The 2017 NFL season has not been kind to the Green Bay Packers thus far. After a hot start, the Packers are coming off a three-game losing streak. The loss of starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers has created a chain reaction across the roster. The offense ran by backup Brett Hundley is much more reserved than the one Rodgers could utilize. This shifts the philosophy of both the offense and defense. Although the team is struggling, there are several bright spots on this adjusting team. The Packers strengths and weaknesses have varied and been held under a microscope since the injury to their star quarterback.
Green Bay Packers Strengths and Weaknesses Thus Far
Let’s start with the bad. The team stats do not favor the Packers. They rank in the bottom half of the league in most major categories. The team struggles with consistency on both sides of the ball. The defense can’t get off the field, ranking 27th in third downs allowed. The offense is too sporadic, ranking a respectable 11th on third down conversions but in the bottom ten in time of possession. Controlling the ball has been especially difficult with Hundley under center as only the Cincinnati Bengals have held the ball for less time since he took the reins.
Every Packers fan has realized that Hundley is not Rodgers. The young quarterback looks skittish in the pocket and hasn’t gotten much help from his surrounding cast. Moving on from the quarterback position, there are several other groups that have been lackluster so far this season. The offensive issues stem from the multitude of injuries along the offensive line. The pass blocking has been atrocious for the Packers deep reserves. The Packers receivers are adjusting to Hundley’s style of play, but they don’t seem to have the same drive or cohesion as they did with Rodgers at quarterback.
Although the offense is suffering severe injuries across the front, the Packers defense has remained relatively healthy thus far, meaning the unit has less of an excuse for its poor play. Certain individuals have taken steps forward, but many have not been able to rise to the challenges presented. The Packers lost a good chunk of their pass rush from last season and did little to replenish the rotation. The void at outside linebacker makes the Packers 3-4 base defense unsustainable. The Packers haven’t had a consistent pass rush in any game this year, with starters Clay Matthews and Nick Perry failing to live up to lofty expectations and contracts.
There is more talent in the secondary than years past but too many young undisciplined players bring the unit down. The back end allows too many open receivers and chunk plays. Obvious passing situations are not a strength for this defense because the team can’t generate a pass rush to quarterbacks in the shotgun, making it impossible for these young players to cover long enough. Serious moves need to be made this off-season to bolster the linebacking corps so it’s not a necessity to play a safety at inside linebacker.
Amidst the chaos, several players have truly stepped their game up this year. Blake Martinez has been a lone bright spot amongst the linebackers. He doesn’t make many splash plays but is constantly attacking the line of scrimmage and leads the team in tackles by a wide margin. He has been the most consistent true inside linebacker the Packers have had since the early days of A.J. Hawk.
Rookies Kevin King and Josh Jones are the future of the Packers secondary. Both have shown the unique physicality and play speed to succeed in the NFL. There have been too many mental lapses so far but both players show tremendous potential. Damarious Randall has been up and down but looks headed in the right direction and seems to make a splash play each week.
The offense has stalled with Hundley as of late but still ranks 11th in points scored. That’s due in large part to the emergence of rookie running back Aaron Jones. Ty Montgomery has played well when healthy as well but Jones looks to be a huge find in the fifth round of last year’s draft. He has unique vision on inside-out zone runs where he looks to bounce the ball outside.
Although the Packers offensive line has been decimated, the impressive play from lineman Justin McCray has been promising. After being out of the NFL for two seasons, McCray signed with the Packers in the off-season hoping to secure a reserve role on the 53-man roster. After making the team, McCray has been forced into every position along the line apart from center. His pass-blocking needs serious work but McCray has been a strong run blocker and reliable presence as a fill-in.
Although the Packers are in a skid and hope for the playoffs dwindles with each loss, there are still positives to take away. With a bit more coaching and cohesion, the defense has a chance to improve as the season wears on. The lack of pass rush is a serious concern, though. The offense will be interesting to watch. Packer fans still haven’t seen all Hundley can offer, so let the roller coaster ride commence. All to do now is hope for the best and enjoy the individual moments and great plays the Packers provide.