The 2017 Green Bay Packers’ season came crashing down as soon as Aaron Rodgers shoulder hit the turf at US Citibank Stadium in Minneapolis. Hundley did what he could to help fill the void of arguably the greatest quarterback this league has seen. We all know it wasn’t enough. The Packers finished 7-9 and missed the playoffs for the first time in 9 seasons. With the winds of change that have hit Green Bay since the end of the season, there is reason for hope in 2018. For starters, the GOAT is back! In addition, there are some players that I feel are going to come in salivating at the mouth to show the world what they’re about. Let’s take a look at a few of those players who may see significant time and make contributions unlike what they have so far in their career. I believe there are a few.
#27 Josh Jones (Safety) – With the absence of Morgan Burnett, someone needs to step up in his place. I believe this person will most definitely be Josh Jones. Sometimes we can forget from one year to the next what was the likelihood of a lack of production, whether it be injury, scheme or something entirely different. In Jones case, he was asked to do too much too soon. The game for rookies is extremely fast. Throw in the fact that Capers had Jones basically playing at the line of scrimmage in a hybrid secondary/linebacker role in one game and then deep in coverage the next. This is asking a ton out of a player just getting his toes wet in the NFL. This year, I expect Pettine to utilize Jones’ unique skill set to maximize his production. His best game was against Cincinnati where he picked up a couple sacks and some other key plays. Jones has had a full year and now an offseason to get ready for an expanded role and I look at him like a caged dog. It’s time to unleash the beast.
#45 Vince Biegel (Linebacker) – Biegel was another injured rookie for the Packers who missed most of training camp. He eventually saw the field at the end of the season and showed improvement from one game to the next. Biegel is a high motor player who the Packers believe will amp up the pass rush in 2018. He is a homegrown talent growing up in Wisconsin and playing for the beloved Badgers. Watch him take the next step in adding to the pass rush arsenal alongside Matthews, Perry and whoever we pull from the draft. Biegel didn’t show out much in 2017 but he was also dealing with a leg injury. Pass rushers need who experience leg injuries typically do not produce, plain and simple. Biegel’s rookie season was a complete wash and he has to be out for blood in 2018 looking to prove his worth. Since he played next to TJ Watt, Biegel didn’t receive the same type of publicity but when you put on the tape, you can see that he was around the ball almost as much as Watt was. He is a talented player that needs a full offseason in order to start reaching that high ceiling.
#29 Kentrell Brice (Safety) – Kentrell Brice will compete with Josh Jones for the starting safety spot next to Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Brice is a smooth athlete who brings some nasty pop with his hits and gives receivers cause for concern when they come into his area. The Packers have sorely lacked that fierceness in recent memory and Brice may bring it back. While he’s no Chuck Cecil, he definitely will bring the wood. Look for Brice to eventually win the job and Jones will be put in places that fit his particular skill set and that’s close to the line of scrimmage. While Kentrell isn’t a household name now, this is the year he starts to build upon his legacy.
#90 Montravius Adams (Defensive Tackle) – Adams missed the entire training camp due to injury in 2017. With rookies, training camp and OTAs are especially important. Missing that much time hindered his development but there is no questioning his talent. Hopefully, Adams looks at his rookie season and realizes it was a complete wash. He may come back with a vengeance this year. Adding some quality depth to a very impressive defensive line will help the Packers defense immensely. I can’t see Adams taking a starting role in 2018 but we all may rethink that in a couple years down the road. He has some excellent mentors on the defensive line with Mike Daniels and now Muhammad Wilkerson. Partner him with a very young Kenny Clark and you have a serious chance for a dominant D-Line for years to come.
As you can see, the cupboard may feel bare at times but Pettine will go into his bag of tricks and motivate these youngsters to make their mark. I think each one of the names I mentioned will have significant leaps in both playing time and production. This can only help the Packers defense be better than they have been. It appears that the Packers want to go with young, hungry players and that might not be such a bad thing. With Pettine’s record of putting out top 10 defenses and a core group of young, hungry players, this might be the year that the defense carries its own weight. We know what we have on the offensive side of the football, just imagine what the team would look like if we got back to the turnover-producing, gang-tackling, all hats to the ball mentality like we did back in the day? I see potential here that many are not. Now is not the time to throw the hands up in disgust, it’s time to analyze who may take those leaps in production. As always, Go Pack Go.
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.