Today’s article will be the last of the NFC teams previewed in the Super Bowl 51 Contender series. The Green Bay Packers have won 4 Super Bowls and the trophy itself is named after the Packers famous Head Coach Vince Lombardi (the trophy though has a slightly different spelling of Vince Lombardy). The Packers boast arguably the best Quarterback in the League alongside a dominant Offensive Line and a talented Defensive roster that when it clicks ranks among the Leagues best.
Aaron Rodgers is the best Quarterback in the NFL and despite an off year in 2015 should return to his usual formidable level of play in 2016. The Offence is strong upfront and has two elite Guards as well as a true no.1 Wide Receiver in Jordy Nelson. The Packers also have options at Running Back and if this group manages to click in 2016 like it has in the past, then it is clear that it will take a truly dominant and exceptional Defense to try and slow down the Packers in 2016.
Aaron Rodgers needs no introductions. He is an absolute stud at the Quarterback position and is the best QB in football. 2015 was Rodgers worst season statistically since he took over the starting job in Green Bay. Rodgers could end up as one of the all-time greats when it will all be said and done. He will undoubtedly bounce back in 2016 as his no.1 Receiver will return and Head Coach Mike McCarthy will take over play calling duties as he and Rodgers will look to form one of the Leagues best duos once again.
Aaron Rodgers has the best arm in football and can make absolutely ridiculous plays that no other QB can make. His arm strength is something that also goes under the radar and is simply a given. You only have to watch his Hail Mary against Detroit last year and question how many QBs around the League would be able to get that arch and velocity on a 70-yard bomb up the field. Rodgers has an unbelievable feel in the pocket and is the best QB in the League in terms of avoiding rushers. He is arguably more dangerous when he is extending plays with his legs and he shows great composure as he scans the field while running for his life from Linemen and Linebackers. He is the best Quarterback to ever play in the NFL in terms of his ability to throw dimes whilst on the run and has arguably the quickest release in the League. Aaron Rodgers is the best in League in terms of always being aware of what opponents are doing and no one can quite match him in monitoring Defensive substitutions. As soon as he sees someone running for the side lines he snaps the ball and regularly makes teams pay on these free plays. Aaron Rodgers also holds the record for highest career Quarterback rating as well as holding the NFL’s best touchdown-to-interception ratio in NFL history. It is clear that the Packers will always have a chance of winning a Super Bowl if Aaron Rodgers is their Quarterback and the player who earned the most guaranteed money for a QB ever; should be guaranteed money entering 2016.
Will 2016 witness the re-emergence of the Championship belt or as its referred to commercially the ‘discount double check’? It is clear that all sides seem to point towards the Packers Offence returning to its juggernaut status.
2016 could be a make or break year for Eddie Lacy whose struggle with his weight was highly publicized in 2015. Coming out of Alabama in 2013, Lacy had all the traits of being a bell-cow for the Packers and signs were extremely positive as Lacy ran for 1,178 yards with 11TD’s in just 15 games earning Pro-Bowl honours in his rookie season. Lacy took a step forward in 2014 as he played in all 16 games and despite seeing his number of attempts dip improved his average yards per attempt with an average of 4.6 yards and 1,139 yards to go with 9 TDs. Yet Lacy added a new part to his game as he caught 56 balls for 427 yards with 4 TDs. Lacy the weighed in at 235lbs at the start of 2015 and ballooned to the mid-260s (previously 225lbs). If Lacy can get his weight back under control heading into 2016 he could again be a dominant power back for the Packers. He has checked in to training camp at around 240lbs, however, the Packets will hope that he can eventually get this down to 230 otherwise he could be leaving in free agency next offseason.
The Packers also have another option in James Starks who has been a steady contributor during his 6 years in Green Bay. Starks posted his best total last season with 601 yards. Yet Starks is more of a compliment back and would be unable to carry the load alone and is more suited to a back up role. The Packers will hope that both Lacy and Starks can again provide a 1-2 punch, however, they will have to do this without the help of 4x Pro-Bowler Fullback John Kuhn. Kuhn had been a key feature in the backfield as Green Bay was one of the few teams to still utilise the Fullback position as he provided an effective blocker and helped open running lanes for Green Bay’s other backs.
Most will acknowledge that the Packers severely suffered in 2015 after star Receiver Jordy Nelson went down injured in week 2 of the preseason. Nelson is coming of a torn ACL and the Packers will hope that at 31 he will not show any signs of slowing down. Nelson is dangerous after the catch and one of the best route runners in the NFL who is effective outside the numbers and pulling in grabs on the side line. Jordy Nelson is a true no.1 Receiver and thus should draw the attention of opposing teams no.1 corners which should allow their other Wide Receivers Randall Cobb, Devante Adams and Jeff Janis to get open and make plays. The Packers struggled last season and their WR/ TE group ranked as the slowest in the League according to Nextgen statistics.
The Packers made an upgrade at the Tight End position as alongside returning Richard Rodgers, Green Bay will now have the services of Jared Cook. Rodgers posted an impressive sophomore year hauling in 58 receptions for 510 yards but more importantly 8 TDs. Cook has Pro-Bowl potential and could turn into Aaron Rodgers’ no.1 red zone target, as teams will most likely line up either a Linebacker or Safety in coverage. Although Cook does suffer from penalties and mental errors and is prone to dropping passes. Yet, Aaron Rodgers is an elite Quarterback and as such he elevates the play of all those around him. With targets like Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Devante Adams, Jared Cook and Richard Rodgers it is clear that Aaron Rodgers will have plenty of weapons to use. If the Packers can get a 225/230lbs Eddie Lacy then there is no reason why the Packers cannot return to their former form and be one of the Leagues best and highest scoring offences.
The Offensive Line
The Packers have a strong Offensive Line entering 2016 and the biggest question will be availability rather ability. Pro Football Focus ranked Green Bay as the League’s 7th best line (down from 4th at the start of the year) in 2015. Green Bay finished 5th in pass blocking and 17th in run blocking. For the upcoming season PFF have earmarked Green Bay as the Leagues 3rd best unit. The starting line up will most likely be Left Tackle David Bakhtiari; Left Guard Josh Sitton; Center Corey Linsley; Right Guard T. J. Lang; Right Tackle Bryan Bulaga. The Packers line suffered last year as it was hampered by injuries with only one lineman playing all 16 games. Green Bay’s strength is certainly in their two Guards as both T. J. Lang and Josh Sitton were among the six-highest graded guards in 2015. Corey Linsley is an able Center who filled in during his rookie season and has had the starting job ever since. Both Bulaga and Baktiari are big strong Tackles who should be able to bully opposing Defensive Linemen at the point of attack. Bulaga was the Packers 1st round pick in 2010 and was named First-team All-Pro in 2011.
The Packers also drafted Jason Spriggs in the 2nd round of this year’s draft and he is an athletic tackle who is built to bully linemen in the run game and nimble enough with long arms who can deal with quick ends in the pass game. He will provide depth along the Line alongside J. C. Tretter and Lane Taylor. Despite a lack of star power, the Packers have one of the best Offensive Lines in the NFL and it is clear that if they can stay healthy throughout the season then Rodgers should have plenty of time in the pocket and Eddie Lacy should have a decent push upfront to run behind.
To read on where we will preview the Defence, Special Teams, schedule and give you the skinny … click here