NFL football kicked off the 2020 season last night in Kansas City and the Green Bay Packers will debut themselves this weekend on the road.
A date with the Minnesota Vikings is never an easy task to begin the season, but the Packers could find an unusual offensive edge in Week 1. Today’s musings dive into a few of the advantages both sides of the football may hold on Sunday, as well as one wildcard factor that the Packers face. Plus, there could be a notable offensive playmaker on the trade market that might interest Green Bay.
Without further ado, here are some musings to ponder on opening weekend.
Stefon Diggs’ move to Buffalo is a blessing for the Packers, but will their first-round pick become a new nemesis?
Sunday’s game will mark the first time since 2015 that the Packers will face the Vikings without Diggs on the roster to account for. Diggs was a bona fide Packer-killer, finishing his Vikings career against Green Bay with a streak of seven games with at least one receiving touchdown. Along with Adam Thielen, Diggs posed a multitude of problems for the Packers’ secondary with his ability to stretch the field vertically and create after the catch. Fortunately, the star receiver was traded to the Bills during the offseason. But will his replacement become a thorn in the Packers’ side as well?
Justin Jefferson became Minnesota’s first of two picks in round one of the 2020 NFL Draft and was the direct pick associated with the Diggs trade. Jefferson will surely be given plenty of playing time behind Thielen in a very different looking Vikings receiving corps, and is the team’s expected breakout offensive player this season. One writer has gone as far as to say that Jefferson could come the closest to Randy Moss’ phenomenal rookie season in 1998 of any of the team’s pass-catchers in recent memory.
Expecting Jefferson to have a 100-yard performance in his first NFL game against Green Bay is bold for my taste, but will he continue Diggs’ streak of reaching the end zone and prove some of the hype?
Green Bay’s offense has its advantages on Sunday, but will its trademark slow start to the season hold them back?
The Packers figure to enjoy a pair of enormous advantages versus the Vikings in this first matchup. Without fans in the stadium, the environment will be much more friendly to the Packers’ offense than it has been in decades. Danielle Hunter’s curious injury absence also makes for another huge lift to the gameplan. But on offense, Green Bay’s toughest challenge might be itself.
The Packers have seemed to get in their own way in the early part of the past few seasons when Aaron Rodgers and the starters have played limited snaps in preseason. The 2020 campaign offers its own unique twist to this problem with no preseason snaps played at all. It might take a few quarters or games for the rust to come off of many teams’ offenses, including the Packers. While Green Bay has offensive coaching continuity this season compared to last, even a few simple early-season blocking mishaps, penalties, and route-running mistakes could spell trouble for the Packers against what is still a formidable Vikings defense.
Pieces are in place for the Packers to be successful in Week 1 at moving the football, but will they limit their own mistakes?
Could the Packers still make a play for David Njoku?
Writing seems to be on the wall for Njoku in Cleveland, as he finds himself third out of four on the depth chart at tight end to start the season. The Browns added Austin Hooper to a lucrative deal in the offseason and then added Harrison Bryant in the fifth round of the NFL Draft. Both players find themselves ahead of Njoku, who played just four games last season after a broken wrist landed him on injured reserve. Njoku demanded a trade in the offseason and that talk subsided at one point, but his positioning on the depth chart lends to new speculation about his long-term role with the Browns.
Could the Packers be a team that takes a deeper look at the fourth-year pro?
General Manager Brian Gutekunst has repeatedly said he will explore all avenues to acquire talent, including trades, and there are some positives in landing Njoku. At just 24 years of age, he still has a high ceiling with two years left on his rookie deal - one that is very affordable this season in particular. It is hard to believe the asking price in a trade would be anywhere near his former first-round billing at this point in time.
From a football standpoint, the option is intriguing as well. The Packers’ own depth chart listed second-year Jace Sternberger third on the list behind Marcedes Lewis and Robert Tonyan, and surely provides an unsettled feeling at the position. Furthermore, the Packers continue to be ridiculed for their inability to gather enough receiving weapons for Rodgers. Njoku would represent an established starting-caliber tight end who posted a 56-catch, 639-yard season two years ago, and has speed and athleticism to further develop in the passing game.
While it is easy to speculate about trade targets, Njoku could actually make some sense in a few ways for the Packers.