From monitoring Jordan Love’s progress to taking a day off from practice in response to the Jacob Blake shooting, it has been a memorable week in Green Bay Packers camp. And as the regular season creeps closer and closer, preparations for football in today’s ever-fluid social landscape figure to see plenty more curveballs.
One such change is crowd-less stadiums and possible artificial noise, two dynamics rarely seen in professional sports. For the Packers in particular, how will those aspects influence early-season contests?
A brief look into the possible advantages for Green Bay in this environment can be found in today’s musings, along with a unique prospect and a stat the Packers will look to improve upon this season.
How will pumped-in crowd noise help or hurt the Packers this season?
The 2020 season promises to be one unlike any other, especially so from a crowd standpoint. The Packers have already announced that at least their first two games of the season will be played without fans at Lambeau Field, and the Minnesota Vikings’ matchup against Green Bay in Minneapolis will also be crowd-less. While the New Orleans Saints have only committed to their first home game (versus Tampa Bay) without fans at this point, there is certainly the potential that those plans change by Week 3.
From a home-game perspective, the question becomes how much pumped-in crowd noise will give the Packers an advantage. Leagues such as the Bundesliga in soccer and Major League Baseball have used video-game noise to match what is happening on the field. Mostly, the noise has been used to break up the silence on the field more than for competitive advantage. But one report is that the NFL is considering 70 to 85 decibel noise for these fan-less games. For comparison, that is somewhere between the sound of a vacuum cleaner and a garbage disposal, and the sound would be steady throughout the game regardless of which team has possession.
So, for the Packers at home, the advantage may be minimal. But perhaps the team’s biggest advantage lies in being able to knock out road games at Minnesota and possibly New Orleans early in the season without the normal challenges that come with loud, packed indoor stadiums. If the league’s current thoughts prevail, the Packers will be able to face a team like the Vikings with lower-than-usual noise while the offense is on the field. In one of the hardest stretches of the Packers’ season, the pandemic may offer a small glimpse of optimism in this regard.
Should we read into the Packers’ patience with an oft-injured edge rusher?
Undrafted in 2019, former Baylor edge rusher Greg Roberts struggled to show his ability on the field with an abdominal injury. That injury led to a season-long stint on the Physically Unable to Perform list while the Packers continued to pay him through his recovery. Fast forward to 2020 and Roberts found himself on the COVID-19 reserve list to start the summer before transferring back over to the PUP list just over a week ago.
While there is a spot on the 53-man roster to be earned at the edge rusher position with only three current locks, the Packers have been very patient with the recovery of Roberts despite extremely limited action. With several cuts so far, it is interesting that Roberts would continue to have a place in Green Bay, begging the question of how high the team feels his potential could be. Practice squad holdover Randy Ramsey and rookie Jonathan Garvin have shown flashes early in camp, but could Roberts have a shot at a final roster spot down the line?
Can new acquisitions help the Packers improve their “power” percentage?
In Football Outsiders’ recent almanac, the Packers’ offensive line appeared to improve significantly during the 2019 season in terms of pass protection. However, one area in which the Packers’ line decreased considerably was its power percentage.
The Packers’ troubles in short-yardage situations are not secret, but they were concerning in reference to the running game. FO’s power stat refers to the percentage of short-yardage situations (third or fourth downs with two yards or less to go, and goal-to-go situations from two yards or less) that achieved a first down or touchdown. Over the 2017 and 2018 seasons, Green Bay maintained a 65%-66% success rate in these situations, which ranked 11th and 21st, respectively. However, last season, the mark plummeted to 54%, dropping the Packers to a 27th ranking across the NFL.
While much of that blame can be placed on the team’s offensive line opening holes, some of it involves the backs on the roster. Could the addition of a power back like A.J. Dillon help increase the team’s production in short-yardage runs this season? Perhaps Josiah Deguara or John Lovett from the fullback/H-back positions could make a difference in that regard as well. Some of the Packers’ newest acquisitions could be key in improving the team’s third-and-short woes, and one has to believe the Packers are counting on them to do so.