Green Bay Packers: Keys to success in 2016
In this final series of the Green Bay Packers 100: Countdown to kickoff, we are getting the entire lombardiave staff involved. Join us for a unique roundtable to carry you into the regular season.
Green Bay Packers fans know this more than anyone: It takes more than just a great quarterback, or an elite defense to win a championship.
For a team to make a playoff run, they may need to find a way to hide a weakness, or turn that weakness into a strength.
Given what we already know about the Packers, here are our keys to success in 2016.
Find the big pass play again!
The number of big plays in the Packers’ passing game took a drastic nosedive in 2015. And while this was in large part due to Jordy Nelson’s absence, Green Bay’s offense seemed to lose its identity without their deep ball threat. Last season, Green Bay ranked 25th in total offense and ranked 29th in the NFL in big pass play production, only completing six passes for more than 40 yards the entire year.
More from Lombardi Ave
- Packers: Picks in NFL.com mock draft would be a home run
- Packers salary cap update following second week of free agency
- Packers’ cornerback depth chart after second week of free agency
- Packers’ edge rusher depth chart after second week of free agency
- Packers’ tackle depth chart after second week of free agency
Now, compare these numbers to their 2014 offensive production with a healthy Jordy Nelson in the lineup. It was only two seasons ago when the Packers ranked second in the league in passes over 40 yards with 15.
However, this doesn’t just fall on Nelson’s absence and the lack of big play production from the wide receiver group as a whole. With a healthy running game this year, the Packers could set up more play action and looks downfield.
Simply put, the Packers need to get back to scaring teams downfield. This may even mean Rodgers taking more chances downfield as well. But in order for him to do that, the receivers need to do a better job of creating separation and winning the 50/50 balls downfield.
One can point to five or six different things that need to happen in order for the Packers to bring the Lombardi Trophy back home. But since we need to narrow things down to one determining factor, I truly believe the health of Green Bay’s offensive tackles can make or break the organization’s hopes of going all the way.
When healthy, the front five ranks as one of the better units in the NFL. Pro Football Focus, moreover, ranked the Packers fifth overall in pass protection.
That stat, however, doesn’t mask the fact that Aaron Rodgers was the second-most sacked quarterback in 2015 as he was taken down 47 times.
Injuries to Bryan Bulaga and David Bahktiari forced Mike McCarthy to split reps among Don Barclay, Josh Sitton and even Josh Walker at the bookends during the regular season with unsatisfactory results to say the least.
Putting your top player in the best position to lead the team to greatness starts with giving him a clean pocket to throw from and that means Bulaga and Bahk staying in one piece.
The biggest key to success in 2016 for the Green Bay Packers is health. It was evident last season that the offense was completely different after Jordy Nelson tore his ACL in preseason action.
Even though there is no guarantee that Nelson will be as effective as he once was, having him back on the field brings back the deep pass game, something that was lacking big time last season.
In addition, the offensive line was battered with injuries. Other than star quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the offensive line is the most important unit on this football team.
They have the most important job on the field, protecting Rodgers, something they struggled with last season. He was sacked 46 times during the regular season, third most in his career.
A healthy 2016 Green Bay Packers roster could bring the Lombardi trophy back to Packers News.
If the Green Bay Packers are going to regain the NFC North crown that the Minnesota Vikings claimed in 2015, there are several keys that will be important.
However, the most important will be the run defense.
Sure, you can point to Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson and Eddie Lacy, but we all know defense wins championships and if the Packers are going to be a legitimate Super Bowl contender, they have to stop the run.
With the Packers thin at defensive line already, the chances are high that opposing offensive coordinators are going to test the Packers interior early and often.
With Mike Pennel suspended for the first quarter of the season and Letroy Guion showing signs of injury, Green Bay is going to have to rely on inexperienced players, as well as the linebackers to make a difference.
If the Packers can control the line of scrimmage, especially on the defensive side of the ball, that will be half the battle. Forcing teams into third and long situations consistently will allow the Packers’ talented defensive backfield the opportunities to make game-changing plays.
Control the line, stymie the run consistently across all 16 regular season games and the Packers not only win the division, but they qualify for and advance deep into the playoffs, if not make it all the way to the Super Bowl.
The key to success in 2016 is the biggest struggle the Packers faced in 2015: Jordy Nelson. Without him, the receivers were the slowest in the league, and were unable create separation. We chalked it up to the “trickle down” effect, with opponents’ defensive backs each getting a slightly easier matchup than they would have had with Nelson in the lineup.
This year, there’s no excuse. It’s all about which Jordy shows up. Will it be 1,500-yard, 13-touchdown, Pro Bowl selection Jordy? Or 30-something-coming-off-a-season-ending-injury Jordy?
It might be too much to ask of him to reach the level he once played at, but if he is anywhere close, the team is good enough to make a serious championship run.
Next: Packers 100: Countdown to kickoff
Share your thoughts below.
Who, or what is the biggest key to the Green Bay Packers’ success in 2016?