It’s Super Bowl week and the Green Bay Packers are once again sitting at home. As a thought exercise, I went through the Packers’ roster and tried to identify how many things have to break in Green Bay’s way for them to have a chance to win it all next season in Las Vegas. I came up with four major factors that could influence the next 12 months for the Packers, but I’ve almost certainly forgotten something so let me know in the comments.
#1: Aaron Rodgers comes back
I know the Packers fanbase is split between wanting Rodgers to come back in 2023 and wanting to get a look at former first-round quarterback Jordan Love before he potentially hits free agency, but if Green Bay is going to go all the way next season then number 12 has to be under center. Think about it this way: Who is more likely to get hot enough to go on a postseason run? A first-year starter or four-time MVP? It’s as simple as that, at least in the short term.
#2: Finding quality starters at safety, tight end, the defensive line and receiver
When we polled the fans, the top needs of the team (from first to fifth) going into the 2023 offseason were perceived to be safety, tight end, the defensive line, receiver and outside linebacker. Outside linebacker solves itself a bit, as the assumption is that Rashan Gary (2022 ACL tear) will return to the team at some point in 2023 to play alongside starter Preston Smith and the developing Kingsley “JJ” Enagbare at the position.
With Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb, Robert Tonyan, Marcedes Lewis, Jarran Reed, Dean Lowry, Adrian Amos and Rudy Ford all set to hit free agency this offseason, though, they’ll need to nail a couple of picks in the draft just to tread water. Green Bay doesn’t have much cap space to work with, so free agency isn’t going to be a fix-all option for the team. In total, Lazard, Cobb, Tonyan and Lewis played 2,276 offensive snaps for the Packers in 2022 while Reed, Lowry, Amos and Ford played a combined 2,606 reps on defense.
#3: Continued development of young players
The 2022 rookie class showed promise, but the Packers are going to need to see more consistency out of those players in 2023 if they’re going to make a deep run. First-round defensive lineman Devonte Wyatt only consistently broke into the lineup when Dean Lowry’s season was cut early due to an injury. First-round inside linebacker Quay Walker had an up-and-down year, but his athleticism and effort were on display in 2022.
Offensively, the biggest question marks are the two halves of the seasons from receivers Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs. Watson was a non-factor in the first half of the season, but developed into the Packers’ man-beater in the second half of the year due to his blazing speed. Can he keep that production up? Meanwhile, Doubs was an early-season contributor who fell off down the stretch (following a high ankle sprain) as teams pressed him more and he was relatively neutralized by the tactic.
#4: A rebound performance from some key veterans
Cornerback Eric Stokes missed most of the 2022 season with an injury and he’s going to need to return to a high level of play in 2023 to allow Green Bay to move around Rasul Douglas. Douglas can play in the slot or even potentially at safety, depending on how confident Joe Barry is in Stokes at outside cornerback. With Keisean Nixon (slot) set to hit the open market this offseason, Douglas being plug-and-play in the third corner role would go a long way.
After receiving a major contract, inside linebacker De’Vondre Campbell fell from a First-Team All-Pro in 2021 to missing significantly more tackles in 2022. Another tough contract that the Packers have on the books, as it sits today, is safety Darnell Savage’s $7.9 million fully-guaranteed fifth-year option. Savage was benched at times in 2022 for his play at safety and ended the year playing in the slot in nickel and dime personnel packages. Both Savage and Campbell would need to rebound from their 2022 for Green Bay to have a chance at a title next year.