I think it’s fair to say the Packers’ offensive output shocked us all last season. Sure, the optimists among us expected improvement over 2019, but who would have predicted the Pack would be the top scoring team in the league?
The Packers finished last season with the following rankings: 5th in total offensive yards; 9th in passing yards; 8th in rushing yards; and 11th in receiving yards. In 2019, they respectively ranked 18th, 17th, 15th, and 19th. That’s an across-the-board explosion in just one year’s time.
Remember how everyone was predicting Green Bay would be regressing in 2020? That they’d be fighting to make the playoffs? Just a few weeks ago, the same dire warnings were being sounded as the 2021 season was looming. Though we are still in the midst of assembling the 2021 roster, and regardless of how the draft goes at the end of April, Green Bay appears ready to again field a powerhouse offense in the upcoming campaign.
Just think of it. Aaron Rodgers is at the pinnacle of his wondrous career. So is Davante Adams, who just had his best year ever in terms of touchdowns (18), receptions (115), receiving yards per game (98.1), and first downs (74). The returning Aaron Jones just had his best year in terms of rushing yardage (1,104) and rushing yards per game (78.4). Adams and Jones reached their career-highs despite missing two games apiece.
The offensive line of 2020 featured three guys at the top of their games: tackle David Bakhtiari, guard Elgton Jenkins, and center Corey Linsley. Though Bakhtiari is expected to miss the early portion of the year, he’s coming off two first-team All-Pro seasons in the past three years. Jenkins is rock-solid and versatile – he was named a starting Pro Bowler in his second pro season. Though Linsley will not be returning, both Jenkins and Lucas Patrick have shown they can be capable centers. Many think Billy Turner had his best season last year, and he’s signed up in Green Bay through 2022. The O-line will be fine.
Additionally, Lane Taylor should be fully recovered from the knee injury he suffered in the first game of 2020 – he had won the starting job at right guard prior to the injury. Also, Jon Runyan impressed the coaching staff in fill-in roles last season – he’ll be competing for a starting job. Finally, second-year man Yosh Nijman will be coming back after an elbow injury ended his 2020 season, and Simon Stepaniak has great promise to develop due to his strength and physique.
Though Rick Wagner proved to be beatable by quick pass rushers, replacing him should not pose a major challenge. The O-line might not match the talent of last year’s group, but they won’t be far behind it.
At backup running back, I assume Jamaal Williams has departed, but bruising A.J. Dillon is cause for excitement as he enters his second year. Coaches LaFleur and Hackett will have two highly different running styles at their command and, depending on a defense’s players and alignments, should provide many favorable matchups. The Pack’s run game should be the most potent we’ve seen in over a decade.
At wide receiver, even though the unit might get some help via new acquisitions, Davante’s supporting cast comes back enriched by another year of experience with the team and the play book. Marquez Valdes-Scantling (age 26), Allen Lazard (25), Malik Taylor (25), and Equanimeous St. Brown (only 24) are all just about to enter their prime years. All but Taylor are about to begin their fourth year with the organization. Throw in veterans Tyler Ervin (who ended the season on injured reserve) and Tavon Austin, and you’ve got a diverse group that includes size, speed, route-running talent, and big play ability. I’m not really expecting that Devin Funchess will make it onto the roster.
If the Packers indeed retain Robert Tonyan, they will be all set at tight end. If not, they are still deep at the position with Marcedes Lewis, Josiah Deguara, Jace Sternberger, and Dominique Dafney. Deguara was showing promise before going down with an ACL injury in Week 5. I’m eager to see more of Dafney, who has impressive size and athleticism. Sternberger has so far failed to live up to expectations. Lewis might hang on with the team for one more year due to his blocking excellence.
All in all, this unit is blessed with superstars (Rodgers, Adams, Jones, Bakhtiari), emerging stars (Jenkins, Dillon, Tonyan), and a bunch of young guys who now have a number of years under development with the team.
Even without taking into account any additional veteran acquisitions or high draft choices, Green Bay is locked and loaded for another blockbuster offensive campaign. If they happen to acquire an offensive player who is pro-ready in round one or two of the draft, this offensive team should statistically surpass even last season’s surprising production.
Coming soon: the two ways Green Bay can eventually conquer its continuing salary cap demons.