Packers: Positives, negatives follow Week 15 loss to Panthers

CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 17: Aaron Rodgers
CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 17: Aaron Rodgers /

What are the Green Bay Packers’ biggest positives, negatives to take away from their Week 15 loss to the Carolina Panthers?

Despite getting their quarterback back in a must-win game, the Packers folded and saw their playoff hopes go out the window.

The offseason has begun, and the Packers have 1,001 problems to fix. The Packers’ 2017 campaign was another example of the team being completely reliant on their quarterback and not having nearly enough of a supporting cast around him to even get close to another championship.

Here some positives and negatives from their season-ending defeat.

Positive: Rookie running backs

Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones have showed potential in their rookie years in Green Bay. Williams established himself as a tough, between-the-tackles runner who can be relied on in goal-line and short-yardage situations.

Jones provides a little bit more wiggle in the hole. While he may not be the fastest back in the world, Jones possesses particularly good vision in the backfield. As early as the preseason, Jones was seeing holes develop in the backfield better than most rookie running backs do. The Packers may just have hit on two rookie running backs in back-to-back rounds.

Negative: Nick Perry

After signing a massive contract early in free agency this past offseason, Nick Perry responded with a morbidly depressing season as the team’s top pass rusher opposite Clay Matthews. Perry, like so many other Packers, was poor against the run all season. Seven sacks doesn’t look bad, but the Packers are paying Perry as if he is Derrick Thomas.

Perry signed on for five years and $59 million last offseason. The cap number for this season is manageable at just under $6 million. That number will explode in the coming seasons, meaning Green Bay will not have nearly as much cap space in future years (not that they would use it of course).

Positive: Blake Martinez

The Packers may finally have themselves an impactful defender in the middle of their defense. Martinez was easily the team’s leading tackler, and looks like he may be the team’s first linebacker worthy of All-Pro consideration in years. The Packers have not had anybody like Martinez in the middle of their defense since the early years of Nick Barnett.

For some context, this means the last time the Packers had a linebacker worthy of even a single Pro Bowl vote, Brett Favre hadn’t retired even once, George W. Bush was president, and Aaron Rodgers was still waiting for his name to be called on draft night. Martinez was strong against the pass all season, covering check-downs and tight ends very effectively.

Negative: Lack of offensive plan

The Packers decided that it would be a good idea to walk into this season with a whopping four active running backs on the team, and a fullback. Such redundancy in the backfield should only be appropriate if you are the Raiders of the 80’s or the Giants of the 60’s. Last time I checked, the Packers aren’t particularly interested in paying for guys like Marcus Allen or Frank Gifford.

More from Lombardi Ave

Instead, the Packers invested three draft picks in running backs to back up a receiver as their top back. All four backs made the final roster, as did fullback Aaron Ripkowski. Using five roster spots on the team’s last resort offensively can only be described as foolish.

Never mind that Devante Mays looks worse than Eddie Lacy did this season for the Seahawks. While (Jamaal) Williams and (Aaron) Jones look promising, there is absolutely no offensive plan to get them as involved in the offense as efficiently as possible, preventing their development from speeding up.

Positive: Brett Hundley

Brett Hundley’s numbers don’t jump off the stat sheet at first, but the intangibles looked great for the backup quarterback. In his seven starts, Hundley led four game-winning or game-tying drives despite a patchwork backfield, injured offensive linemen, aging receivers, and a non-existent tight end corp. Hundley will start the final two games of the season as Aaron Rodgers was shut down for the year after sustaining several jarring hits against Carolina.

If anything else, Hundley will get one more chance to maximize his free agency value. Hundley will unlikely be back with the Packers for a second long-term contract, as he has earned the right to demand a little bit more than a rookie wage. The Packers will shortly be on the search for a new backup quarterback.

Negative: Assumptions

This is the most consistent of problems in Green Bay. Heading into this season, the Packers assumed that their oft-injured, receiver-turned-running back who hadn’t played the position since high school before making the switch would become a star in the NFL. They also assumed three rookies all picked in the fourth round or later would pick up the slack.

They assumed that Damarious Randall would simply morph into Mel Blount after a miserable year at corner in 2016. They assumed that telling the media they would get Randall Cobb more involved in the offense would actually get him the ball more.

They assumed Kenny Clark had already developed into Joe Klecko, and believed they had a Kellen Winslow-clone because Richard Rodgers is almost as tall as the Hall-of-Famer.

The Packers’ lack of interest in bringing in proven veterans has caught up with this depleted roster. Ted Thompson appeared to get the message at least a little bit this past offseason, bringing in six free agents.

Martellus Bennett was an earthquake, while Lance Kendricks struggled to get open downfield. Ahmad Brooks provided a little push off the edge, while Quinton Dial struggled to make even a single tackle week-to-week.

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Jahri Evans had a strong season at right guard, but is not a long-term option by any stretch of the imagination. The Packers need a philosophy change quickly.