The Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs had a lot in common this year: they had the two best offenses in the NFL, both starting quarterbacks are State Farm boys, and both teams lost their starting left tackles before the Buccaneers came to town. Despite the Packers and Chiefs dominating offensively all season, defense once again won a championship as Todd Bowles unit stopped both teams.
It’s easy to overreact and want to draft to counter the Super Bowl-winning team. The 49ers literally ran all over Green Bay in 2019, but they didn’t even make the playoffs in 2019. But Green Bay has a history of losing to physical defenses beyond just that of the Buccaneers. Football is a game won in the trenches, and the Packers need to reinforce theirs.
The Packers’ offensive line was remarkable this year, shuffling multiple players around as warriors were lost to injury. Yet it’s no coincidence the unit’s two worst games came against Tampa Bay, an aggressive, physical defense with an elite front seven. In 2019, the unit struggled to block elite pass rushers like the Bosa brothers. It’s time to find the right tackle of the future.
While cornerback is probably the Packers’ biggest need this offseason, offensive tackle is up there. Billy Turner was a boon to this Packers team as he played wherever asked, and he looked more comfortable in LaFleur’s offense in year two. Rick Wagner was a bargain and did an admirable job when called upon. Both of these players exceeded overall expectations but both struggled heavily against the Tampa pass rush.
Losing David Bakhtiari right before the playoffs was a calamity of course. A team can’t just replicate the snaps of the best left tackle in the game. But Bakhtiari needs a long-term parallel partner on the right side of the line. Having a dedicated right tackle will go a long way to strengthening the already extraordinary line to new heights.
The Packers generally invest in the offensive line often. 2019 brought Elgton Jenkins, a versatile star. In 2020, Gutekunst spent three Day 3 picks on interior offensive linemen, and Jon Runyan looks like he could be a future starter. For 2021, it’s time to focus on the tackles.
Meanwhile, in the defensive trenches, we saw Kenny Clark be Kenny Clark and some flashes from Montravius Adams and Kingsley Keke, but little else. There is a high chance Dean Lowry is a cap casualty this offseason. Snacks finally came to Green Bay, yet hardly played. The overall group did better than expected but hasn’t done enough to help the Packers win big games.
Despite the ascension of Rashan Gary, the Packers pass rush regressed in 2020, and a big part of that is subpar defensive line play. Tom Brady was sacked just once in two games against Green Bay because the pass rush struggled to get home.
Some new blood on the defensive line is a must, and it wouldn’t hurt to invest in some nice edge either. The Packers have a bona fide elite cornerback in Jaire Alexander and a dynamic duo of safeties. Win in the trenches and their lives get much easier.
Matt LaFleur, the winningest head coach of all time, hasn’t lost many games, but the ones he has have been decided in the trenches. Bolstering the offensive and defensive lines are key to getting over that deep-playoff hump.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.