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Packers were hit harder by injuries on offense than defense in 2020

High variance between the offense and defense could spell trouble in 2021.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Green Bay Packers Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

At the end of every season, Football Outsiders releases their Adjusted Games Lost (AGL) statistic, which is in my opinion the single best metric in determining how hard injuries hit an NFL team. Rather than simply counting the total games lost due to injuries, AGL weights the number for starters versus backups and attempts to quantify the impact of players who are playing hurt by including an adjustment for active players who appeared on the injury report. Football Outsiders even includes splits, so that you can identify various units on a team that were hit particularly hard.

2020 is one of the most bizarre seasons in history as, in addition to standard injuries, we had the introduction of the COVID-19 list. Plenty of teams, including Green Bay, were impacted by players entering the COVID protocol. This year’s AGL report separates COVID losses from injury losses for each team as well so we can tell exactly how big of an impact COVID had.

As usual, injuries played an enormous role in determining the fates of many teams. The most injured team by AGL was San Francisco by mile, with 166.6 games lost. COVID made a big impact there as well, as San Francisco would have been healthier than five teams without the effects of the pandemic. The 49ers finished last in their division at 6-10 almost exclusively due to the injury bug, as their roster and coach are outstanding under normal circumstances. On the other end, the Super Champion Buccaneers were the healthiest team in the league with only 30.6 games lost. Health matters a ton.

And it mattered for Green Bay, especially late in the season. The Packers were actually snake-bitten pretty badly on the offensive side of the ball, ranking 26th in AGL. It may not have seemed like it because the team kept chugging along, but think about these issues that struck at varying times: a COVID outbreak took out the running back room, Allen Lazard missed six games, Davante Adams missed a pair, Corey Linsley missed three games, Tyler Ervin missed half a season, and of course David Bakhtiari was lost at the worst possible time. In fact, the only offensive skill position players to play in all 16 games were Aaron Rodgers, Bob Tonyan, and MVS. Everyone else missed at least one game.

Per FO, the Packers were actually hit pretty hard by COVID, though much of their AGL score appears to be driven by Devin Funchess opting out and it’s unclear how much he would have actually played if healthy. That said, aside from the running backs, it’s worth noting that Jared Veldheer missing the NFC Championship Game due to COVID exposure is probably a bigger deal that what AGL captures.

The defense, on the other hand, was almost shockingly healthy, which may not bode well for Joe Barry in his inaugural season as defensive coordinator. The only position to really suffer from COVID exposure was the ILBs as Kamal Martin and Krys Barnes both missed time, and everyone else suffered mostly nagging injuries. Eleven defensive players played in at least 15 games, and outside of Kevin King, who missed five games, the starting secondary was intact all season.

The Packers ranked 4th in defensive AGL with just 21 games lost, and as a team, they had one of the largest splits between offense and defense. It’s likely that in 2021 these numbers both head back towards average. Interestingly, the Vikings were the polar opposite of the Packers as the 5th-healthiest offensive squad but the 30th-healthiest defensive squad.

Breaking things down by position group, the most injured position group for the Packers was wide receiver with 24.0 (though Funchess drives a lot of that) followed by 22.5 games lost from the OL. The only other area where they lost over 10 games was at linebacker, where Barnes missed some time due to COVID and Kirksey was out for five games. Every other position group was generally quite healthy. Health doesn’t regress to the mean like a truly random statistic, but it’s still likely that the offense will be in better shape next year while the defense is hit a bit harder. Given the lack of depth (as of now) at some key defensive positions, most prominently cornerback, that could spell trouble in 2021.