The 2020 NFL season will be an interesting one. Just like the rest of America, COVID-19 will be a big part of the NFL. Still, the show must go on. Because of COVID-19, NFL teams didn’t have the benefit of having preseason games to judge their rosters. That will create even more questions for general managers and head coaches when it comes to their final rosters. Below is a look at three questions the Green Bay Packers offense is facing heading into the season.
Green Bay Packers Offense Must Answer These Questions
Matt LaFleur‘s first season as the Packers head coach was quite a successful one. The first time head coach led the Packers to a 13-3 regular-season record. Their success from the regular season helped propel them to the NFC Championship game. While they were handled easily by the San Francisco 49ers, the Packers got more done in 2019 than most fans expected.
While expectations were exceeded, the Packers still need to show improvement in certain areas in 2020, particularly on offense. The Green Bay Packers offense finished 17th in passing, 15th in rushing, and 18th in total offense last season. It wasn’t a horrible showing by any means, but still, the Packers offense can and need to get better.
For the Packers offense to improve, they will need to find solutions for some so far unanswered questions.
Can the Packers Get Production Behind Davante Adams?
The Packers offense has the luxury of having one of the best wide receivers in the NFL. Davante Adams has not only become a favorite of Aaron Rodgers but has shown he is one of the best in the game. But, behind Adams, the Packers have a lot of questions at the wide receiver position.
General manager Brian Gutekunst only brought in one proven NFL wide receiver this off-season, in Devin Funchess. Unfortunately for the Packers offense, Funchess opted out of playing this season because of the COVID virus. To go along with the Funchess situation, Gutekunst passed on selecting a wide receiver in this year’s NFL draft, which was very deep at wide receiver.
So it will be up to the young wide receivers who are carryovers from last season’s roster. Allen Lazard looks to be the favorite to win the starting spot opposite of Adams. Lazard showed glimpses and tallied 35 receptions for 477 yards and three touchdown receptions last season. The Packers need him to take the next step. But that could be a risky bet, especially since Lazard started last season on the practice squad.
After Lazard, the options are Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown, who are both former draft picks of Gutekunst. St. Brown missed all of last season because of an ankle injury. Without preseason games, St. Brown hasn’t played a down in a game since 2018. Valdes-Scantling struggled in 2019 and he saw a drop in production. If Lazard struggles, one of these two players will need to step up. Jake Kumerow and former CFL standout Reggie Begelton will also be in the mix. But both are long shots to be contributors, and one or both might not make the opening day roster.
Even with LaFleur changing the Packers offense from a predominantly passing attack to a running one, they still need production out of the wide receiver position. Gutekunst didn’t help matters by his lack of moves. So it will be up to their young wide receivers to step up.
Can Jace Sternberger Become a Pass Catching Threat at Tight End?
Over the years, the Packers have tried to fill their top receiving tight end position with free-agent veterans. The attempts brought, at best, mixed results.
This off-season, Gutekunst decided to change that philosophy. Instead of bringing in outside help, he has pegged former third-round draft pick, Jace Sternberger, to be the top passing threat at tight end. Sternberger’s production at Texas A&M made him one of the top tight ends in college football.
Even with his college success and being a third-round pick, trusting Sternberger at that position is a risky proposition. In his rookie season, he missed time because of injury. When he was activated, he didn’t register a single regular season reception. His only catches came in the playoffs. Sternberger has a lot of potential, but as of yet, he hasn’t shown it.
It appears that the Green Bay Packers are putting all of their eggs in Sternberger’s basket. Marcedes Lewis was re-signed last off-season, but the veteran isn’t a receiving threat at this point in his career. The Packers selected Josiah Deguara in the third round of this year’s draft. Some deemed it a reach, but the Packers liked the different things Deguara can do. But it will take time for Deguara to adjust to the NFL game. Robert Tonyan, a former college wide receiver, has shown glimpses as a pass-catcher. However, he has struggled with injuries and it would be difficult for the Packers to bank on him week in and week out.
While it might be a long shot for Sternberger to be successful this season, many believe he has the skill set to do so. Rodgers hasn’t had a young pass-catching threat at tight end since Jermichael Finley. Sternberger might be the player to break that drought.
Will AJ Dillon Make the Packers Backfield Even Better?
The running back tandem of Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams was a very bright spot for the Packers offense last season. Jones was the Packers offensive MVP in 2019. He wasn’t just a threat on the ground, but also in the passing game. He also illustrated last season that he could handle a full load as the Packers top running back.
Williams once again displayed that he is capable of producing when called upon. He was the Packers top pass protector at running back and when a tough yard was needed, Williams got it. He also improved his pass-catching ability. Williams might not be flashy, excluding his dance moves, but he has shown that he can get the job done.
With Jones and Williams so productive in 2019, it was a bit of a surprise that Gutekunst grabbed AJ Dillon in the second round of this year’s draft. However, if you look deeper, it wasn’t that big of a shocker. It seems that LaFleur really likes bigger running backs. When he was the Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator, he fully utilized running back Derrick Henry to the fullest. While Dillon isn’t accomplished at the NFL level like Henry, he has a very similar skillset.
It will be interesting to see how LaFleur and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett implement Dillon. The Packers appear to be set with Jones and Williams as their top two backs. But with Dillon now in the fold, LaFleur and Hackett will need to be creative to get Dillon involved.
A lot has been made of the size of Dillon’s legs this training camp, but there is more to Dillon than the size of his legs. At Boston College, he not only was a wrecking ball, but he was also a game-breaker. However, with already two productive running backs, can Dillon make the Packers rush attack even more potent?
Time will tell how the team fares in 2020 and if the Green Bay Packers offense can answer the above questions.