The Green Bay Packers may have fallen short of a Super Bowl, but they still had an impressive, entertaining run to the NFC Championship Game.
That being said, certain aspects of the team certainly emerged as more problematic in the 2016 season. The offense struggled early, but its bounce back played a major role in Green Bay even making the playoffs. The defense, on the other hand, had more bad moments than good.
While those units’ respective performances as a whole ultimately shaped the team’s season, the play of certain individuals left a lot to be desired. But one bad season does not necessarily spell the end for an entire career. Just look at Davante Adams’ rebound from a terrible 2015 season to an outstanding 2016 campaign. So which Packers look primed to improve the most from 2016 to 2017?
An obvious candidate to bounce back is Randall, the Packers’ 2015 first round selection. He looked promising in his rookie year, routinely making plays on the ball in big spots. It looked like Green Bay’s secondary had a new cornerback who could make up for the losses of Tramon Williams and Charles Woodson.
But 2016 was a disaster for Randall. Opposing quarterbacks picked on him, burning him on what seemed like any type of route. To his credit, Randall battled injuries throughout the year and toughed them out just to be on the field. That likely impacted his performance in coverage, but doesn’t fully bail him out. It’s too soon to give up on someone the Packers felt warranted a first round pick. With another offseason of development and a (hopefully) injury-free season, Randall looks like the most likely candidate to have an Adams-esque turnaround.
Matthews placement on this list is interesting because his performance in 2016 was almost certainly due to a nagging shoulder injury. When he’s on, he’s on, and had developed into the face of the Green Bay defense. But last season, he registered just five sacks and struggled in pass rushing where he is normally one of the best in the business.
Like Randall, getting healthy seems to be the biggest factor in Matthews’ 2017 rebound. His injury history throughout his career is concerning, but will have to be something the Packers simply deal with. With Peppers’ likely departure and uncertainty surrounding Nick Perry, Matthews could still struggle with no help opposite him. But Matthews should enjoy a much improved year over an all around disappointing 2016 season.
Statistically, Cobb’s 2016 performance was nothing more than average. He finished with just over 600 yards and 4 touchdowns. While not terrible, Green Bay hoped he would be a bigger factor in the passing game. He entered the season as the perceived number two receiver, but was outplayed in every way by Davante Adams. Cobb’s skill set remains a valuable part of the Packers’ offensive scheme, but he needs to be more productive–especially given the fact that he’s Green Bay highest-paid receiver. His 10.2 yards per catch last season were a career low. The Packers look to have a more potent passing attack in 2017, which should give Cobb an excellent opportunity to thrive out of the slot.
Obviously it is yet to be seen whether Lacy will even be a Packer next season. However, early indications seem to point at the former second round pick remaining in Green Bay on a short, inexpensive contract. If that happens, Lacy could have the most profound turnaround in that he would be overcoming two straight years of ineffectiveness.
His 2016 season was derailed after a season-ending ankle injury in Week 6, but weight issues in 2015 marred that year as well. For a time, he even lost his job to James Starks. He plays with a lot of heart and developed into a fan-favorite with the Packers. If he comes back and reclaims the role of feature back, Lacy could have the opportunity to reestablish his value and become an important weapon on the team.
Rollins, like Randall, looked to be one of the cornerstones of a young secondary. The Packers drafted the two young cornerbacks with their first two picks in 2015, both of whom looked talented and loaded with potential after their rookie years. But like Randall, Rollins struggled immensely in his second year. He allowed the lowest opposing passer rating in all of football in 2015, but was routinely exploited in year two. Again, he is too young to give up on after one rough season. The lack of established depth at CB will allow Rollins to compete for a prominent role in the secondary, giving him a chance to bounce back and prove that his 2016 struggles were a fluke.——————
Sean Blashe is a Packers fan who grew up in Bears territory and is currently a journalism and history major at Marquette University. Sean is a writer with PackersTalk.com and you can follow him on twitter at @SeanBlashe .