After focusing five of their eight draft picks in the 2019 NFL Draft on the defensive side of the ball, the Green Bay Packers committed to what has consistently been their MO for the past few draft classes: upgrade and improve the defense so Aaron Rodgers does not have to do it all himself.
By having new chess pieces for defensive coordinator Mike Pettine to throw into the mix, the Packers can hopefully now bridge that gap between the offensive and defensive units, making them both equal priorities even though one received more attention during the draft.
Through the additions of the three offensive players, offensive lineman Elgton Jenkins, tight end Jace Sternberger and running back Dexter Williams, providing Rodgers with someone to keep him upright and two weapons to integrate into the game plan was also a key coming into the draft. Even with there being a lack of selections for the wide receiver group, this attention that Brian Gutekunst and his scouts put on the offense should not go unnoticed.
Rodgers, who has received outspoken criticism for the lack of upgrades that the front office has made on the offensive side of the ball, now has a few more toys to integrate with Matt LaFleur. With that in mind, the number of reasons that he may be able to use for why the team is not winning will decrease.
The crutch for his team, throughout Rodgers’ career, was always about how the defense was a step or two behind the offense, mostly because the defense did not have one of the best players in NFL history leading it. While a bit unfair to assimilate those facets, it is fair to think that they should have never been put on the same playing field.
At the same time, however, with having Rodgers leading the offense then that side of the ball should require fewer weapons because of how good Rodgers is, a part of the argument that is rarely brought up. Nonetheless, with the upgrades that were made during the offseason and the draft on defense, Rodgers has less wiggle room to get away from why this team has been very unsuccessful lately.
While the free agent acquisitions are proven players who should immediately make differences in the defense, the potential of the rookies will make or break this team in 2019, which also will determine how successful Rodgers is as well. If the rookies are able to make worthwhile differences in how they’re schemed and take the pressure of the veterans, then that unit will be more well balanced and should reap better results.
If the rookies hit a big-time learning curve and are unable to contribute as much as they are asked to, then this defense, outside of the free agents, will not see a ton of improvements and 2019 could be 2018 lite.
The pressure on Rodgers to perform is key, as he seems to function better when the lights are the brightest. While the defense
may be will be a bit rusty at times, the hope is that overall it will be a much better unit in 2019, helping Rodgers become more successful in leading this team back to the playoffs yet again.
Mike Johrendt has been an avid fan of the Packers ever since he can remember. He is now a writer at PackersTalk and you can follow him on Twitter at @MJohrendt23