing one for Graham finishing with 55 catches, 636 yards and only 2 touchdowns. Now, to be fair, Graham suffered a broken thumb halfway through the season as well as playing through a bum knee. It’s going to be essential for Graham to be at 100% and playing at least at the level he did in Seattle. Having a big, reliable target over the middle is every quarterback’s dream and Graham needs to be that guy.
After putting in a great practice, Rodgers had this to say about his tight end “I think this offense sets up really good for him. It gives him opportunities to win with his routes and then situations like (today), to win with his athletic ability and speed”. If Jimmy Graham gets back to his old self, there will be no secondary capable of stopping him and Rodgers together.
The next player I want to talk about is right tackle Bryan Bulaga. Over the last few years, there has been a lot of talk about Bulaga and his future with the Packers. The issue everyone brings up about Bulaga is not his level of play, but rather his injuries. Over the last 4 seasons, Bulaga has missed a total of 17 games with 11 of those coming in 2017. While his health has definitely been an issue, it’s not as bad as people like to think. Outside of the 2017 season, Bulaga has played in at least 12 games in 4 of the last 5 years and at a high level as well. Aaron Rodgers is going to need him healthy and holding down that right tackle spot all year long. The combination of David Bakhtiari on the left and Bulaga on the right is one of the best tackle combos in the league. If we see those two guys play 14-16 games this season, I expect to see other-worldly numbers from Rodgers and this offense.
I’m going to keep this overview short and to the point. If Aaron Rodgers is going to be hoisting his 3rd MVP trophy this February, these 3 things are going to be the reasons why.
- Staying healthy for a full 16 games.
- Use of pre-snap motions and different formations (a ton!).
- Get Jimmy Graham and Marquez Valdez-Scantling involved early and often.
If you think I missed anything please drop your thoughts in the comment box and I’ll make sure to get back to you. Thank you!
Find me on Twitter @PTTF_Eli.