Packers: Progression awaits the offense in 2019 season

Wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling #83 and quarterback Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling #83 and quarterback Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

The NFL Draft has passed and once again fans saw the Green Bay Packers largely focus on defense. Though that statement may ring true, it does not mean the offense is set for mediocrity as the past couple seasons have left some, if not most fans accustomed to.

As previously mentioned, the NFL Draft was predominately made up by defensive acquisitions, but Rounds 2 and 3 saw the team attack the two biggest needs on the offensive side of the ball: The offensive line and tight end positions.

With the 12th pick of the second round, the Packers selected Elgton Jenkins, center, from Mississippi State University. Though he played center throughout college, his versatility along the line is what drew the Packers in. The team already has a great player in Corey Linsley at center, so it leads many to believe Jenkins will be shifted into a guard position from day one.

Earlier this week, Pro Football Focus had tweeted out an astounding stat surrounding Jenkins. Among all of the eligible centers, Jenkins posted the sixth-best ‘Pressure Rate Allowed’ by only allowing 1.4 percent of his pass-blocking snaps resulting in pressure on the quarterback.

Countless mock drafts had the Packers taking Iowa’s T.J. Hockenson or Noah Fant inside of the first round. After passing on them both, the tight end questions were finally answered after the team selected Jace Sternberger from Texas A&M with the 12th pick of the third round.

It’s far too early to tell, but by spending that much draft capital on a player, it appears the team has hoped to find their future long-term tight end with the pick. As Jimmy Graham ages, the blemish at the position grows larger. The team knows he is not the player he once was in the league. The team is still facing the repercussions of letting Jared Cook go after the 2016 season, as it has struggled to truly find someone to replace him and the chemistry him and Rodgers had down the stretch.

No one is calling for Jace to come in and produce right out-of-the-gate, but, with his collegiate stats it’s hard to argue that he cannot become one of the biggest steals of the draft. In the 2018 season, Sternberger lead the Aggies in receiving, producing 832 yards on 48 receptions, 10 of those being touchdowns. The sample size is small with him, but if those are the type of numbers the team and fans can grow to expect, then Rodgers may finally have himself a solid go-to tight end.

Free agency saw the Packers focus heavily on defense as well, but one player stood out to the team and could easily be a starter as soon as he enters the building: Billy Turner. This will be Turner’s fourth team since being drafted by the Dolphins in 2014. That does not mean he is a bad player by any means, he’s just been unable to find a true landing spot to call home.

He is hoping Green Bay can be just that. “…having an organization behind you, backing you all the way and compensating you in a way that makes you feel comfortable to walk into the building every day and comfortable knowing that you’re wanted here,” said Turner after arriving in Green Bay to sign his free agency contract.

His versatility on the line will be crucial for the team moving forward, and could be a large part as to why they decided to invest so much into him. He has found himself starting at four different positions throughout his career.

But his true position comes at guard, and the Packers just so happen to have an opening at right guard heading into the season. With the injuries that have diminished the offensive line in years past, having two versatile additions in Jenkins and Turner should give hope that if one man goes down, someone will be there to step up and fill in.

A bit of criticism was in the air as fans saw the team pass on the wide receiver position during the NFL Draft, thus meaning the team fully believes in the young wide-outs that currently fill the roster. The 2018 season saw a monster year from Davante Adams, by hauling in 111 receptions for 1,386 yards and 13 touchdowns, all career highs. Adams had fully cemented his name among the best at the wide receiver position in the NFL.

Geronimo Allison was poised for a breakout season — through four games, he had 303 yards on 20 receptions, two of those being touchdowns. Unfortunately, Allison’s season ended abruptly due to a groin injury. The injury became an early turning point for the Packers offense for the rest of the season, the chemistry him and Rodgers began developing never filled over onto some of the rookies below him.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling was the rookie that stepped up and tried to fill the shoes that Allison’s injury had left for the filling. Rodgers seemingly force-fed MVS like the wide receiver #2 he was aiming to be, peppering him with 73 targets. Though the targets were there, the receptions were not. MVS only brought in 38 of those 73 targets, giving him a catching percentage of 52.7 percent, the lowest catching percentage of all of the rookies in 2018. That said, he did produce the best season as a rookie under Rodgers by producing 581 yards and two touchdowns.

