It’s great to be 2-0! The Green Bay Packers are leading the NFC North and Matt LaFleur is the only new head coach whose team has yet to lose a game. Everyone in Green Bay is riding high, and they should be. An undefeated football team is something to celebrate, even if it’s only two games.
But there are reasons to be concerned, too. Perfect though the Packers’ record may be, the team itself is still a work in progress. Here are the things that have concerned APC’s writers so far this year.
Paul Noonan - Level of Competition
The teams you play against matter far more than everyone likes to think, and while the defense has looked gangbusters so far, my fear is we see a substantial regression once they actually face a competent offense or two. Defensive performance tends to be less sticky than offensive performance, and while early season dominance is nice, remember when the 2017 Packers held the Seahawks to 9 points and ate Russell Wilson alive? Yeah, I know, huge bummer.
Anyway, I think this team is more talented on defense, and I think this performance will stick, but Kirk Cousins also missed a lot of throws on Sunday that Pat Mahomes and Philip Rivers and Carson Wentz probably don’t miss. You can say the same thing about the offense in reverse, as they’ve faced two tough defenses, and so I’d expect both sides to even out, but I’m interested to see how they do when it’s not Mitch Trubisky over on the other side.
Jonathan E. Barnett - Killer Instinct
There are still a few of the former regime’s bugaboos that pop up from time to time. The first quarter against the Vikings made me very happy and optimistic. The offense got to the line with between 13 and 17 seconds to go on the play clock. The plan seemed very clear and the scheme got the ball out of Rodgers’ hand very quickly. By the second quarter Rodgers was holding the ball and the team was getting to the line with 5 seconds left. The Packers have also had trouble making sure they can still have a few timeouts left in the last three minutes of a half.
The offense has scored a total of three points in the second half through two games and is just 7 of 27 on third downs. I still believe a good deal of this is the rust and the fact they are working through the hardest time of having a new head coach and a new scheme. Still, I worry that they are not getting the game plan into the second half yet.
Jon Meerdink - David Bakhtiari
Please let me preface this by saying this is, on the whole, a very minor concern. I’m sure everything here is fine! There’s probably no reason to be worried.
That said, I’m a little concerned about David Bakhtiari’s start to the 2019 season. Per STATS Inc. via the Washington Post, Bakhtiari has been charged with one sack and two holding penalties through two games. Dating back to 2016, Bakhtiari has never surrendered more than three sacks or been called for holding more than three times in an entire season. In those admittedly limited statistical categories, Bakhtiari would seem to be below his typically lofty standards.
There’s also the issue of his reported back injury. Again, this is by all accounts quite minor, but back injuries are typically only considered minor when they are afflicting someone else’s body. A back injury can easily linger for weeks or months, affecting an entire season and even subsequent seasons. Should Bakhtiari’s injury turn out to be even slightly more than very minor, the Packers could have a big problem on the left side of their offensive line.
Evan “Tex” Western - Receiving Depth
Perhaps the reason I am so concerned about the Packers’ lack of production from receivers not named Davante Adams is because I was so confident about them coming into the season. I truly believed that Marquez Valdes-Scantling would be a great deep threat from the jump this season, and although he has had one flash play (a big gain off play-action against the Bears) he has been virtually nonexistent otherwise, ranking close to last in DVOA so far.
I also believed that Geronimo Allison would be an ideal slot receiver for a LaFleur offense -- like the Rams’ Cooper Kupp, he’s tall, runs great routes, and has a knack for getting open. Like MVS, he had one nice play, the first touchdown of week two, but he was not targeted at all in week one and he was downright bad the rest of the Vikings game, and he’s even worse in DVOA than MVS.
Then there are the tight ends. Big Bob Tonyan has one target, a 28-yard gain in the opener. Marcedes Lewis vanished in week two after getting three targets in week one. And Jimmy Graham...woof. For a player who was hyped up as being poised for a bounce-back season in the new scheme, there’s really no sign that he is any more of a weapon than he was last season.
Admittedly, it’s early, and the Packers played a couple of pretty darn good defenses. Hopefully the issues with the receiving corps can be chalked up to growing pains along with the entire offense. But for a unit that I felt so strongly about, it’s concerning that there has not been more production to this point.