The Green Bay Packers 2023 season is finally almost here. From the pointless, endless speculation and predictions spewed from the mouths and hands of talking heads, to the dreadfully sleepy and meaningless preseason, the NFL offseason proved again to be a slog for football fans everywhere.
In less than two weeks, blood, sweat and tears will again be shed on the gridiron of Lambeau Field as the Packers delve into the unknown. For the first time in 15 years the organization enters a campaign with an unproven signal caller at the helm, while sporting one of the youngest rosters in the league.
And so, much of the Packers 2023-2024 season rests on the shoulders of unproven players, as well as those looking to bounce back from what was a disappointing final season led by Aaron Rodgers. In the style of conventional NFL yearly awards, here are some players who could potentially command major roles for this Packers squad.
Offensive Player of the Year – WR Christian Watson
A case can be made for Aaron Jones in this spot. However, I don’t expect the offensive ideology from last season to change much this year. Throughout the 2022 season, Matt LaFleur preached the importance of getting Jones more touches week after week, only to repeatedly fail to do so. Sharing snaps with A.J. Dillon, along with reports from training camp that the offense seems to be continuing a pass-heavy approach, makes me think Jones will be “kept fresh” as he was last year.
Enter Christian Watson, a budding star who ended the 2022 campaign on a flaming hot streak that I anticipate will carry over to this season. Watson enters this year as the team’s undisputed number one receiver. He’s already dominated camp and made several electric plays in limited preseason action. Watson appears ready to be “the guy” in this offense, and I think the Packers will feature him as such.
Based on his college career and what we’ve seen of him in the NFL, I expect Jordan Love to be a more Favre-like gunslinger and risk taker, which could lead to a hefty number of interceptions, but also several explosive connections with a deep threat like Watson. Barring injury, Watson can easily post a 1,000-yard, 10-touchdown season in this offense.
Defensive Player of the Year – EDGE Rashan Gary
Gary’s apparent breakout season was cut short last year due to an injury. He racked up 6 sacks and 7 tackles for a loss in just nine games. Green Bay’s defense just wasn’t the same in his absence. I expect Gary to return hungry to prove last season wasn’t a fluke, and that the injury will have no bearing on his performance this season.
First-round rookie Lukas Van Ness will play a backup role to an aging Preston Smith and potentially serve as a rotational defensive lineman, leaving Gary as the lone star edge rusher on the team. Generally, I’m higher on Gary’s potential than I am on where stud cornerback Jaire Alexander seems to have plateaued at this point in his career.
Frankly, after the traumatic disappointment that was the hyped Green Bay defense last year, and the baffling return of defensive coordinator Joe Barry, my expectations for the defense as a unit are nearly in the basement. I have hopes for Gary to be a shining star among what I cynically anticipate being an underperforming group… yet again.
Offensive Rookie of the Year – TE Luke Musgrave
Second-round selection Luke Musgrave is already receiving rave reviews from training camp. Though just from camp – which can often be determined as largely meaningless once in the thick of the season – Musgrave finally appears to be the Travis Kelce-like receiving threat at the tight end position Green Bay has sorely lacked for years. Reports say the offense apparently features Musgrave, so it’s clear he has already impressed the Packers’ offensive staff.
A trustworthy security blanket at tight end could be crucial for the success and further development of Jordan Love. Musgrave is set up to receive plenty of work in the offense, which could really open up Green Bay’s attack.
Defensive Rookie of the Year – EDGE/IDL Lukas Van Ness
Van Ness wins almost by default. Rookie cornerback Carrington Valentine has shown promise thus far, but I believe Van Ness will inevitably receive more snaps by virtue of his draft position. I think the Packers could reach a point in the season where Van Ness nears the number of snaps played by projected starter Preston Smith.
A versatile defender, Van Ness could garner snaps as a defensive lineman as well. He’s got the size and strength to find success as both an edge rusher and an interior defender. The Packers typically like to take it slow with most of their rookies, easing them into starting roles. Van Ness’ playing time could rely heavily on injuries and how much he flashes with the limited snaps he might receive to start the season.
I liked Van Ness’ tape a lot before the draft. I think he already possesses the skills to be a competent NFL defender from day one. He could, at the very least, be a serviceable rotational piece on the defense.
Most Valuable Player – QB Jordan Love
Swinging for the fences on this one. News flash – the success of this season primarily depends on the quarterback, and I’m choosing to be optimistic in this case. I’m hopeful the Packers could reach around nine or 10 wins, which could realistically be enough to make the playoffs or even win the division in a relatively weak NFC.
I believe if this were to happen, it would be because of the upside Love shows in his first season as a starter. Though Love occasionally makes puzzling decisions, there are plays where he lasers pinpoint-accurate balls into tight windows, demonstrating an intriguing playmaking ability. He’s got a better supporting cast than Rodgers did around him last season.
I don’t expect perfection from Love this year – in fact, far from it. But in what I think could be a relatively successful season for Green Bay, it will be because Love propels them there with enough flashes that show us he’s the quarterback of the future.——————