In a separate article, Acme Packing Company broke down how the 2022 offseason started, from the drama around quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ possible retirement to the switch at special teams coordinator and the losses of receiver Davante Adams and outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith.
Now let’s look at how the Green Bay Packers’ offseason plan, with the new free agent signings and draft picks, has come together over the past few months. While the Packers had limited cap space to add free agents, their swings have hit and five of the team’s top-six selections in the draft could contribute early on this season.
The Packers offense
The Packers’ new wide receiver group has been a bit of a mixed bag. Free agent signing Sammy Watkins, playing on a one-year deal worth just $1.85 million, is expected to share playing time as an outside receiver with Allen Lazard and rookie second-round pick Christian Watson. Due to Watson undergoing a knee surgery this summer, though, he was held out for most of camp and was only activated from the physically unable to perform list after the team’s first preseason game.
The slot fade was a Davante Adams specialty. At least so far, Romeo Doubs seems capable of handling those responsibilities.pic.twitter.com/kXKblvYSQE— Jason B. Hirschhorn (@by_JBH) August 13, 2022
The breakout of Packers camp has been fourth-round rookie receiver Romeo Doubs, who made the most of his reps in Watson’s absence. While Doubs had some dropped passes in preseason, he is expected to contribute in the receiver rotation and potentially as a return man.
The only other real changes on the offense come along the offensive line, where projected starting tackles David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins might not be ready to hit the field in Week 1. The most-played OL lineup, currently, is Yosh Nijman, Jon Runyan Jr., Josh Myers, Jake Hanson and Royce Newman (left to right), though fourth-round rookie Zach Tom has seen some reps with “the ones” as a right tackle and guard.
The offensive line has struggled against Green Bay’s defense, which isn’t much of a surprise but is worth noting going into Week 1 if Bakhtiari and Jenkins aren’t ready to play by the Packers’ opener against the Minnesota Vikings. For whatever reason, it seems as though third-round rookie Sean Rhyan is behind the eight ball as a college tackle transitioning to the guard position full-time and will be taking something close to a redshirt season in 2022.
The Packers defense
The team’s biggest free agency signing this offseason was defensive lineman Jarran Reed, who came to Green Bay on a one-year, $3.25 million contract. During training camp, he was starting as the Packers’ 3-4 defensive end next to Kenny Clark and opposite of Dean Lowry. He seems to be getting nods over Lowry when the team plays in nickel personnel and is drawing praise based on his play at practice, though the team has not allowed him to play in preseason games.
The Packers only used this rush package once against San Francisco, the only real rush set they threw out there. They did the same thing in Family Night with "The Ones" twice. DL on the same side to get three on three on one side, one edge rusher and Quay Walker opposite. pic.twitter.com/Sz6lc5zaZk— Justis (special teams charter) Mosqueda (@JuMosq) August 14, 2022
First-round pick Devonte Wyatt is the team’s backup at defensive end currently, but started to build up steam when full pads came on in training camp. Wyatt’s former Georgia teammate, first-round draft choice Quay Walker, will start at inside linebacker next to De’Vondre Campbell, which should give the Packers more options for their defensive front this year.
Expect Green Bay to play more nickel looks, rather than dime, in passing situations, as Walker can hang athletically with players lining up in the slot or tight end. Walker has also been featured in rush packages for the team, walking down to the line of scrimmage as an add-on fifth pass rusher.
The one question mark defensively is who will get after the quarterback off the edge if Rashan Gary or Preston Smith miss snaps, as no true contender for that third pass-rushing role has stepped up at the outside linebacker position this summer. Hopefully, Walker can help there on third downs if/when Gary and Smith need a breather or go down with an injury.
The overall impact
The loss of Davante Adams will be felt in 2022, as the team has already played more I-formation football in the preseason than they did on a game-by-game basis in 2021. While the additions of Watkins, Watson and Doubs should help the team’s speed in the receiver room, the Packers will still probably have a run-heavy offense that relies on running backs Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon more than in the past. That is, if the offensive line can gel.
The defensive side of the ball is where the team really should shine. As long as starting safety Darnell Savage (hamstring) is fully healthy in his return, the Packers have no holes on defense, either in the base 3-4 or the nickel personnel. The additions of Wyatt, Walker and Reed help the team cover their bases and add depth and athleticism to that side of the ball, which already performed well when healthy last season.
Matt Lafleur’s tenure in Green Bay has been marked by consistency, as his teams have won 13 games in each of his three seasons as the team’s head coach. Currently, DraftKings has the Packers’ win total set at 11 going into the season, the second-highest number league-wide behind the Buffalo Bills’ 11.5 mark.
As long as Green Bay’s offensive line gets healthy down the stretch and they don’t get cluster injuries at a defensive position, it’s hard to imagine how they won’t get over 11 wins this year when they’re underdogs in just two games currently: on the road against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Week 3) and on the road against the Buffalo Bills (Week 8.)