Negative: Jace Sternberger
Yikes. Jace Sternberger appeared to be making a bit of a name for himself towards the very end of last season. Sternberger was on the field a lot in the team’s divisional playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks after missing most of the season with an injury. He then caught a touchdown a week later against the 49ers. The Packers cut Jimmy Graham in the offseason and replaced him with Josiah Deguara.
Sternberger hasn’t been getting the majority of the snaps in obvious passing situations, as Robert Tonyan appears to be getting that responsibility for the most part. Sternberger had two absolutely brutal drops against the Lions, one of which would have gone for a critical first down, the other wouldn’t have counted anyway due to a flag.
The Packers are bad enough at the position, but they’re underachieving. As the Philadelphia Eagles implode one snap at a time, one has to wonder whether or not Gutekunst would swallow his pride and pursue a deal for Zach Ertz.
Positive: Rashan Gary
The Packers badly needed to see something out of the 12th overall pick in last year’s draft after he had a nearly entirely silent rookie season. Rashan Gary didn’t make much of a splash against the Vikings but had one very impressive pursuit of Kirk Cousins that contributed to a sack. Against the Lions, Gary had 1.5 sacks and directly caused the interception from Chandon Sullivan with a ferocious pressure on Stafford.
The Packers would be thrilled to get Gary going at a level that matches how high they drafted him. Having another rotational pass rusher to lump in with Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith would be difficult for any offensive line. The Packers have some good players littered around their roster, but have several spots that are still glaringly poor.
Pass rush doesn’t appear to be one of them, but Gary can help buffer up what is already a strength. The Packers need their defense, for once, to match their offensive output. Gary has as much physical gifts as anyone in football, and it showed against the Lions.
Negative: Christian Kirksey
Blake Martinez signing elsewhere was addition by subtraction for Green Bay. The Packers quickly scooped up Christian Kirksey after he was cut by the Cleveland Browns. He became reunited with Mike Pettine after the two spent time together in Cleveland. So far, he’s been unimpressive. Kirksey played poorly in week one, and even got outrun by Cousins on one scramble. Against the Lions, Kirksey was in the middle of every six- and eight-yard run.
Green Bay’s defense was never going to be the best in football, but if they’re going to be even serviceable, Kirksey has to be a Pro Bowler. So far, it’s the same old, same old in the middle of Green Bay’s pillow-soft defense. The Packers, of course, had the opportunity to add to the position significantly in the first round of the draft with Patrick Queen sitting right in their lap at the 26th pick, but they, ya, let’s not go there.