2017-2018 Green Bay Packers Outlook
“A championship team is strongest up the middle”. This phrase is most often associated with baseball; but for the Green Bay Packers and their fans, this adage has shown itself to be all too true throughout recent playoff failures. Images and memories of Larry Fitzgerald, Julio Jones, and others running free up the middle of the field have been the poison pill in recent Packer playoff runs. This has caused Packer fans to remember heart breaking playoff defeats rather than the magical Super Bowl forty-five run in 2010.
Throughout the grueling setbacks in recent years, the Packers appeared to have learned from their post season struggles. Over the past three years, the Packers have started retooling the team to assert its dominance in the middle of the field on offense and fortify the middle of the field on defense.
The Greatest Show on Earth?
The Packers began the retooling process by adding more versatility and depth to the offensive side of the football. This year’s offseason agenda started with replacing TJ Lang with a more economical option in former all pro guard Jahri Evans. Evans, who has a championship pedigree from his days in New Orleans, has started 169 games out of a possible 176 games throughout his eleven-year career. Evans will solidify an already deep, versatile, experienced, and talented offensive line whose main charge is to protect Aaron Rodgers and his passing pocket. In addition to protecting Rodgers, this solidified line will hold opposing defensive lines at bay by opening up seems in the middle of the field for the running and screen game.
Another pair of welcomed acquisitions on the offensive side of the ball is the tight end tandem of Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks. Both Bennett and Kendricks are tall, athletic and versatile targets that will stretch the middle of the field and present matchup advantages for themselves as well as others. They can create many different personnel groupings including a hybrid two tight end set or could see time split out wide or in the slot. This will draw the attention of the opposing line backer position creating both a match up night mare in man to man coverage while opening up the various slant and “Sluggo” (slant and go) opportunities which will give opposing defenses more than they can handle.
The Defensive Renaissance:
On the defensive side of the ball, the Packers have implored a rebuild and retool approach over the last three seasons. They started this process by drafting many early to mid round secondary, line backing, and defensive line talent. The first fruits of this labor were seen last season with the improvement in the run defense from the stability and leadership of Mike Daniels and the emergence of Kenny Clark, Jake Ryan, Blake Martinez, Kyler Fackrell, and Dean Lowry. The Packers have continued to fortify their front seven by adding depth with the signing of Ricky Jean-Francois and the drafting of Montravius Adams who when healthy could show glimpses of dominance in one on one situations. With the continued development of the returning members of the front seven, along with the new acquisitions and picks of the 2017 draft class, the Packers hope that their run defense will continue to take major strides of improvement over the 2017-2018 season.
At the end of the day, the road to a Super Bowl championship will either be fueled by the Packers secondary or derailed by the Packers secondary. This offseason, the Packers have attempted to stop opposing offenses from going through their much-maligned secondary. They hope to achieve some stability through the shrewd signing of Devon House as well as a series of draft picks, headlined by Josh Jones, who has shown a world of potential during the offseason programs. Jones possesses a strong presence for the ball and a versatility to cover multiple positions in some of Dom Capers more hybrid packages on defense. One of Jones’s biggest assets is his ability to protect the middle of the field with his hard hitting, big play ability. A tandem of skilled big hitting safeties like Jones and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix would be a welcome sight to Packer fans in certain passing situations where a big play is needed.
These moves added depth to the roster as well as creating an environment of competition for playing time once the season gets underway.
Reason for Optimism:
With the infusion of young talent over the past few seasons, coupled with the additions of proven pro bowl veteran players, Ted Thompson and the rest of the Green Bay Packers front office staff, has constructed yet another super bowl window of opportunity for the franchise. The reopening of this super bowl window is greatly due to the offensive and defensive stabilization of the middle of the field. Hopefully, this continued improvement and development of the young players will allow members of both sides of the football, the ability to emerge as impact players during this upcoming season. If this team can form a cohesive unit throughout the season there will be tremendous optimism and belief that the Vince Lombardi trophy will be brought back home to Title Town USA.
1. The offense averages over 32 points per game.
2. Aaron Rodgers wins NFL MVP and is selected first team all pro.
3. Kenny Clark takes another leap forward and makes the pro bowl.
4. The Packers go 12-4 and capture the NFC North.
5. The Packers have two 100 catch 10 touchdown players on offense this year.——————
David Michalski is a recent college graduate from Princeton New Jersey who has been a life long Green Bay Packers fan. Like the great Vince Lombardi, he values God, family, and the Green Bay Packers in that order. You can follow him on twitter at @kilbas27dave