The Green Bay Packers are 3-6 after a competitive 23-19 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Packers continue to fall further out of the playoff picture. At this point, all we’re looking for is development from Jordan Love and the offense while Green Bay loses close games to secure a higher draft pick in 2024.
I didn’t expect the Packers to be anywhere near legitimate contenders, but I also wouldn’t have bet they’d only have three wins through 10 weeks of action. Cautious optimism led me to be wrong about several things before the start of the season.
Through 10 weeks, Christian Watson might be the single most disappointing player on the team this season. With his speed and Love’s fearlessness to toss it down the field, I expected the duo to have much better chemistry than they’ve shown. Before the season, I didn’t think it would be crazy to see Watson go for over 1,000 yards and double-digit touchdowns.
Watson missed the first three games due to injury, but the offense hasn’t gotten any better since his return. In fact, the offense has had their worst games when he’s on the field.
Despite his 6’4 frame, Watson doesn’t fight nearly as hard for contested balls as you’d like to see from someone his size. Half of Jordan Love’s 10 interceptions this season have come when targeting Watson. When the offense needs a spark, Watson and Love’s connection hasn’t been there.
It’s too soon to call Watson a liability – but the likes of fellow second-year man Romeo Doubs, and rookies Jayden Reed and Dontayvion Wicks have outplayed Watson so far in 2023. It would be a sad story to see Watson, a former second-round pick who enjoyed an excellent second half of his rookie season, fall down the depth chart come 2024.
The Running Game
Matt LaFleur brought a fresh dimension to the Packers’ rushing attack when he took over as head coach. The Packers have steadily deployed one of the most efficient running games in the league since 2019, primarily led by Aaron Jones. This season, it has mostly been a mess.
Both Love’s inexperience and running ability indicated Green Bay could lean even heavier on the run game than years past. On paper, the offensive line and running back group appeared strong, especially since it was many of the same guys that had worked together successfully before.
Jones’ lingering injuries that have caused him to miss games and receive limited touches when playing have crippled the Green Bay offense. Though he’s played well in stretches, A.J. Dillon just isn’t a starting-caliber running back. He was drafted to be the thunder to Jones’ lightning, not the star of the show.
It doesn’t help either back that the Packers’ offensive line has struggled with injuries themselves this season, including All-Pro tackle David Bakhtiari being sidelined for the entire season yet again with a lingering knee injury. The group the Packers have trotted out there for most games this year aren’t strong enough on the inside to create consistent holes for Jones and Dillon to run through.
This year, I had finally given up on expecting anything great to come out of the slew of talent the Packers have loaded up on defense the past several drafts.
The 2023 Packers certainly aren’t a great defense, and they’re still one that isn’t getting the most out of the players they have – but considering injuries, a severe lack of talent at the safety position, and the way the offense so heavily relies on them to keep Green Bay in games, the Packers’ defense is not their biggest issue.
The Packers should still look to find a new defensive coordinator after the season, but Joe Barry is doing an “ok” job considering the circumstances. The Packers’ defense has been backed up on their heels too often because of the offense turning it over or failing to pick up even one first down on a drive. Cornerstones like Jaire Alexander and Kenny Clark have battled injury, along with De’Vondre Campbell, Quay Walker, Darnell Savage and Eric Stokes. Rasul Douglas was traded away to make a thin secondary that much weaker.
The Packers’ defense ranks 6th in yards per play, 8th in yards per pass attempt, 8th in points per play, and 11th in total yards per game. They’ve been a below average run defense, but are an improvement over what was a putrid bottom-three run defense last year. The main issue has been takeaways, where they rank 29th. Oh, they’re pretty bad at tackling, too.
Green Bay’s defense has allowed 20 points or less in five of their nine games this season. They’ve allowed over 30 points only once. A better offense probably has this team with five or six wins instead of three.
I thought their defense could reach the level of a train wreck that guarantees Barry is gone after the season. Instead, for better or worse (emphasis on “worse”), it wouldn’t completely stun me to see Barry keep his position for at least another year if the defense hangs tight down the stretch.——————