No one expects the Green Bay Packers to hoist the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the 2023 season, but the expectation is that this year will provide the team answers to questions that will hopefully bring them back into contention moving forward. With that in mind, let’s take a look at five people, either players or coaches, who the Packers desperately need 2023 answers from to move the team into the future.
Jordan Love, quarterback
I’m sure Packers fans don’t want to think about the 2024 NFL Draft already, but it’s going to be a talking point throughout the season. USC’s Caleb Williams and North Carolina’s Drake Maye are the highest-regarded quarterback prospects since Trevor Lawrence back in 2021 and could be in play for the team, as Green Bay will hold two first-round picks if New York Jets quarterback plays at least 65 percent of the team’s overall offensive snaps in 2023.
The Packers won’t have to finish with the first or second overall pick in the draft to be in contention for these quarterbacks, either, as teams seem to be more than willing to move up for top quarterbacks in the draft. Just last month, the Carolina Panthers traded up from ninth overall to the first overall pick to land Alabama’s Bryce Young.
New starting quarterback Jordan Love just signed a one-year extension with the Packers, but general manager Brian Gutekunst avoided giving him a fully-guaranteed fifth-year option — giving the team options next offseason. While the team continues to echo that a young quarterback is going to take time to adjust to the league, their actions suggest that Love will need to at least clear a certain bar of play to return as the starter in 2024.
Romeo Doubs, receiver
Last season, fourth-round rookie Romeo Doubs started off the season as hot as you could imagine a Day 3 rookie to play. Unfortunately, press man coverage coupled with an ankle injury erased his influence in the second half of the season. If the trio of Christian Watson, rookie Jayden Reed and Doubs aren’t enough to get the job done, a shakeup of the receiver group could leave Doubs as the odd man out going into his third year in the league.
It’s unlikely that Watson, who broke out in the second half of his rookie season, or Reed, a second-round pick, would be the receivers who would be displaced. Unfortunately, that puts Doubs in a high-leverage situation in his sophomore season.
T.J. Slaton, defensive lineman
The weakest position, from a proven depth perspective, on the Packers’ roster is easily the interior defensive line. Rookie first-round pick Lukas Van Ness should help on the interior on obvious passing situations, at least once Rashan Gary is healthy enough to be on the field following his ACL tear, but there’s a question mark about who will start opposite of Devonte Wyatt on base downs.
The options are T.J. Slaton, who has mostly played as a backup nose tackle, and two rookie Day 3 draft choices. Slaton has only played 588 defensive snaps over his first two years in the league, less than 30 percent of the team’s total defensive reps, and has made two starts over 34 games. If he can’t earn a starter’s share of snaps, the run defense — with the limited safeties behind the box — could be in for a very long season.
If Slaton isn’t the guy for Green Bay, the Packers may have to end up spending another high draft pick on a defensive lineman in the 2024 draft.
Jerry Montgomery, defensive line coach
We’ll get into defensive coordinator Joe Barry in a second, but I want to talk about another defensive coach first. Jerry Montgomery is the longest-tenured coach on Green Bay’s entire coaching staff, as he was originally hired as a Mike Pettine assistant under Mike McCarthy back in 2018. You could argue that in his first five seasons with the Packers as their lead defensive line coach, Montgomery hasn’t developed a single full-time starter at his position. The one exception might be Kingsley Keke, who temporarily started for the squad before being released mid-season in 2021.
Montgomery is going into Year 3 of development with Slaton and was just given Colby Wooden (116th overall pick) and Karl Brooks (179th overall pick) in the 2023 draft. Sure, Wooden and Brooks are raw, but if Montgomery can’t develop any of these three above-average athletes into a quality starter this year, you have to start questioning if the team needs to bring in a different voice to lead the position group.
Joe Barry, defensive coordinator
What can I say here? We all saw the 2022 season. We’re all disappointed in the defense that was fielded compared to the investments that the front office has made there.
Head coach Matt LaFleur continues to say that Joe Barry is simply executing LaFleur’s plan, but the tackling needs to get better next season for the 2023 Packers to have a chance with a first-time starting quarterback under center. Beyond that, there need to be more answers on third downs, the situation in which offenses were getting into bunch sets to force Green Bay into stale off-coverage looks behind the sticks.
Sure, the defense looked better in the second half of the season, but the Packers were expected to have a top-10 defense last year and weren’t anywhere close for months on end. If Barry can’t get it done in 2023, it might be time for LaFleur to pass off the reigns and just focus on the offensive side of the ball.