Every NFL team’s training camp is vastly different every season. Position battles change, key players come and go in free agency and the NFL Draft, and coaching staffs evolve (or get entirely upended in many cases).
Those ever-present changes make the storylines in each team’s camp unique. This year, the Green Bay Packers have a good amount of continuity, both in the coaching staff and on the roster. In fact, the team ranked second in The Athletic’s NFL continuity rankings this summer. But that doesn’t mean that everything is settled on this team — not by a long shot.
If anything, there are more questions because of the fact that most of the key players remain, particularly because the team seemed to add heirs apparent at a few positions. In today’s walkthroughs, several of our contributors break down what we feel are the most compelling and intriguing storylines for the Packers in August of 2020.
Drop us a line in the comments and tell us which of these — or which storyline we did not mention — you find most interesting.
Rcon14: Aaron Rodgers, everything Aaron Rodgers
We can talk about all sorts of different things with the 2020 Packers, but aside from COVID, nothing will dictate the Packers season more than Aaron Rodgers. Will they go to more play-action? Will he throw to the middle of the field more? Will a weak right-side of the offensive line suddenly turn him into an MVP again?
It’s going to be hard to get a grasp on any of this prior to the first month of the season. Training camp bits are fun and all, but don’t tell us much of anything. Coach pressers don’t tell you much either as they are a fountain of cliche coach-speak. It’s tough right now because we aren’t in the building, but this is the stuff that matters for Green Bay in 2020.
Shawn Wagner: Tyler Ervin and the Packers’ offensive creativity
Early news out of camp this week consisted of a lot of Ervin and the Packers’ desire to give him time with both the wide receivers and running backs. Drawing up creative uses for Ervin, outside of his special teams duties, could make him an intriguing part of the offense, particularly closer to the line of scrimmage. Ervin was already used on some jet sweeps late last season and his playmaking explosiveness could be beneficial if he can get the ball in his hands quickly in a similar way or on screen passes this season. If so, his presence as a decoy would also give the Packers’ offense a new dimension and maybe he can bring some slot value as well.
But even outside of Ervin, the Matt LaFleur system could have additional creativity in 2020 in the coach’s second year with the team. Will the Packers use more two-tight end formations? Could Jace Sternberger stretch the seam and help improve the team’s middle-of-the-field aerial attack? In what ways will the newer H-back sets open up the offense? Can the H-back, along with the power of AJ Dillon, give the Packers more options in short-yardage situations? I’m a lover of creativity and Green Bay has a chance to take a step forward with a year of continuity on offense.
Jonathan E. Barnett: Wide Receivers
There are many things to follow here. This was a spot where people really expected a good amount last year and it turned into a massive weakness. Then, we all expected it to the point of emphasis in the off-season and we basically have Reggie Begelton. Devin Funchess is gone, but there are several things to watch yet.
First off, what is going on with MVS? He has the tools and has definitely shown flash here and there. I was very impressed with the way he came into rookie camp, but we have not seen a break through yet. He even regressed as the season progressed last year. Secondly, I want to see what we can expect from Reggie Begelton. I did not watch him in the CFL, but I would like to see what interested the Packers in this young man. He seems to be doing okay in practice, but we are so early in this camp. Lastly, I want to see how Equanimeous Tristan Imhotep J. St. Brown returns from a year-long injury. He is someone else that has a lot of talent, but we missed an entire year with him and he last played a regular season game in a completely different offense.
Davante Adams and Allen Lazard do not concern me much. I just want to see the same from Adams and hopefully a little more growth from Lazard. Still, this room is going to have a lot of say in how this season plays out and it is worth my attention.
Paul Noonan: Jace Sternberger
For this team to be any good, Jace Sternberger probably needs to take a big step forward. If they can get by without adding a wide receiver, it will be because that wide receiver is Sternberger. He’s the only TE on the roster with the ability to add something in power run and in passing formations, and the only one who allows LaFleur to actually run his preferred offense. If he struggles at all there are so many knock-on effects, from more telegraphed offensive sets, to more time for untalented or incompetent receivers, to less success in the running game.
I’m also interested in Deguara, and in seeing just how closely they mimic San Francisco, but Sternberger is the lynchpin on offense. Marcedes Lewis is old and slow, Robert Tonyan can’t block a twitter account, and honesty, they probably should have added additional depth. It’s a bold plan to add no additional wide receivers or true tight ends. Let’s see how it works out for them.
Tex Western: The right side of the offensive line
From day one of practice on Saturday, Matt LaFleur made it very clear that the team plans to hold a wide-open competition for the right guard and right tackle positions. With Billy Turner alternating between those spots and Lane Taylor (guard) and Rick Wagner (tackle) getting the other first-team reps, it appears to be a three-man battle and one that will have a significant impact on the season.
Personally, I would still like to see some sign of a young player or two getting into the mix. Yosh Nijman is still on the PUP list, but I hope that he (when he returns) and rookie Jon Runyan get a few reps to test their mettle as well. In any case, the Packers appear to be throwing every veteran they can at these jobs to see who will emerge to fill in for the departed Bryan Bulaga, and with injuries always a concern, Turner’s ability to play both spots should come in handy sometime this season.
(Also if the Packers would re-sign Jared Veldheer to come in and compete as well, we’d really have a stew going.)