The 2023 season has been a rollercoaster of highs and lows for fans of the new-look Green Bay Packers. It’s safe to say we are back at the “lows” after losses to the underwhelming New York Giants and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and back-to-back defensive performances that have seen quarterbacks for both opposing teams win NFC Offensive Player of the Week. All over social media, we’re seeing calls to have DC Joe Barry relieved of his duties. We’ve seen writers question if HC Matt LaFleur is loyal to a fault. We’re even seeing emotionally charged posts from Packers players themselves. It’s difficult to escape the negative space that the last two games have put us in.
How about a little change of pace? Some positivity? Some good vibes, or what have you. Regardless of the final outcome after Week 18, there are a lot of great things to come out of this season. Who needs Santa Claus when you’ve got Brian Gutekunst?
The Packers have their next long-term quarterback.
This is a year of evaluation for every new player on the team, obviously, but the main objective is to see what the Packers have in the man who sat for three years behind Aaron Rodgers. We’ve seen some not-so-hot play from QB Jordan Love, which can be expected in a player’s first year as a starter. Early in the season, Love left much to be desired with a lot of his deeper pass attempts. He also had some kinks in his decision-making process which we were all hopeful would be worked out with time and experience.
At about the halfway point, it seemed like Love had done a complete 180. His accuracy improved (thanks in part to his receivers finally getting open and holding onto the ball), he looked more comfortable thinking quickly on his feet, and he gave us some incredible performances against contenders like the Detroit Lions and Kansas City Chiefs. During the month of November, Love led the team to a 3-1 record, throwing for over 1,100 yards, 8 TDs, and 2 interceptions. To kick off December, Love hasn’t been playing like an elite QB by any means, but he also hasn’t regressed to what we saw earlier this year. It seems like we’ve seen the floor from Jordan Love, and quite frankly, it’s not completely awful. If the early part of the 2023 season is indeed the worst it’ll ever be from the starting QB, I think the Packers are in good shape, and they’ve got their next long-term guy. The quarterback position, the most important part of a rebuild, isn’t a question mark anymore.
Weapons! The Packers have weapons!
When WR Davante Adams left Green Bay, he left not only a huge hole in my heart, but a huge hole in the Packers’ offense. Last season, in the team’s first year without Adams, the leading receiver for the Packers was Allen Lazard with 788 yards. Lazard is now in New York, where he was a healthy scratch at one point this season for the Jets. It’s safe to say Adams was the last true #1 receiver for this Green Bay offense. This year, the Packers receiving group is comprised entirely of first and second-year players, and the top two TEs are also rookies. It’s been a bit of a journey this season for Jordan Love as he works to develop chemistry with his young group of weapons, but we’re starting to see who his favorites are, even with the injury bug making its way through the roster.
Love’s most targeted receiver this season is second-year player Romeo Doubs with 84 targets, and rookie Jayden Reed isn’t far behind him with 82. These two lead all Packers by far, with Christian Watson in third with 53 targets. Reed also leads the team in receiving yards with 592, which is an underwhelming 49th-most in the entire league. Like I said, it’s been a journey this season. When we look back at the four most recent games, however, we get a good idea of who Love’s go-to guys are going to be in the coming years.
WR Christian Watson: 16 targets, 165 yards, 3 TDs (2 games played)
WR Dontayvion Wicks: 17 targets, 160 yards (3 games played)
TE Tucker Kraft: 18 targets, 173 yards, 2 TDs
WR Romeo Doubs: 19 targets, 171 yards
WR Jayden Reed: 31 targets, 129 yards, 2 TDs
Jayden Reed is absolutely blowing everyone else out of the water when it comes to looks from his quarterback. His speed and versatility as a threat in the run game have given Jordan Love a really fun weapon to grow with. Romeo Doubs has been consistently reliable, but Dontayvion Wicks and Tucker Kraft have emerged as recent favorites for their quarterback. Not to be forgotten is Christian Watson, who has been battling a nagging hamstring injury. If Watson had been healthy during this four game stretch, he might just be leading this group in all receiving categories. Add in TE Luke Musgrave, who is still recovering from a lacerated kidney, and the Packers might just be flying down the field in 2024 and beyond.
The recovery from an ACL tear can be normal.
The David Bakhtiari injury scarred Packers fans. We are just a few days away from the 3-year anniversary of one of the most devastating injuries this team has seen, and Bakhtiari is still affected by it, having been placed on injured reserve at the beginning of this season. When OLB Rashan Gary tore his ACL in November of last year after a hot start to the season, a lot of fans feared he would not come back the same explosive player he had finally blossomed into.
Gary ended up being healthy enough to play during Week 1’s rout of the Chicago Bears, but he remained on a pitch count in the games following. He’s only played about 50% of defensive snaps this season, but has been on the field pretty steadily since Week 6, when he played 67.8% of snaps. During Week 3, fans collectively realized Gary hadn’t lost a step when he earned his first-ever 3-sack game. Through 14 games this season, Gary has 9 sacks, which is 1⁄2 a sack away from his single-season high. He’s also earned a brand new four-year extension worth $96 million. Criticism of his run defense aside, it’s clear that Gary is still an absolute force as a pass rusher, and his ACL injury is long behind him.
The NFC is bad, and that means the playoffs are not a pipe dream.
The Packers are currently 6-8, which is truthfully better than I thought they would be at this point in the season. They’ve had some impressive wins, and thanks to those weeks of high-level play, they’re not out of the playoff race. The last two games have certainly put a damper on the playoff dream, but the fact that they’re even in the hunt at all is a miracle when you look at how young this roster is (and how bad this defense is). As this roster continues to mesh and build chemistry, they’re only going to (hopefully) improve. The future is bright in Green Bay, as long as the organization continues to take the steps to improve the roster and personnel on both sides of the ball.
Life for Packers fans has been extremely smelly as of late, but it doesn’t need to consume you! As the season comes to a close, we’re still going to see those highs and lows we’ve seen all year. During these last few weeks, I beg of you, please wear those rose-colored glasses proudly, and look at all the positives that have come out of 2023!