The Packers season is all but over. Sure, there’s a slim chance that the team can go on a miraculous run and squeak into the playoffs. But then what? A first-round loss that just secures a worse draft pick than if there was no run? Instead of praying for a miracle, we’re better off focusing on a few young players who could become the core of tomorrow. Here are 3 Packers to watch over the rest of the season.
Watson is obvious. The rookie receiver may be the best all-around athlete at the position in the league and he’s just getting started with actual production. He’s got 5 TDs in the last two weeks, what else can he accomplish this year?
So far, most of what we’ve seen from Watson is fairly basic routes and jet motion. But we have seen flashes of him doing things that most speed-only receivers just don’t do. Look at his second touchdown against the Cowboys.
Get Watson involved as much as possible over the rest of the season. Let’s see what he can do. Have him run a full route tree, put him in the backfield, return kicks, and of course, keep running a ton of 9 routes.
Dillon has had a relatively disappointing season. His yards/attempt are down, he has just one TD, and his PFF grade is down over 16 points from last season. This isn’t fully Dillon’s fault.
Dillon’s running style is best used in a downhill, under-center run game. The type of run game that Matt LaFleur wants to run. But the Packers are majoring in shotgun running this season. They’re doing it to be able to run more RPOs and probably because of Rodgers’ thumb, which is fine, but Dillon just doesn’t have the agility to consistently run effectively run the shotgun.
I can think of several times this year when Dillon was stopped for no gain on a shotgun run because he just overran the hole. Most of those runs would have been successful with Aaron Jones, which brings us to the next point.
It’s been a foregone conclusion since Jones signed his contract that the team wouldn’t keep him for the 2023 season. His cap hit jumps from $5.9 million this season to $20 million next season. Releasing or trading him could save the team double-digit millions on the cap.
It’s an easy decision if Jones were sowing his age and Dillon took another step this year. But the opposite has happened, Dillon doesn’t look good, and Jones is playing better than ever. Will Gutekunst be forced to fiddle with Jones’ contract to keep him on the team? Or will Dillon show enough over the season’s remaining games to give the team confidence that he can be a lead back on a good offense?
Wyatt was a problematic first-round pick on draft night because of his age (24). We’re over halfway into the season and Wyatt has barely seen the field. The only way it can be effective to draft a 24-year-old in the first round is if they are impactful immediately. If Wyatt takes the typical 3 years to be a good starting interior d-lineman, that means he’ll be 27 already and much of his second contract will come when he is past his prime.
The good news is that Wyatt has looked pretty good in flashes. He’s shown the ability that got him drafted. It’s time to give him more snaps and let him start building the experience. Play him alongside Kenny Clark, put him on the edge on obvious run-downs, use him in stunts, just get him playing time and let us see what he can do.
If he has bad games, who cares? Every Jarran Reed and Dean Lowry game but one this season has been meh at best and usually bad. If the Packers were on the road to the super bowl, you’d want them to bring in some vets to help the defense, in real life, those guys are progress-stoppers.
Mike Price is a lifelong Packers fan currently living in Utah. You can follow him on twitter at @themikeprice.