Another Lombardi Trophy is on the line this weekend when the Philadelphia Eagles take on the perennial power New England Patriots for the championship. Again, the Packers fell short. In order for the Packers to reclaim the moniker “Titletown USA”, what needs to happen? The following paragraphs will lay out the very things that need to come to fruition for the Green Bay Packers to hoist another trophy and get “one for the thumb.”
- The Packers need to complement a strong aerial assault with a sound running game. The Packers loaded the running backs stable during last year’s draft. Drafting three RB’s definitely showed that the Packers were not exactly happy with the running attack. Jamaal Williams, Aaron Jones and Devante Mays all return for their second year in the green and gold. Will one of these guys step up and take the job? McCarthy isn’t as likely to continue to rotate backs as he likes a workhorse to shoulder the bulk of the load. He typically goes with the hot hand. The talent is there and I really like Jamaal Williams. He’s my bet to rise in year 2 and take the starting role from Ty Montgomery, moving him to a 3rd down role. Ty Montgomery will be a 3rd down mismatch on any given Sunday. He’s far too fast for linebackers to cover and he’s also still a nifty route-runner. Depth is key at almost any position and, fortunately, Green Bay has a chance to really groom the running back position with depth.
- The Packers must add a receiver in either free agency or the draft. The Packers have arguably the slowest wide receiver corps in the entire league. It must infuse some sheer, take the top of the defense speed to its passing game. There is plenty of talent with Adams, Nelson and Cobb, however, it truly misses the speed factor. I wouldn’t sleep on Geronimo Allison and/or Michael Clark either but who can keep defenses honest with a deep threat? This is an issue that must be addressed for next season. A legitimate threat on the outside will open up the underneath routes and middle of the field so much more. Throw in a strong running game and the Packers can get back to throwing the deep ball. This is something that Aaron Rodgers can do with the best of them.
- McCarthy should lose the predictability for favorable down and distance. Green Bay faced 3rd and long far too often in 2017. Most of this was probably due to defenses not respecting Hundley and stacking the box. Early short gains or even losses were commonplace. With Rodgers back, things get a little bit more interesting. McCarthy must be willing to mix up the run-pass options on any given down in order for the Packers to be successful. When McCarthy gets rattled, the run plays go by the wayside and they try to ride the arm of #12. Usually that is a recipe for disaster and McCarthy stands at the podium describing how he would like more offensive balance. It’s time to no longer talk about it, but be about it. Offensive balance on different downs and distance to keep the defense on its heels is a must for 2018. Let’s hope McCarthy is in the same mindset.
- The Packers must get some heat seeking missiles at outside linebacker. It isn’t new to say Clay may have lost a step or Nick Perry cannot seem to stay healthy. These are known facts at this point. The defense must inject some high motor, young legs at the outside linebacker position. This is not to say that Biegel may not turn out to be an effective pro, but there’s room to grow at this position. I look for Green Bay to address this by adding one, if not two, outside edge rushers in free agency or the draft. Getting after the quarterback without bringing extra men is huge! Look no further than the Philadelphia Eagles, for example. They generate pressure with their front four and don’t have to rely on the blitz to get after the quarterback. In the mid-90’s, the Packers were the same although they ran a 4-3 front. Do you remember the days of Reggie White, Santana Dotson, Gilbert Brown and Sean Jones? The Packers brought the heat without bringing extra men. This is key to defensive balance. Being able to keep enough in coverage while making the quarterback uncomfortable is paramount to success.
- The Packers need luck. I know this sounds cliche but the Packers need some luck to get back to the Super Bowl and they need it from different sources. First, they need to hit on some draft picks to come in and make a splash right away. Those draft picks could include an outside linebacker, cornerback and possibly wide receiver. Secondly, they need to find some health. Football is a violent game and injuries are always going to be there but they need to avoid the big ones. Hopefully, the Packers can find a way to turn the tide on their injury bug and have a year with relatively good health. Through the draft and free agency, I believe the new GM will build depth on this roster but it’s best not to have to test it to the level we have the last few years.
In conclusion, these five things must happen in order for the Packers to return to the Super Bowl. Are they likely? Maybe. Maybe not. McCarthy definitely feels the added pressure being given a one year contract extension and coming off a losing season. Times feel dire in Green Bay but with a little luck and a few things to break our way, the Packers may end up playing in a Super Bowl again real soon. As always, Go Pack…
Robert Martin bleeds green and gold despite living in North Dakota, where many cheer for the purple. He is currently a writer for PackersTalk.com. You can follow him on Twitter @robertmartinPHD.