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Packers Friday Musings: Hackett’s hiring may increase odds that Marcedes Lewis returns

The hiring of the long-time veteran’s former coordinator in Jacksonville could make a Lewis-Packers reunion possible.

Miami Dolphins v Green Bay Packers Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

As the Green Bay Packers watch the NFC Championship Game from home this January, they do so with some optimism.

There will be plenty of continuity on defense with the return of Mike Pettine to the coaching staff, while a fresh offensive system may give the unit its necessary jump-start. An integral part of the offense next season will be the emergence of skill position players. Between slot receivers, tight ends, and running backs, the Packers will not only be looking to add impact athletes but better scheme around the ones they already have.

Today’s musings look into the last time Green Bay had three top-45 draft selections to help with acquiring such talent, while taking a look at the possible return of a forgotten tight end.

The Packers are in rare air with three relatively high draft picks.

Much has been made about Green Bay owning a second first-round pick in the 2018 draft, but it has been a long time since the Packers have had three selections before pick 45. In fact, the last time was 1980.

However, it was not an unusual occurrence for the Packers to have such an advantageous slate of picks in the decade leading up to it. While Green Bay has not been overly lucky in these instances as seen below, it did net one future Hall of Famer. The franchise is hoping for more of a 2017 New Orleans Saints-like draft this April to get back to winning ways.

Most Recent Packers Draft History with Three Top-45 selections

Year Pick 1 Pick 2 Pick 3
Year Pick 1 Pick 2 Pick 3
1980 Bruce Clark (4) George Cumby (26) Mark Lee (34)
1978 James Lofton (6) John Anderson (26) Mike Hunt (34)
1977 Mike Butler (9) Ezra Johnson (28) Greg Koch (39)
1972 Willie Buchanon (7) Jerry Tagge (11) Chester Marcol (34)
1970 Mike McCoy (2) Rich McGeorge (16) Al Matthews (41)

Could Marcedes Lewis be back in a green and gold uniform next season?

After just three catches on four targets in 2018, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that Lewis would be finding a home elsewhere in the offseason. But with the appointing of Lewis’ former offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett to the same post in Green Bay, the door for an exceptional in-line blocker like Lewis cracked back open.

As APC’s Peter Bukowski recently tweeted, there could be a fit for Lewis on the Packers next season if he is willing to return. He might even be a better fit now than he appeared to be when he signed last offseason, given the Packers’ few tight ends under contract and Lewis’ experience with Hackett’s offensive philosophy. Michael Cohen of The Athletic also mentioned that the teacher and pupil have remained in touch. If the Packers retain Jimmy Graham and Lewis, it would give the team an opportunity to groom an eventual heir at the position, such as one of Iowa’s all-around duo of Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson.

Plan on having a strong cold-weather running game next season

Personally, I have been clamoring for the Packers to add a speedy, scat back for years. And after watching 2018 playoff teams employ dynamic, undersized playmakers out of the backfield like Darren Sproles, Tyreek Hill, Tarik Cohen, and to some extent Alvin Kamara, I remain intrigued by the possibility of acquiring the type of player Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy really never sought out. However, if the recent backs utilized by Hackett and Matt LaFleur are any indication, expect the Packers to be more inclined to grind it out with their running backs.

Hackett’s main backs in Jacksonville as the OC were Leonard Fournette and Chris Ivory, and LaFleur also employed backs with power. LaFleur’s system was noticeably effective with both Todd Gurley and Derrick Henry. Gurley jumped from 885 yards, six touchdowns, and 3.2 yards per carry in 2016 to 1,305 yards, 13 touchdowns, and 4.7 yards per carry in 2017, LaFleur’s lone season as offensive coordinator in Los Angeles. That kind of instant production was not an outlier. In his single season with Tennessee, LaFleur helped Derrick Henry emerge from being a change-of-pace back to a game-changer. In his third season, Henry almost doubled his yardage on the ground from his first two years combined, while posting his highest average per carry (4.7). His 12 touchdowns in 2018 also was a giant leap from his five scores in each of the two prior seasons.

LaFleur’s influence in the running game should be favorable for Aaron Jones, who was an all-too-often covered-up weapon. But perhaps Jamaal Williams should be equally excited due to his physical running style. As the weather gets colder next fall, expect the Packers to run with a purpose.