This season is a vital one for the Green Bay Packers, who once again fell short in the playoff last season after looking like Super Bowl winners throughout the regular season.
The manner of their eventual 13-10 defeat to the San Francisco 49ers was also hugely disappointing. Although their special teams had a nightmare of a game, the Packers’ defense was immense and they had the much better quarterback in Aaron Rodgers.
Recording back-to-back seasons of 13-wins is an impressive achievement but it isn’t the prize that they want. It has now been twelve years since they last won the Super Bowl, and if they are to end that run in 202223, they will have to do it without Davante Adams, who was traded to the Las Vegas Raiders.
But while the loss of Adams has inevitably hit the Packers’ odds on the Kansas sports betting sites, Packers fans will also be concerned at the recent injuries to defensive player Vernon Scott, which comes just as coach Matt LaFleur is putting together his final 53-man squad.
Challenge for LaFleur
Now entering his fourth season with the Green Bay Packers, LaFleur is rated as among the NFL’s best young coaches. His innovative offensive scheme is being led by the four-time NFL MVP, Rodgers, who at the age of 38, is not showing any signs of decline, and who has finally committed to the Packers after a year of speculation and controversy.
The business of creating that squad obviously involves settling on the best 53 players, at least in theory. However, there are complications, as talent is not always equally spread through all the positions, and, as we have seen, last-minute injuries can play a major role in decision making.
The good news for the Packers, in the safety department, is that both Innis Gaines and Tariq Carpenter have been back in training this week. There is optimism too with Darnell Savage, who is still recovering from injury but could be available for selection in Week One. But Scott’s injury has upset the Packers’ plans and will mean some major reshuffling of the roster.
It is hard not to feel for Scott. A seventh-round pick from 2020, he played only three games last season, but it seemed as though he could have a significant role to play this season. He had been practicing regularly with the second-team defense and had filled in for Darnell Savage, who suffered an injury to his hamstring in the Family Night scrimmage. And with Gaines, Leavitt, and Carpenter suffering their own injury problems, there was a big chance for Scott to stake a regular claim on a place in the team.
This opportunity presents itself with the Packers because of their defensive schemes, which, if they are similar to last season’s, include a third safety as a legitimate factor. Last season, Henry Black, who was third on the depth chart behind Savage and Adrian Amos, played on 25 percent of the Packers’ defensive snaps. So, the nasty shoulder injury that Scott sustained in a practice game could not have come at a worse time for the young defensive players.
Initially, the Packers had the option to put Scott on the starting roster, then add him to IR, which would have given them the chance to bring him back at some point this season. That would have meant going with four or five safeties on the roster, which means at least one roster spot would have been taken from another position. It would have meant that with Scott on the IR, they could have brought in another player from the practice squad.
In the end, however, they chose to go a different route and waived Scott. As there were no takers, he will be on the IR but is likely to strike an injury settlement with the franchise and then be released. As long as his injury is not considered a long-term one, he should have little difficulty finding another franchise.
Although Packers fans have understandably been focused on replacing Adams and on changes to their offense, LaFleur will be aware that the defense was a big strength for the Packers last season, and he won’t want to risk that defensive resilience.
In some areas, the Packers’ defense is even stronger this season. Kenny Clark is one of the best in the league at nose tackle, and now he will be supported by Jarran Reed and first-round pick Devonte Wyatt. But the loss of Za’Darius Smith means that Preston Smith and Rashan Gary will have to be both effective and durable as edge-rushers due to the lack of depth in the roster in that position.
Inside linebacker De’Vondre Campbell had an excellent season last time around and has been rewarded with a $50 million contract. His partnership with first-round pick Quay Walker gives the Packers a top-level inside linebacker pairing for the first time since they moved to the 34 defense.
Defensively, there is a lot for LaFleur to juggle with. Replacing Scott, who still had plenty of upsides, was not something he expected to be doing, but it presents a genuine challenge to his ingenuity ahead of the announcement of the 53-man roster.