4-1 is a great place to be, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement. As the Green Bay Packers continue their march toward (hopefully) a postseason berth, here are a few things our writers think the team needs to address.
Paul Noonan - They need a receiver
Davante Adams is 14th in DVOA and if he had a few additional TDs, he would likely be top 5. MVS on the other hand, ranks 59th in DVOA, and if he qualified, Allison would rank 66th. Matt LaFleur has done an admirable job of funneling the offense through its relative strengths, but eventually they will run into a team that can shut down running backs and aged TEs.
There are, thankfully, plenty of hopelessly bad teams with decent receivers out there, and the Packers can likely upgrade without giving up too much. If the opportunity presents itself, they should leap at it, because the current crop isn’t going to get it done.
Evan “Tex” Western - Safety/LB depth
My top concern is probably the same as Paul’s, but he addressed the receiver situation. Therefore, I’ll move on to another area that worries me: depth at safety.
Darnell Savage has suffered two different injuries so far this year, first a cleat to the calf in the final play of the Minnesota game and then an ankle injury against the Cowboys that took him off the field for three quarters. Although it appears he avoided major injury -- thankfully -- he still is a critical piece of the defense who might miss some time.
Meanwhile, Oren Burks’ return helps at the linebacker position, giving the Packers an athletic player who can line up next to Blake Martinez and be useful in pass coverage. I like the idea of him finally earning more snaps in both base and nickel looks rather than the Packers rolling out a safety in that spot, but he’s still recovering from injury himself and should be brought along slowly.
And with Raven Greene on injured reserve and Ibraheim Campbell on PUP, the Packers’ depth at safety and that hybrid moneybacker position is going to be tested. Will Redmond played well against Dallas in relief of Savage, but expecting him to duplicate Savage’s production is foolish. Behind Redmond, the Packers basically have some combination of Josh Jackson, Tramon Williams, and Chandon Sullivan able to take over a handful of safety snaps. While those players have had moments, I’d certainly rather they remain at cornerback.
Perhaps Deone Bucannon, who was just released by the Buccaneers, could be a fit. Campbell will be eligible to return next week and can fill in at both safety and nickel/dime linebacker. But given the rash of injuries that have struck in recent weeks, I really wish that this team had a dynamic player like Greene or a more established veteran on the active roster as the #3 behind Savage and Adrian Amos.
Jon Meerdink - Avoid the big mistake
I’m not terribly swayed by the idea that the Packers really “took their foot off the gas” in the second half against the Cowboys. They scored points on three of their four non-kneeldown drives, matching their point output from the first half. However, if you wanted to argue that the Packers could have scored more, I wouldn’t dispute that at all. They could have, but they didn’t. And it’s mostly because of three big mistakes.
The first of these mistakes came on the Packers’ third possession of the second half, when Elgton Jenkins committed his second holding penalty of the game. Holding penalties are probably the most costly mistake an offense can make, and Jenkins put the Packers in a big hole. Three plays later, they punted.
The second is technically two separate issues, but I’m rolling them into one. On the very next drive, Aaron Rodgers took a bad sack on 2nd and 10, losing 12 yards. The Packers then couldn’t get the next play called quickly enough, resulting in a delay of game penalty. In the span of just a few seconds, the Packers lost 17 yards and, predictably, punted again.
The final big mistake came on the Packers’ only substantive drive of the fourth quarter. On a 1st and 10 from midfield, Aaron Jones foolishly reversed field when nothing was available on a run to the right. He lost 10 yards and essentially scuttled any chance for the Packers to put the game away. Had Jones been satisfied with just a loss of 1 or 2 yards, the Packers might ended any Cowboys comeback chances right there.
Three plays essentially wiped out entire Packers drives, and on a night where no scoring margin seemed safe, each of these was a valuable opportunity to make a Cowboys rally even harder. Such mistakes have not been uncommon so far this year, and if the Packers are to remain, contenders, they must be eliminated.
Kris Burke—Move Robert Tonyan up the depth chart
We at APC are big fans of BIG BOB TONYAN but he really needs to be seeing more snaps.
The Jimmy Graham signing hasn’t worked as planned and even though he’s stepped up in both the passing game and in blocking the past two games, he’s not the weapon he once was while Tonyan can be a matchup nightmare. Tonyan is earning (or perhaps has earned) Rodgers’ trust and if he keeps making plays leaving him at TE3 will be increasingly harder to justify.
It’s been quite a journey for Tonyan going from an undrafted free agent to being on the cusp of being a featured part of the Packers’ offense and with Rodgers adding a “y” to his name (he called Tonyan “Bobby” after the Cowboys game just like the quarterback called Randall Cobb “Cobby” and calls Brett Favre“Favrey”), you know he’s coming into favor.
Marcedes Lewis is still solid as a blocker so Tonyan can move out wide or also stay in line and defenses will have to account for him. If Graham can continue to contribute, I don’t think a heavier dose of 12 personnel in the passing game is out of the question. LaFleur isn’t afraid to change gears and quickly adapt to what’s working.
The tight end position will still need to be addressed in this offseason more likely than not, but at least Tonyan gives the Packers someone to build around.
Matub - Bring back the Horse Collar Brat
It’s terrible that I have to mention this more than once. The horse collar brat is STILL not for sale within the concessions areas of Lambeau Field. The Packers went to the NFC Championship Game the year the brat was introduced. Since its discontinuation in 2016, the Packers have seen nothing but middling performances and a fired head coach.
This 4-1 start is a FARCE and will end poorly without that giant, cheese-covered, gift back in the stomachs of Packer fans on gameday (specifically in concourses 102, 111, and 315).
Bring back the horse collar. Save the season.