The good and the bad for the Packers in Week 3.
The Green Bay Packers are 3-0 for the second straight year.
Here some positives and negatives from the win versus the New Orleans Saints:
Positive: Matt LaFleur
Matt LaFleur is on fire. Counting the postseason, LaFleur is now a whopping 17-4 in his first season and change in Green Bay. For perspective, Vince Lombardi racked up five losses in his first season in Green Bay alone.
He’s not going to provide a whole lot defensively, but LaFleur has dramatically improved and transformed what was a completely stagnant and archaic offense under Mike McCarthy as head coach and of course, McCarthy as offensive coordinator.
LaFleur went into New Orleans with just four wide receivers, none of which are particularly talented, against a great secondary and diced them apart for 37 points. Tyler Ervin has become a huge weapon for the offense as well. Aaron Rodgers looks special again, and while the team may not average 39 points per game all season, they are a force for any defense to deal with.
Negative: Defensive line
Green Bay’s defensive effort against the Saints was pitiful. If not for a bad decision by Sean Payton to take Drew Brees off the field and give Taysom Hill the ball, Za’Darius Smith would not have been in position to make a play. Even with Kenny Clark, the Green Bay defensive line is far below average. Without him, they’re unwatchable. Play after play, the defensive line gets blasted off the ball and opens gargantuan holes to run through.
Montravius Adams is particularly miserable to watch. In all three games this season, he’s been about as bad as he can possibly be at the line of scrimmage. Maybe things improve throughout the season, but right now, he and Dean Lowry don’t look like they even belong in the NFL.
The second touchdown Alvin Kamara scored was one of the worst plays to ever occur on a football field by a defense. Green Bay got some big stops in the fourth quarter, but they have a long way to go before they are even remotely serviceable.
Positive: Offensive line
Green Bay’s offensive line has been indescribably good through three games. After 12 quarters of play, Aaron Rodgers has been sacked twice. One of those sacks came against the Saints, and was an outside blitz that was not supposed to be picked up by the line.
Let’s not mince words: Elgton Jenkins is already a top-five interior lineman in football.
The Packers have the best depth up front that they’ve had in years. Jon Runyan, Rick Wagner, and Lucas Patrick have done great jobs filling in for injuries up front. To be this good having missed multiple starters for multiple games is phenomenal work by the coaching staff. Aaron Jones, David Bakhtiari, Kevin King, Corey Linsley, Jamaal Williams and others are free agents at year’s end. Bakhtiari clearly has to be the priority.
The whole notion that not adding any receiver talent was a good idea is pretty silly. Devin Funchess opting out didn’t help matters, but the Green Bay receivers are hardly “making strides.” Marquez Valdes-Scantling has three dropped passes and eight receptions in three games. Allen Lazard continues to perform reasonably well, but catching wide open deep bombs from Aaron Rodgers isn’t exactly reason to ignore the receiver position all offseason.
Matt LaFleur is scheming these guys open. A strong, healthy secondary will have no problem matching up with these receivers and erasing them, just as they did last year with the exception of Davante Adams. Just like last year, Brian Gutekunst should absolutely be looking to add pass catchers. Zach Ertz, Julio Jones, Golden Tate, and Curtis Samuel should be on the team’s trade radar.
Positive: Tight ends
Jace Sternberger and Robert Tonyan were big factors in the team’s win over the Saints. They both were stellar after the catch and clearly fit LaFleur’s philosophy well. Jimmy Graham suddenly looks like a star again in Chicago, but he was never comfortable in this offense. While they are very pedestrian as pure players, they clearly have a defined niche that has been carved out for them by the coaching staff.
Marcedes Lewis also continues to be a valuable asset. His terrific blocking remains a big plus for the offense, and his acrobatic touchdown reception in the second half was a sight for sore eyes. LaFleur also hasn’t really been able to use Josiah Deguara too much yet as he has missed the last two games.
All three, especially Tonyan and Lewis, have been excellent to this point in the season in both the passing and running game. Sternberger was in desperate need of a strong showing after a brutal game against the Lions.
The Packers have not been getting the returns they envisioned after a massive investment in the back end of their defense. Adrian Amos graded out as the top run defender at his position last year, but that may be in part because so many running backs make it to the third level of Green Bay’s defense to begin with. Darnell Savage has also been a disappointment to this point.
Will Redmond and Raven Greene look like they have no idea what they’re doing out there. Greene is at least coming off an injury, whereas Redmond was looking to build off a mildly impressive 2019 season.
While the front seven leaves all kinds of things to be desired, the safeties have got to add more pop to this defense. Jaire Alexander is playing like a top-tier cornerback, and Kevin King, while very up and down, is for the most part doing his job. But the Packers badly need better performances from their bookends.