The Green Bay Packers are off to a stunning and surprising 6-1 start. The team’s success was fueled by its defense early on, but the offense has begun to pick up the slack in recent weeks.
With the season almost halfway gone already, it’s worth looking back at the first seven weeks to find some themes or moments that stand out about this team, whether directly football-related or not. Perhaps it should not come as a surprise that the shakeups of the coaching staff and roster have led to a very different vibe around the team, and that is easily observed by anyone watching from the outside.
That vibe gets a lot of attention in this week’s Walkthroughs, as APC asked its writers to think back on our favorite themes from the early portion of the season.
Paul Noonan: Every Smith Brothers press conference
Sports is supposed to be fun. Too often it becomes a tedious legalistic mess with fans suffering through a flagfest of injuries and pass interference reviews. Fortunately the Packers signed Preston and Za’Darius Smith in the offseason to shore up an enormous weakness at one of football’s most important positions. They’ve been great on the field, and at least as good off the field, where they conduct most interviews together, and clearly enjoy every second of it. The Smiths have excelled as leaders, media personalities, sack celebrators, and watching them play every week is an absolute joy. The Smiths are the best.
(Bonus: this week’s Whisper Challenge is super fun too)
Evan “Tex” Western: Turnover celebrations
Paul took mine, because the Smiths are my new favorite football thing on the planet. So I’ll go with something else that seems to have been cooked up by the two emotional leaders of the defense: the team’s turnover celebrations.
So far this season, we’ve seen a lot of these — 13 to be exact — as the defense has racked up eight picks and five forced fumbles. Whether miming going down a Slip-N-Slide
or doing whatever this is
Packers turnover celebrations are on point this year pic.twitter.com/C9rIccAdYg— Ξ Fudge $ (@FudgeGoat_) September 22, 2019
it’s a blast to see this team having so much fun, playing with such obvious camaraderie, and ultimately turning the football back over to the offense with regularity.
Mike Vieth: The style of play
Over the last few years under Mike McCarthy the Packers seemed sluggish, uninterested and going through the motions. That led to injuries, many losses, missing the playoffs and, more importantly for fans, the games just weren’t fun to watch.
Enter Matt LaFleur and the Packers have a renewed sense of urgency. They added the Smiths, Adrian Amos in free agency and drafted some potential playmakers and all of a sudden they are flying around the field. The players look to be enjoying the game from, as previously mentioned, the Smith press conferences to turnover, touchdown, and game-winning field goal celebrations. It’s refreshing and fun to watch. While the result wasn’t what I wanted, even the lone loss to the Eagles was enjoyable to watch because the team never looked defeated until the clock ran out.
Of course, winning games will always make the games fun to watch but the personalities, the playmakers and the way Matt LaFleur and Mike Pettine are calling games has given new life and excitement to the Packers fan base and franchise.
Jonathan E. Barnett: The play of Kevin King
Kevin King was immediately scrutinized. Twitter hated him from the beginning for not being T.J. Watt. It was unfair. Sure, there was a need at pass rusher and Watt has been a good player. Still, there was also a need at defensive back. Let’s be honest, there were several needs.
King had injuries in his first two seasons. When he played it was fine, but there was always the urging that he was a mistake. There has been a collection of people actively rooting against this player on the team they love. I guess it made me more defensive of King.
King has not been perfect. He definitely had a rough game against the Lions, but he has played relatively well this season. He has had two big interceptions in the end zone this year. He has three total interceptions, a forced fumble and a sack. If I am picking a single favorite play, it is the interception against the Vikings that sealed the game. King has played in every game and had at least one pass break up in every game. Kenny Golladay is the only 100 yard receiver he has allowed. He held Stefon Diggs to 55 yards and Alshon Jeffery to 22 yards. I have enjoyed seeing him finally start to show what he can do.
Kris Burke: The Aaron Rodgers Renaissance
If you’ve followed me on APC for any length of time, you know how little tolerance I have for fraudulent takesters like Skip Bayless and Colin Cowherd, among others.
So you can imagine my joy when all the nonsense about Matt LaFleur and Aaron Rodgers not getting along was exposed for the ridiculousness it was. Not only are the two getting along very well, but LaFleur has actually fixed or at least started to repair some of the things that were broken with Rodgers from the final years of the Mike McCarthy regime.
The start of the season wasn’t pretty (as expected) but the breakout of the new offense has been building each week. Rodgers didn’t have the numbers in previous weeks like he did against Oakland, but you could see what they were building towards. His footwork was better. He was seeing open receivers. He was taking checkdowns. He was even getting the ball out faster, a primary complaint of many fans, including myself.
There’s still room for improvement obviously but all arrows are pointing towards Rodgers being back to form. When you add in an offensive system that’s meant to actually take things off his plate rather than overload it, then you have all the makings of a very special season from Rodgers.
Here’s hoping it continues.