The Green Bay Packers have won 13 regular-season games in three straight seasons and have both the back-to-back NFL MVP and one of the most talented defenses in football, but at least one former-executive-turned analyst doesn’t think Matt LaFleur’s team is one of the most well-rounded in the NFL entering 2022.
Marc Ross of NFL.com, who spent over a decade in the New York Giants organization, listed his top five “most complete teams” and even included three honorable mentions, but the Packers didn’t make either list. Ross prefaced the list by saying he was searching rosters for the “NFL’s best from top to bottom.”
Who made the cut? The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Los Angeles Chargers, Buffalo Bills, Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos. The three honorable mentions were the Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns and Los Angeles Rams.
The point of this isn’t to attack Ross, who was simply stating his opinion, and more to understand why the Packers wouldn’t be considered “complete” to an outsider and provide a counter-argument in favor of the Packers.
First, let’s address the most likely reasons for why.
The Packers did lose Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling, considerably weakening the team’s wide receiver position and passing game overall. The team also has players returning from significant injuries at tight end (Robert Tonyan), left tackle (David Bakhtiari), offensive line (Elgton Jenkins) and cornerback (Jaire Alexander). The Packers also lost other key players, including Za’Darius Smith, Billy Turner and Lucas Patrick, so there was clearly some talent drain from LaFleur’s team this offseason. Weapons in the passing game and the offensive line will be in the spotlight all season long in Green Bay. On defense, the Packers lack depth beyond the starters at edge rusher, cornerback and safety. Staying healthy will be vital. The special teams, a disaster for this team for the last decade or more, must be considered a major weakness until proven otherwise. The recurring problems of the third unit played a big role in the Packers’ season ending early in January.
Still, there’s a lot to like about LaFleur’s team from an all-around point of view entering 2022.
Aaron Rodgers returns after winning NFL MVP in 2020 and 2021. Running backs Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon both went over 1,000 total yards last season. The offensive line should get back Bakhtiari at left tackle, and if Bakhtiari and Jenkins can both return and handle the bookends of the offensive line, the group has an opportunity to be one of the league’s best.
The defense is stacked with talent and potential. Seven first-round picks could be starters for Joe Barry in 2022. The defensive line added veteran Jarran Reed and first-round pick Devonte Wyatt. All-Pro De’Vondre Campbell will welcome first-round pick Quay Walker at linebacker. Rashan Gary and Preston Smith should be a highly productive edge-rushing duo. Jaire Alexander, Eric Stokes and Rasul Douglas have a chance to be the NFL’s best cornerback trio. Safeties Darnell Savage and Adrian Amos are going into Year 4 together at the backend. Depth could be an issue at some spots, but the starting 11 for the Packers on defense could be as good as any in the NFL.
Even the special teams has an arrow pointing in the right direction after hiring long-time coordinator Rich Bisaccia. He brings instant credibility. If nothing else, the Packers special teams will be better coached and likely more disciplined in 2022. Veteran punter Pat O’Donnell should punt more consistently in the cold and be a far better holder for Mason Crosby, potentially eliminating some of the issues in the kicking game.
There are legitimate reasons to doubt the Packers entering this season, particularly in terms of the talent at wide receiver, the depth at key spots on defense and the quality of the special teams overall, but this could also end up being the most well-balanced team of the LaFleur era by season’s end, especially if LaFleur and Rodgers can mitigate some of the likely regression in the passing game, the defense takes as big of a step as is possible with the amount of talent available and the special teams, which ranked dead last in 2021, begins crawling out of the league’s basement with Bisaccia in charge.
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