How will the strange offseason and adjusted training camps affect teams? Will the Packers’ continuity help?
This year’s offseason has been unlike any other. There was an all-virtual draft, a cancelation of OTAs, no minicamps, and all in the name of COVID-19.
The pandemic has thrown all of the sporting world a curveball and has forced all teams across all major sports to adjust.
The one benefit the NFL has that other platforms don’t is the season hasn’t started and was in the offseason. Not in midseason like the NBA or NHL. And not on the verge of starting like MLB.
As of right now, the only thing the pandemic has altered was the draft and some offseason training a lot of players don’t like anyway.
OTAs aren’t always attended and some players use this time to show their displeasure with contracts or just choose to stay home and train instead of at team facilities.
To say they are useless would be inaccurate. Many teams have their first installs during this time and the bond begins to form with new free agents and rookies.
There have been virtual meetings and installs but how much that actually helps is anyone’s guess.
Do not fret though NFL fans. Teams will get the chance to catch up when training camp begins, and all indications are they will begin on time.
Much like the 2011 offseason, teams won’t get their first taste of football until training camp begins.
One certainty in the NFL is change. The only question is just how much of it occurs within the team.
This year, continuity with systems might be the step ahead teams need.
Even the Packers’ draft class, more importantly their first-round pick, aren’t expected to be big contributors this year and the biggest boosts should be from within.
Of the new acquisitions, Kirskey already has experience playing in Mike Pettine’s system and should know what to do. The only draft pick who might end up with substantial playing time this season is AJ Dillon and, luckily for him, his position is the most translatable from college to the NFL.
The team has its head coach as well as all three coordinators returning. The team also has an All-Pro quarterback returning for his 16th season.
Unlike last season, when there was plenty of change, the Packers almost took a status quo approach. This wasn’t very popular with fans or myself for that matter, but considering the circumstances, this might have been best.
No one could have predicted this would happen but unlike some of their main rivals, the Packers haven’t changed much and now have continuity working on their side.
The Packers’ main rival in the division, the Minnesota Vikings, have seen the most turnover, losing a Pro Bowl wide receiver and most of their secondary, as well as an offensive coordinator.
The Chicago Bears are in the middle of a quarterback controversy after trading for Nick Foles to push the underperforming Mitch Trubisky. This probably isn’t the year to make a change at the game’s most important position, but the Bears have been stuck in neutral with Trubisky and something needed to be done.
The Detroit Lions haven’t had much roster turnover but they did lose their best player at an already weak spot. The Lions replacing Darius Slay with rookie Jeff Okudah may pay off in the long run but for this season, Detroit’s defense will face some bumps and learning curves that all rookies face. Considering how bad their pass defense was, that won’t be a good thing.
Detroit also has a coach on the hot seat and he could be feeling the pressure of not putting together a winning season despite his pedigree. Matt Patricia is entering his third season and has yet to put together a winning season. He’s had his bright spots but still hasn’t come close to challenging for a division title.
The Packers will have turnover at only two positions of their 22 starting players, at middle linebacker and right tackle. Kirksey will be taking over for Blake Martinez. But again, he already has the experience and could be an upgrade over Martinez. And Rick Wagner will get the first crack at replacing Bryan Bulaga.
The key for the Packers’ continuity will be with the offense. If Wagner can hold up well and the offense takes the next step, the Packers will once again be the team to beat.
The last time the Packers had a shortened offseason in 2011, the team went on to set team and NFL records. I don’t expect the same type of explosion, but the Packers’ lack of turnover might prove to be the difference in the NFC North.