While Green Bay fell a game short of the Super Bowl, they did manage to “Run the Table” and win two big playoff games despite starting the season off 4-6.
Aaron Rodgers and the offense single-handedly kept the Packers season alive, but had plenty of flaws that should be addressed this offseason.
Check out how each positional group played throughout the year and how they will need to improve in order for the Packers to bounce back next season.
It may seem harsh not to give Aaron Rodgers a higher grade seeing as how he is a candidate for MVP and was arguably Green Bay’s best player all season. However, compared to most other years in his career, this season was simply average. Since becoming a starter in 2008, Rodgers has averaged a Quarterback Rating of 104.7, while this season he managed to reach a 104.2. For any other quarterback in the league that would be an accolade to remember, but for Rodgers it meant that he wasn’t as good as Matt Ryan, whose QBR was 13 points higher than Rodgers’. In order for Green Bay to have advanced beyond Atlanta in the playoffs, Rodgers would have had to outplay Ryan, because the Falcons were simply better off in every other facet of the game than Green Bay. His inability to do so simply highlighted how Matt Ryan was simply better than Aaron Rodgers this season. Therefore, when you glance at Rodgers season it seems like he deserves an A+, but the fact that he is no longer the top dog in the NFC means that he and his team have some improving to do.
Running Back: C-
Don’t underestimate that Ty Montgomery shocked the league by converting from a wide receiver to a running back in such short notice, but outside of his jaw-dropping performance against Chicago and his two key touchdowns against Dallas in the playoffs, he failed to be a dominant threat out of the backfield. The late-season addition of Christine Michael made up for the loss of James Starks, as he seemed to always have strong runs, but he took far too long to pick up on the offense to be an actual option out of the backfield. Finally, Eddie Lacy’s future is up in the air as his rookie contract is set to expire. Don’t be surprised if the Packers part ways with him, as Montgomery seems to be more of a fit with Aaron Rodgers offense. Interestingly enough, Lacy averaged 5.1 yards per carry in five games this year, but failed to reach the end-zone, and his weight was clearly still an issue as he never had more than 17 attempts per game. Green Bay must figure out their go-to running back going into next season, because they ranked 20th in the league in rushing and Rodgers accounted for about 20 percent of those yards.
Despite Jordy Nelson being first in the league in touchdown catches with 14 and Davante Adams tying for second with twelve, Green Bay failed to get a receiver into the Pro-Bowl. Nelson was consistent as always, as he only had four games in the regular season without a touchdown. Adams, on the other hand, had the best year of his career, and seemed to overtake Randall Cobb as the second receiver on the team. Speaking of Cobb, he seemed to have an off year, missing a few games at the end of the season and only managing 610 yards and four touchdowns. However, his performance in the playoffs with Jordy Nelson injured proved that he still has what it takes to thrive with Aaron Rodgers. The Packers may have found a solid fourth wide receiver in Geronimo Allison who had little impact until the end of the season, but found a role on the team in Cobb’s absence. Finally, the Packers would have been unable to “Run the Table” and win two playoff games without the outstanding play of Jared Cook. Cook missed six games with various injuries, but managed to be a consistent third down option for Rodgers and was a great target over the middle of the field, which is something the Packers haven’t had since Jermichael Finley played. If this receiving core can stay healthy next year, this offense should have no troubles getting back to the playoffs.
Offensive Line: A
All year the Dallas Cowboys’ offensive line got all the talk in the league because of Ezekiel Elliot’s rookie success, yet Green Bay’s line was regarded as one of the best pass blocking offensive line in the league. T.J. Lang received a Pro-Bowl bid and David Bakhtiari will fill in as a replacement. All five starters stayed healthy all season which was key in protecting Aaron Rodgers, but T.J. Lang and Lane Taylor were both injured in the Championship game against Atlanta. There is some uncertainty around Lang’s return next season, as Green Bay got rid of Josh Sitton last season despite him coming off a Pro-Bowl season, but either way, the Packers have continuity in their O-Line which should be just as prominent next year as it was this year.
Defensive Line: B
Despite Green Bay being ranked 8th in the league at stopping the run, giving up just 94.7 yards per game, the defense struggled to slow down many of the top-tier backs. For example, DeMarco Murray rushed for 123 yards, Ezekiel Elliot had 157 yards, and even Robert Kelley had 137 yards and three touchdowns. However, the Packers played against teams like the Vikings and the Lions who rank at the bottom of the league in rushing yards per game, which boosted their statistical performance. Green Bay’s big-name lineman, Mike Daniels, had just 33 combined tackles and four sacks on the year. Letroy Guion held his own, and Kenny Clark showed potential as a rookie, but it seemed the defensive line only showed up against teams with poor running games.
Young Inside Linebackers Jake Ryan and Blake Martinez both had solid seasons as they recorded 82 and 69 tackles accordingly. This should be a strong position for the Packers for years to come as Martinez is a rookie and Ryan is just in his second year. Green Bay also recorded the sixth-most sacks in the league as Nick Perry had eleven and Julius Peppers had seven and a half. However, Peppers is nearing the end of his career, and Clay Matthews managed just five sacks on the year, so the future for this crew looks grim. If Nick Perry can stay healthy next season and Clay Matthews can have a bounce-back year, the Linebacker crew could remain a threat.
Green Bay’s secondary was abused with injuries and by opposing receivers all season long. Between Sam Shields missing the entire season with a concussion, or Quinten Rollins and Damarious Randall missing games due to various injuries, the Packers were simply decimated in the secondary. Green Bay gave up the most passing yards per game, allowing 287.7 yards a game, and also gave up the third-most receiving touchdowns. They did have 17 interceptions on the season, but five of those came against Russell Wilson, whose teammates basically handed the ball over to the Packers to intercept. No matter how you look at it, big name receivers like Dez Bryant and Julio Jones simply man-handled the secondary, as LaDarius Gunter proved that he was not a lockdown corner. Jones had nine catches for 180 yards and two touchdowns and Bryant had nine catches for 132 yards and two touchdowns. For the Packers defense to succeed, they will need to draft corners and hopefully get Shields back for next season, otherwise Green Bay will struggle defensively in a similar fashion as they did this year.
Special Teams: B-
Mason Crosby was top ten in the league in Field Goals, hitting 26 of 30 on the year, and its hard not to like him when he hit two clutch field goals against Dallas to keep Green Bay’s season alive. The return game was simply average for Green Bay as they failed to score on a kick or punt return this season. On the other hand, opponents averaged about seven more yards per kick return this season, and Green Bay gave up a touchdown to the Colts on a horrendous performance by the Packers special teams. Finally for punting, the two biggest statistics to look for are average yards per punt and punts inside the 20 yard line. Jacob Schum was 27th in the league for both of these categories. As a whole, the special teams group for the Packers failed to put up impressive numbers outside of Crosby.