The Green Bay Packers will find themselves lined up against a number of former teammates in 2017. Which three should fans pay most attention to?
The Packers are known for trying to draft, develop, and retain their own free agents, but even Green Bay can’t hold on to everyone. Contracts expire, players get released, and inevitably many players who once called Lambeau home must suit up in uniforms that aren’t green and gold. Some can “hurt” more than others (a la Brett Favre), while others go without much complaint. As the 2017 season approaches, which friend-turned-foe match ups will be most interesting to watch?
1. Week 1 vs Seahawks: Packers D vs. Eddie Lacy
The most interesting match up against a former Packer comes in the season opener, as Green Bay’s defense will be tasked with slowing down Lacy. The 2013 Offensive Rookie of the Year developed into a fan favorite while in Green Bay, running with unmatched energy en route to scoring 24 total touchdowns over his first two seasons with the Packers. However, the bruising runner battled injuries and weight issues over the remainder of his rookie contract, which factored heavily into Green Bay’s decision to let Lacy depart in free agency.
Despite an overall disappointing 2016 campaign from Green Bay’s defense, they did perform well against the run. The Packers posted the 8th-best rush defense in an otherwise forgettable season. While Lacy has not officially earned the starting role in Seattle, he’ll definitely be a factor in the Week 1 match up. Toss in the facts that Lacy did endear himself to Packer fans and that the Seahawks have been one of Green Bay’s primary rivals in recent years, and it’s easy to see why facing Lacy is the team’s most intriguing match up against a former teammate.
2. Weeks 9 & 17 vs Lions: Interior d-linemen vs T.J. Lang; secondary vs. Jared Abbrederis
While bringing back Lacy on a short, cheap deal seemed plausible, perhaps the most painful free agent loss came in the form of offensive guard T.J. Lang. Coming off his first Pro Bowl selection, Lang solidified the interior of one of the NFL’s premier pass blocking offensive lines. But the Packers failed to extend him, and Lang signed with the division-rival Lions. Green Bay will face Lang twice, and if his performances over eight years with the Packers are any indication, getting pressure on Matthew Stafford could be difficult for the team’s interior defensive line.
On a lesser scale, fans will also be intrigued with the matchup against Abbrederis. He never really found a place in Green Bay, constantly fighting through injuries and failing to compete with a roster loaded with talent at the position. He should have a better chance of making Detroit’s roster, and while his contributions to the Packers won’t be missed, it is again his place as a former fan favorite that would make Abbrederis succeeding against Green Bay hurt.
3. Week 15 @ Panthers: Offensive line vs. Julius Peppers
The Packers tend to protect Aaron Rodgers well, and the biggest test against a former teammate in 2017 will be against Peppers. While the 16th year pro only spent three seasons in Green Bay, he performed as an effective pass rusher in a somewhat limited role. Carolina will likely continue that trend, keeping Peppers fresh for pure rushing situations. The Packers saw their fair share of Peppers during his time with the Chicago Bears, but things will seem a little different now that he’s also donned the green and gold. The offensive line will look to continue its effective pass protection against one of the top sack masters of the past two decades.——————
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 .