Defense and Run Game: The Identity of the 2022 Packers

Had the Packers had it their way, Davante Adams’ services would still be in Green Bay. The front office did what it could, by offering their former star WR a mega-sized extension that would’ve put more money in his pockets than Vegas did. Alas, Davante still chose the Raiders, leaving a canyon sized hole in the Packers receiving room. Couple up with the reality that Marquez Valdes-Scantling is now a Kansas City Chief, Green Bay took a massive blow on offense and has franchise altering decisions ahead of them in their near future.

The 2011 Packers boasted Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, Randall Cobb, James Jones and Jordy Nelson as their receivers. Those days are well in the rearview. 11 years later, it’s Allen Lazard, still Randall Cobb, Amari Rodgers and Juwann Winfree who make up the group, quite the contrast.

When it’s time to put on the pads in Week 1, the current receiving core will look a little different than it presently does. How Green Bay chooses to address that remains to be seen. However, make no mistake about it, the expectations for the Packers in 2022 still remain Super Bowl high, despite the losses of Adams, MVS, Billy Turner and Za’Darius Smith. With the return of reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers and several key pieces on a good defense, this isn’t a rebuild but rather a reshaping of who the Packers will be, not just in 2022 but also the next few seasons.

Defense

The 2021 Packers were, for the most part, a solid defensive team. If you exclude a four game rough patch against the Vikings, Rams, Bears and Ravens late in the season, the Packers defense allowed under 17 points per game, including playoffs. If you take the whole season into account, they allowed under 21 points per game, still respectable.

Packers fans should feel good about their defense heading into 2022. Newly acquired defensive lineman Jarran Reed from the Kansas City Chiefs is a good player that will provide much needed help to Kenny Clark. Pass rushing linebackers Rashan Gary and Preston Smith are a very strong tandem; the Packers just need a little more depth behind them.

Green Bay also retained their 2021, First Team All-Pro Linebacker De’Vondre Campbell by signing him to a 5 year contract. Campbell, who was praised numerous times last year by Aaron Rodgers for his playing ability and leadership, is a crucial piece to the defense. The fact that the Packers were able to keep him is a big deal.

In the secondary, the Packers may have the best trio of cornerbacks in the NFL in All-Pro Jaire Alexander, Eric Stokes and Rasul Douglas. They played together at the same time only once last year, in the Packers playoff loss to the 49ers. The defense allowed 6 points.

At the safety position for a 4th consecutive year, it’s Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage. Amos remains one of the best safeties in the league, while Savage is a fine player who still has the potential to take another leap in his game at only 24 years old.

These Packers aren’t your 2011-2012 Packers. They will play good defense this upcoming fall.

Run Game

There is no replacing Davante Adams and the impact he would’ve brought to Green Bay in 2022. The Packers might select your two favorite receivers in the upcoming draft and sign Julio Jones or Brandin Cooks and still, there is no replacing #17. He’s a future Hall of Famer and had the type of chemistry with Aaron Rodgers that only Jordy Nelson came close to rivaling. There will be lumps to take in the passing game.

All that to say, the Packers will need to run the football and do it effectively. Realistically, I don’t expect Green Bay to take a drastic approach and reinvent their offense. Over the 3 seasons Matt LaFleur has been head man in charge, the Packers average a tick over 26 rush attempts per game. I think this number may go up a carry or two in 2022 but nothing like the 2019 Ravens, who averaged 36.8 rushes per game.

The difference from last year to this season will need to be the effectiveness of the run game, to help off-set the losses in the passing game. Hindered by injuries up front and poor run blocking, there were too many occasions where the Packers offense couldn’t find a consistent rhythm on the ground in 2021. The returns of David Bakhtiari, Elgton Jenkins and Josh Myers, 3 key starters on the Packers line who played in only 27% of games last season, will help.

Special Teams

The Packers Special Teams ultimately crushed their Super Bowl Hopes in 2021. Easily the worst team in the league in this category a year ago, the Packers fired former ST coach Maurice Drayton and did not retain Punter/Holder Corey Bojorquez. This offseason, the Packers hired former Raiders Interim Coach and Special Teams guru Rich Bisaccia to be Green Bay’s Special Teams Coordinator. In 2021, Bisaccia not only led the Raiders to a surprise playoff appearance in a tumultuous season but led the Raiders to the 11th best Special Teams unit in the league.

Bisaccia has coached Special Teams for 20 years. The Packers hit a home-run by being able to get his services in Green Bay. I don’t expect the Packers to have the best ST unit in the league but they should be significantly improved.

All this to say, the Packers are no longer going to spread you out with Jennings, Driver, Jones, Nelson, Cobb and Finley. This is a different team, with a different identity. Even if the Packers draft a Garrett Wilson or a Drake London in the draft, it’s going to take some time. Most players aren’t Ja’Marr Chase or Justin Jefferson. Green Bay will need to lean on it’s defense, run game and special teams while being led by Aaron Rodgers and Matt LaFleur in 2022.

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Alex grew up in a family of Chicago Bears fans in the suburbs of Chicago but was always a diehard Packers fan. Alex\\\'s AIM name when he was in elementary/middle school was PackerAlex. He now lives in Nashville, Tennessee and you can follow him on twitter at @Alex_Mayer93.

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