The injuries to Allison and Randall Cobb bodes as a possible outlier to those stats, but it is still impressive nonetheless. The previous rookie to have the best rookie year under Rodgers was Davante Adams, and we have all been witnesses to what he has brought to the table since then.

Equanimeous St. Brown was the receiver that seemingly had the most hype around him in regards to potential and he showed why when Rodgers called his number. At 6-foot-5, he is the tallest receiver on the roster and can be a huge threat in the coming years for red zone targets.

His possession skills jump off the page, but he also provides the ability to run after the catch, dismissing weak tackles from the defense. He brought in 21 of his 36 targets for 328 yards. He wasn’t called upon as much as MVS, but he made the most of every opportunity sent his way.

Jake Kumerow, the player that took the 2018 preseason by storm and tattooed his name onto Packers fans hearts aims to stay healthy this season and to become a key role player in the offense. He is not the flashiest wide receiver on the roster, but he does bring grit and determination to the unit. He is the type of player who pops up when you’d least expect it, but when you need them to the most.

Last but not least, J’Mon Moore. Moore did not do a whole lot in the 2018 season, it’s easy to forget that he even was a piece of the wide receiver room as a whole. But, with the departure of Randall Cobb this offseason, Moore will surely get more opportunities to display his talent. Clips of him training in his free time are beginning to fill the timeline of Packers fans on Twitter and has most of them excited for a potential breakout year.

It should be said that nearly all of the rookies were thrown into roles that nobody truly saw coming. Injuries plagued the position by losing Allison for the season and Cobb being unable to consistently stay on the field throughout the season. But, the silver-lining is this: these young receivers faced adversity from the beginning and gained a tremendous amount of experience in that area alone. Now they enter their second offseason working with Rodgers, they have a new wide receivers coach in Alvis Whitted and the sky is the limit for all of them.

Aaron Jones took the NFL by storm once previous head coach Mike McCarthy cut the ropes on his leash. Jones dominated on the ground by rushing for 728 yards on 133 attempts and also recording eight touchdowns in the process. His work in the passing game also did not go unnoticed — out of the backfield he had 206 yards through the air on 26 receptions with one touchdown. He seems like a player that will excel under Matt LaFleur’s offensive scheme. Especially by providing the dual-threat capabilities to haunt defenders on the ground and through the air.

As with every other position on the Packers offense, Jones had caught the injury-bug near the end of the season, a knee injury that put a halt to his outstanding breakout season. If Jones is able to stay on the field for a full 16 games, he will surely find himself exceeding well past his numbers that he posted in 2018.

Aaron Rodgers — there isn’t really much left to say about him and what he is to the Green Bay Packers. In all honesty, he is everything to this team. He makes everyone better with his play, the team goes where he goes. That can be a good and a bad thing.

It is a good thing because that is exactly what this young team needs in their quarterback. A leader to lift them up and to help them grow as an individual for the team. It is a bad thing because if Aaron is off, the whole team is off. It is easy to spot a game where you can tell Rodgers is not quite playing up to his standard. You can see the team become dysfunctional, lost at times and completely out of sorts on what to do next.

Maybe a lot of that was due to the turmoil between Rodgers and McCarthy over the past few years. It could even be said that a team will always face that type of challenge if their quarterback isn’t necessarily playing up to their potential that day. Even the greatest of players have bad days, it is then up to those surrounding them to step up and prevail them to victory. That goes for everyone on the team, not just the offense.

This is a young Packers roster with a boundless amount of untapped potential. This team has the talent to do great things in this league. So much is left to be written for everyone involved on the offensive side of the ball.

The organization believes in its young receiving corps, they allocated resources to improving the offensive line and the tight end position, they have a menace in the backfield and they still have one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever step on a football field. None of that means that there will not be rough weeks in the future, those will always happen no matter what. But, this is the youngest the offense has been in years.

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It’s a fresh start for the Green Bay Packers. A team that has been handed a blank canvas, this season will be an early indicator on what picture is to be painted in the coming years.