The 2020 Green Bay Packers offense was one of the most productive offenses in the NFL. Still, there is a possibility 2021 will look noticeably different for the Packers. With Rodgers possibly not returning, head coach Matt LaFleur faces his biggest challenge yet. If Rodgers doesn’t return, LaFleur will be forced to turn to Jordan Love. The second-year quarterback will need help to succeed, and not just from the big names either. Players like Equanimeous St. Brown and Jace Sternberger will need to find a place in the Packers offense.
Equanimeous St. Brown and Jace Sternberger Still Searching for a Niche
In 2020, quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw for close to 4,300 yards with 48 touchdowns on his way to a third NFL Most Valuable Player award. Wide receiver Davante Adams caught 115 passes for 1,374 yards with 18 touchdown receptions. Running back Aaron Jones rushed for 1,104 yards with nine touchdown carries. Along with that, the Packers had one of the best offensive lines in 2020. Nonetheless, it is possible the team will have Jordan Love under center in 2021.
If Aaron Rodgers returns, the Packers are instant Super Bowl contenders. If not, all bets are off.
Love wasn’t expected to take over so soon. Unfortunately for LaFleur and the Packers, they may not have a choice in the matter. This reality would significantly change the Packers offense. With Love at the helm, his offensive teammates would need to step up their game, meaning players who haven’t done so in recent history will need to more than ever. Two players who have not produced like they were expected to but would need to in the event Love takes over. Wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown and tight end Jace Sternberger will need to show the potential the Packers have been waiting for.
Putting Gifts to Use
In most cases, former sixth-round draft choices aren’t expected to do much. However, Equanimeous St. Brown is not your common sixth-round draft choice. During his career at Notre Dame, St. Brown hauled in 123 passes for 2,193 yards and 19 touchdowns. Alongside his collegiate production, St. Brown provides a large frame of 6’5″, 214 pounds and solid speed. Landing someone with his skill set in the sixth round at the time appeared to be a steal by general manager Brian Gutekunst.
Unfortunately for St. Brown and the Packers, that skills haven’t translated to the expected production. In his three seasons with the Packers, St. Brown has caught just 28 passes for 445 yards and one touchdown. This includes 2019, which he missed due to an ankle injury. What makes that production even more disappointing is the depth the Packers have at wide receiver. At this point, St. Brown sits behind Adams, Allen Lazard, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling on the depth chart. St. Brown has been a big part of special teams, but not a key player on the Packers offense.
With the offense possibly changing in 2021, Equanimeous St. Brown will need to step up his game. A player with his tools should be able to find a place on an offense like Green Bay’s. It won’t be easy. Along with battling with Lazard and Valdes-Scantling for playing time, he will need to fend off this year’s third-round pick Amari Rodgers. Rodgers might not be there to make him better. Equanimeous St. Brown has the tools, but it is time he shows he can actually put those tools to use.
Jace Sternberger’s 2021 Off to a Rocky Start
After failed attempts to find a replacement for former Green Bay tight end Jermichael Finley through free agency, the Packers turned to the draft. In 2019, Gutekunst selected Jace Sternberger in the third round of the NFL draft. Sternberger was expected to provide the Packers a young tight end to groom, one who could become a solid pass catcher. Sadly, that hasn’t been the case; so far, Sternberger has been a disappointment.
In his rookie season, Sternberger was injured in training camp. The injury cost him 10 games, allowing him to play in only six. He didn’t register a reception during the regular season. 2020 was just as unproductive for Sternberger. He once again dealt with injuries that only allowed him to play in 12 games. Along with injuries, he dealt with concentration issues, dropping several passes. He finished 2020 with just 12 catches for 114 yards and one touchdown.
Sternberger won’t play a full regular-season schedule once again. It was recently announced he will face suspension for the first two games of the 2021 campaign for violating the NFL’s policy on substance abuse. When Sternberger returns, he will face an uphill battle for playing time. Robert Tonyan, a former undrafted free agent, has become the Packers top tight end. Behind Tonyan is veteran Marcedes Lewis. Lewis isn’t a threat in the passing game, but he is the Packers top blocking tight end.
Sternberger will battle Josiah Deguara and Dominique Dafney for the spot behind Tonyan and Lewis. However, LaFleur and the Packers are high on Deguara, another former third-round pick of Gutekunst. Dafney was the Packers starting H-back at the end of the 2020 season. He is also a key contributor on special teams, something Sternberger hasn’t shown he is capable of.
Make or Break Season for Equanimeous St. Brown and Jace Sternberger
Equanimeous St. Brown and Jace Sternberger are running out of chances. Both players have high-end skill sets to succeed. However, neither has played up to their potential. Out of the two, it seems St. Brown is more likely to be a ‘camp casualty’. Sternberger is a third-round pick only entering his third season, so it seems unlikely Gutekunst would part ways with him just yet.
This year’s training camp is crucial for both Equanimeous St. Brown and Jace Sternberger. With Love possibly becoming the Packers starting quarterback, the team needs offensive players who can contribute. St. Brown and Sternberger will need to show they can do so consistently and take pressure off the young quarterback.
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