An MVP quarterback. A deep receiver group. Quality running backs. An All-Pro cornerback. This Packer team has some special pieces. Whether the final 53 and practice squad can excel will require the following questions to be answered with positive plays on Lambeau Field.
Can the Packers field dominant Special Team coverage units? We are only two games into the 2021 Preseason and already discussing ST coverage problems has become redundant. The sick feeling gut has become a bleeding ulcer, a potentially deadly condition that can literally erase the accomplishments of the offense, as demonstrated so incompetently by the Packers Saturday. A deeper question is how do the Packers fix their Special Teams? LaFleur decided to stay in house, tapping assistant coach Maurice Drayton. Drayton has 20 years of coaching experience, most of it coming at the college level at The Citadel. If Drayton has the answers, now is the time to see them on the field. While Mason Crosby has been an above average kicker, his kickoffs can lead to return opportunities for opponents. J. K. Scott needs to establish consistency. While the team brought in competition for both, it was short lived.
Can the defense improve while learning a new system? The Packers defense has some players that can make plays. While Kevin King gets most of the blame for secondary blunders in the NFC Championship, the defense was also let down by their scheme and linebacker play. Gutekunst played his same stale hand with linebacker acquisition. Low end FA added to a late round draft pick. Will it work in 2021? De’Vondre Campbell seems to be both a run and coverage improvement so there is potential. The new scheme should be an interesting debate topic as the season progresses.
Can some of the young players step up and play significant minutes? So far in preseason, the offensive line has a concerning question at guard. Young players Jon Runyan, Ben Braden, and Lucas Patrick all need to improve. Josh Meyers has potential, but is not the Pro Bowl center he is replacing. Bakhtiari needs time to recover from his injury. Can Deguara stay healthy and ascend? Will Krys Barnes improve? Can T.J. Slaton give us quality minutes on the defensive line? If Slaton can step in and play well what a difference that could make for the Packer defense. The Packers improvement took a good step against the Jets. Their weaknesses were exposed and some young players stepped up. Nice performances by Malik Taylor and Reggie Begelton. A sack by Slaton. A pass break up by Stokes and a third and one TFL by Krys Barnes. If special plays can turn into consistency, there is hope for this Packer 2021 team. The next challenge comes in Buffalo on Saturday. The Bills are a quality team with a now seasoned QB. This is a test the Packers need to pass.