Fresh off a disastrous six-win season last year, the Green Bay Packers have set themselves up to be one of the most dangerous squads in the league in 2019.
The big picture: Second-year general manager Brian Gutekunst has made bold moves, both last year and this offseason, that should pay immediate dividends for the team this season.
Key cogs: Last year’s draft brought the Packers a wealth of young talent that contributed right away.
- First-round cornerback Jaire Alexander is one of the most promising young defensive backs in the game today.
- Second-round cornerback Josh Jackson appeared in all 16 games as a rookie, starting 10.
- Receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling hauled in 38 passes for 581 yards and two touchdowns.
- Receiver Equanimeous St. Brown caught 21 passes for 328 yards.
- Linebacker Oren Burks was a key special-teams player.
The Packers obviously would have been much better record-wise last year if Aaron Rodgers had been healthy. Though he was frustrated at times with his young receivers, the talent is clearly there to give him a nice arsenal going forward.
Adding impact players: This year’s free-agency spending spree is really what gets us excited about what the Packers can do going forward. Assuming Rodgers stays healthy, Green Bay will now have both a potent offense and downright scary defense.
Gutekunst added some outstanding talent to the defensive side of the ball in March:
- Outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith is coming into his own and had 8.5 sacks last season in Baltimore.
- Outside linebacker Preston Smith is a do-it-all star who is great against the run and who has tallied 24.5 sacks the past four years.
- Safety Adrian Amos is an outstanding cover man who also plays the run tough. He is an immediate upgrade on the back end.
- Guard Billy Turner gives Green Bay’s offensive line a much-needed boost inside. He’ll help protect Aaron Rodgers and give the Packers a more consistent run game.
Loaded for the draft: Thanks to the trade last year with New Orleans, Gutekunst has two first-round picks to work with, and a grand total of 10 picks in the 2019 NFL Draft.
- Because the Packers have quarterback nailed down, and because they’ve been aggressive in free agency to fill needs, they really can go best player available all the way.
- Additionally, with two first-round picks, Gutekunst can be extremely aggressive trading up if he has his eyes on a top-5 or top-10 player this year.
A fresh face: Last year (and even before that), it was clear that Rodgers and other key veterans in Green Bay were growing weary of Mike McCarthy’s message.
Now, Green Bay has a young head coach in Matt LaFleur who will bring a fresh approach to the offense and energize the franchise.
The bottom line: After going through two straight losing seasons, not only should the Packers be better in 2019, but they should be one of the most formidable teams in the league.
Obviously it all hinges on whether Rodgers stays healthy. Assuming he does, the Packers have the talent on offense and defense already to make a strong run at the championship. Adding another blue-chip talent or two atop the draft is just icing on the cake.