Putting it lightly, the 2018 Green Bay Packers left a lot to be desired. Injuries took their toll, as seems to so often be the case, exposing lack of depth at key positions. Head-scratching coaching decisions and personnel usage were pervasive all season. Special teams blunders robbed the teams of so many tantalizingly close games. Of course, the cherry on top of the poop sundae that was the 2018 Packers’ season was Aaron Rodgers sustaining a brutal injury in the first game of the year.
Thankfully, 2019 is a clean slate. The Packers are currently tied with all 31 other teams, and the offseason is a time for new beginnings and hype. The Packers came out swinging this offseason, obtaining a new head coach, splurging in free agency, and drafting a promising group of young players. Ideally, the roster holes that plagued the Packers like the chosen of Nurgle should be filled, and the roster should be in much better shape.
It’ll be a few months before we see if the roster can live up to the offseason hype, but, on paper, what are the strengths of the Green Bay Packers’ roster going into the 2019 season?
Offensive line depth
Right guard was arguably the most glaring deficiency on the roster in 2018, and as injuries occurred it was obvious the offensive line depth on the whole was lacking. Thankfully, Gutekunst went into overdrive adding to the unit, paying big money to versatile Billy Turner (who Rodger’s is excited about) and spending an early draft pick on Elgton Jenkins. Cole Madison’s return adds another promising young player to the rotation. All three of these players have the potential to play multiple positions, putting less pressure on players further down the depth chart.
David Bakhtiari is the best in the business, Corey Linsley is criminally underrated, and for all the “bRyaN BuLAgA nEvEr PlaYs!!1!” memes, he’s one of the best pass blocking right tackles in the game. Lane Taylor, last year notwithstanding, is a solid player. With guard shored up and more reliable depth, the line should be a strength, and Rodgers shouldn’t fear for his life.
Run game potential
A better offensive line is going to improve the run game as well. Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams showed up to camp in excellent shape. Sixth-round pick Dexter Williams blends the strengths of Jones and Williams and has been reported to be an ideal fit in Matt LaFleur’s offense. LaFleur has stated on multiple occasions his intent to run a balanced offense and prioritize the run game to make life easier for Rodgers. Expect more two-back sets and to see each back’s skills utilized.
In addition, fullback Danny Vitale is built like a hero straight from a Greek myth and should surprise fans. LaFleur’s contemporary Kyle Shanahan leaned heavily on fullback Kyle Juszczyk in San Francisco with impressive results.
That’s right, the bane of the Packers’ defense the last few seasons should be a strength in 2019. The Packers swapped out Clay Matthews and Nick Perry for Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith and drafted Rashan Gary with their first pick. The Smiths bring youth and health to a unit that desperately needed it. Gary is a freak athlete, and his coaches are enamored with his potential. Za’Darius and Gary can play inside as well, giving Pettine more chess pieces to move around and exploit matchups.
This should snowball and make life easier for the interior rush as well. With the Smiths, Gary, and Fackrell coming off the edge like dreadnoughts, Mike Daniels, Dean Lowry, and our hero Kenny Clark can take advantage of the chaos and disrupt from inside. Pettine has the group of big, athletic men his defenses thrive on, and he’s going to give opposing quarterbacks nightmares.
Next week, we’ll look at the units with bigger questions and see what positions could be weaknesses.Matt Hendershott is a Packers fan and Miller High Life enthusiast from Northwest Ohio. He has a Master of Arts in Media and Communication from Bowling Green State University. You can follow him on Twitter @MattHendershott.