Over the last handful of years, after a number of swings and misses in the NFL draft and an unwillingness to utilize free agency, this Green Bay Packers’ roster was lacking some serious production at key positions.
By 2018 the Packers pass-rush was struggling to consistently get after the quarterback and although the team did finish with a fairly high sack total, that was more of a credit to Mike Pettine’s blitzes than the actual pass-rush. In fact, Green Bay’s two highest-paid edge rushers – Clay Matthews and Nick Perry – would combine for only 43 total pressures and just six sacks.
On the offensive side, Aaron Rodgers was sacked 49 times – and DeShone Kizer took a few hits of his own in week 17 against Detroit – as both guard positions struggled. Justin McCray and Byron Bell just aren’t starting-caliber players at this point in their respective careers and Lane Taylor battled injuries but had his worst season since becoming a starter.
But perhaps the worst of all was the safety position. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was just unreliable and was eventually traded, Jermaine Whitehead was cut, while Kentrell Brice and Josh Jones just flat out couldn’t handle their day-to-day responsibilities.
And oh yea, Mike McCarthy was fired after 13 years in Green Bay.
Needless to say, this was a crucial offseason for the Green Bay Packers and one that needed some serious retooling of the roster and coaching staff. So GM Brian Gutekunst got to work.
The first move that he and President Mark Murphy would make was hiring then Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator, Matt LaFleur. Since taking over he has brought a new offense that has utilized the running back and tight end positions much more and a system that has revitalized Aaron Rodgers. This year’s team is also much looser and by all accounts, they enjoy going to work each day. A lot of the credit for these changes and the early success should be given to LaFleur.
At edge, they would sign free agents Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith who with their play on the field and leadership off of it, have been worth every penny. Compared to Matthews’ and Perry’s pressure and sack totals listed above, the Smiths already have 66 total pressures with 13 sacks and we aren’t even halfway through the season.
At safety, Adrian Amos is about as solid of a football player as you will find and Darnell Savage is an absolute playmaker who flies around the football field. Together, they form one of the best safety duos in the league.
On the offensive line, Gutey solidified the guard positions with free agent Billy Turner and rookie Elgton Jenkins who now complete one of the best offensive line units in the NFL when coupled with David Bakhtiari, Corey Linsley, and Bryan Bulaga.
Now the Green Bay Packers find themselves at 6-1 overall through the first seven weeks as well as 3-0 within the NFC North. And it appears that the biggest reason for this quick turnaround has been the aggressiveness and execution of Brian Gutekunst’s offseason additions.
I know the season isn’t even halfway over yet, but what other general manager has had even close to this successful of an offseason? Gutey is your NFL Executive of the Year.