The season is almost wasted. The Packers have lost 4 in a row, veterans are taking a step back, there’s holes everywhere, and, still, many Packers fans are optimistic. The team didn’t lose to the Bills that badly and finally the offense was centered around Aaron Jones and the defense was strong against the Bills pass game. What’s next? To get to the playoffs, they probably need to go 7-2. Let’s talk about a few young players who need to step up to make that happen.
Walker has flashed a lot in his rookie season, but his player overall has been subpar. It’s true that it takes a while for rookies to acclimate to the league (look at fellow first round pick Devonte Wyatt) but Walker’s immense talent hasn’t been utilized well. He’s forced to try to make the down linemen in front of him right against the run and choose wrong too often.
It’s time to move him to the edge in penny formations and let him either pin his ears back and rush or drop into the flat where he can react more and not have to read what’s going on so much.
Walker’s athletic profile is similar to Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, Carlos Basham, and David Ojabo – all athletic edges who have the burst lacking in the Packers non-Rashan Gary options.
Watson has had an unfortunate season to date. Soft tissue injuries and then a scary looking concussion have limited his touches, but he has been the focus of the offense fairly often when he’s in the game. His speed and play making ability are unmatched.
If Watson can stay healthy, just his presence in the game changes the offense. Putting him in jet motion has to draw the eyes of linebackers. Running him on crossing routes and 9 routes opens up the rest of the field for everyone else and may even cause the other team to play more two high against the run.
Watson was an almost universally panned draft pick and has had a disappointing first season so far, but I think there’s a chance that he could be the MVP of the second half of the season.
Eric Stokes/Darnell Savage/De’Vondre Campbell
Each of these three has taken a significant step back this season. Their tackling ability is gone, coverage ability is lacking, and aggression is only there when they’re missing tackles. It would obviously be a huge plus if all three stepped up, but at least one needs to for the defense to be good enough for the playoffs.
Put Savage in the slot, let Campbell loose with d-linemen two gapping, and Stokes can be a punt gunner or something. The frustrations about the defense don’t only come from stubbornness with the scheme, but stubbornness with playing the players outside of their best positions.
Campbell’s career was just fine until he was able to play alone in the penny package all the team with Green Bay. Savage has the perfect athletic profile for slot corner and can’t seem to get it right playing deep.
Barry changed the way he was using Jaire Alexander, starting using more man coverage, put a safety in the box against the run, maybe he’ll start to move players around more too.
Mike Price is a lifelong Packers fan currently living in Utah. You can follow him on twitter at @themikeprice.