For this week’s Walkthrough, we’re discussing surprises regarding the 2017 Green Bay Packers - specifically, things we did not expect to see this season. Certainly, an injury to Aaron Rodgers could be right at the top of the list, but most of our writers went with options that were less surprising in terms of injury and more in terms of the quality of play.
Shawn Wagner: A lack of a pass rush
Going into 2017, I was optimistic that Green Bay would increase its sack production. With Nick Perry coming off a career season, and the additions of Vince Biegel and Ahmad Brooks, the Packers looked like a team that could finally help take pressure off its secondary. In fact, my bold prediction coming into the regular season was that the Packers would see eight or more sacks coming from the inside linebacker position with more packages for Clay Matthews and Morgan Burnett in that role.
So far, those things haven’t come to fruition. Green Bay has just 3.5 sacks from its inside linebackers with five games to go and are tied for 23rd overall with 22 sacks this season. Of those 22, five came in one game against the Bears. Three of Nick Perry’s seven sacks also came in that game alone. Injuries to each of the Packers’ edge rushers have been critical and the slower development of Kyler Fackrell and Biegel have especially been felt in a season that the Packers’ depth at the position was already going to be tested. It looks like Green Bay will need to invest once again this offseason into pass rushers.
Evan “Tex” Western: the incredible vanishing tight ends
I thought Martellus Bennett would be the answer for the Packers at the tight end position this year, as well as a fun personality to have on the team. I thought Lance Kendricks would be a fantastic complementary piece. I thought the tight ends would stretch the middle of the field, open things up for the receivers outside and underneath, and generally make the offense function better while contributing an average of 70 receiving yards per game or so.
What I didn’t expect was for Bennett to catch one of the worst cases of the dropsies that we’ve ever seen. Once Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone, I expected him to become a productive safety valve for Brett Hundley, not to see his production dip even further before quitting on the team midway through the season. I didn’t expect to have Kendricks and Richard Rodgers suddenly become co-number ones, a role for which neither is well-suited.
Finally, those three players have combined for just 31 receptions for 452 yards in eleven games, well behind the pace I anticipated. It has been a frustrating year on many fronts in 2017, but the tight end position has been one of the biggest letdowns in my eyes.
Jon Meerdink: A dramatic regression from Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
I’m convinced Clinton-Dix made the Pro Bowl last year in large part due to his interception numbers, but aside from a drop off toward the end of the year, he at least seemed like a generally solid player.
This year, he seems like a liability against both the pass and the run. It’s more surprising to see him take a good angle on a tackle or pass break up than a bad one, and he moves so stiffly that it seems like there almost has to be an injury of some kind affecting his performance. Regardless of the reason, it’s been both disappointing and surprising to see Clinton-Dix play so poorly on a consistent basis. At least he continues to be a tremendous force for good off the field!
Paul Noonan: Strength of the Defense is the inside linebackers
With Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark swapping injuries, the pass rush not getting home, and the secondary a complete mess, Blake Martinez and to a lesser extent Jake Ryan have basically made the thing respectable. This is surprising because Dom Capers and Ted Thompson don’t really care about the position, and stopping the run is not only unusual in the Capers scheme, it seems almost frowned upon. Nevertheless, the inside crew sees ball/hits ball as well as anyone, the Packers are 7th in the NFL in defending the run per DVOA, and it’s nice to see them actually be good at something.