Packers: Positives, negatives from dominant Week 4 victory

Green Bay Packers, Robert Tonyan - Mandatory Credit: William Glasheen-USA TODAY NETWORK
Green Bay Packers, Robert Tonyan - Mandatory Credit: William Glasheen-USA TODAY NETWORK /

Looking at the positives and negatives for the Packers in their win on Monday night.

The Green Bay Packers are off to their best start since the 2015 season at 4-0.

Here are some positives and negatives from the win over the Atlanta Falcons:

Positive: Krys Barnes

It is no secret the Packers do not like to invest much of anything in the middle of their defense. Years of poor linebacker play has not compelled the front office to draft a middle linebacker higher than the third round since A.J. Hawk in 2006. Green Bay inexplicably passed on Patrick Queen all to draft Jordan Love, who will not see the field for a minimum of four years.

Krys Barnes, along with Kamal Martin, was one of just two new faces added to the room after bringing in the nearly always-injured Christian Kirksey. So far, Barnes has been a bright spot. He earned a surprising start in week one against the Minnesota Vikings, and he has impressed with zero missed tackles and 17 solo tackles on the season.

Negative: Injuries

The Packers are barely hanging on for dear life in the health department. They’ve already lost Lane Taylor for the season, and finished the game against the Falcons with injuries at nearly every single position group.

Davante Adams was held out again with a hamstring injury, while it is unclear whether or not Allen Lazard will miss the remainder of the season. Josiah Deguara was injured again during the Falcons game at tight end as well and will likely miss the remainder of the year.

On defense, Kenny Clark still wasn’t able to get on the field. Neither was Rashan Gary, thrusting the thoroughly unprepared Jonathan Garvin into the lineup. Will Redmond, Kevin King, and Chandon Sullivan all sustained injuries as well during the game. The bye week could not have come at a better time for Green Bay, who are going to need every last hand on deck for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Positive: Aaron Rodgers

For a little while, it appeared as though simply freeing Aaron Rodgers of Mike McCarthy hadn’t exactly done the trick. Many times last year, Rodgers looked unspectacular and declining. Through four games, Rodgers is having a ridiculous season. He’s thrown 13 touchdowns, passed for 1,214 yards, leads the league in QBR, and hasn’t thrown an interception.

The quarterback position has never been played at a higher level than what Rodgers played it at in the 2011-2012 season, but to this point the campaign has been incredible.

Rodgers looks so relaxed, comfortable and content in this offense. Even with a laughably bad group of wide receivers against both the Falcons and New Orleans Saints, Rodgers completely diced up both teams in primetime games and had both defenses at his mercy. Should Rodgers play at or near this level the rest of the season, he should be the MVP.

Negative: Draft class

The Packers are getting almost nothing out of their draft class from this past offseason. Of course, part of, if not most of that, is by design. Jordan Love is not even the backup quarterback, while A.J. Dillon has carried the ball eight times in four games.

Deguara caught one ball on opening night. Martin has yet to play a snap because of injury, and two of the team’s three rookie offensive linemen didn’t make the team. Jon Runyan has appeared in relief multiple times this season, while both Vernon Scott and Garvin have played in emergency situations.

Long story short, the Green Bay front office owes Aaron Rodgers one. The team accomplished nearly nothing in the draft other than setting themselves up for the inevitable departure of Jamaal Williams in free agency, and got deeper on the offensive line.

You can bet they won’t, but there is absolutely no reason the Packers shouldn’t be trying hard to add help at the trade deadline on both sides of the ball.

Positive: Matt LaFleur

The Packers have one of the best young coaches in the NFL. Matt LaFleur’s first year in Green Bay wasn’t always pretty, but winning 13 games and coming within 60 minutes of the Super Bowl doesn’t happen by accident. What LaFleur had devised for the Falcons was extraordinary. With just four receivers, none of which are household names even in their own homes, the Packer offense moved up and down the field with ease.

At virtually no point during Mike McCarthy’s tenure in Green Bay was the offense this well schemed and less reliant on brilliance from any one player. The Packers used three different running backs throughout the first half against the Falcons.

All of them created all sorts of problems for the Atlanta defense, and with a healthy Davante Adams, this offense could reach even larger heights. Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett deserves plenty of credit as well for helping mix Robert Tonyan into the flow. The offense has scored 30 points in all four games and has not turned the ball over a single time.

Negative: Preston Smith

Last year was last year. The Packers need Preston Smith now. While his role has shifted some, he still needs to be the Preston Smith the Packers got through three quarters of last season.

Smith disappeared from the face of the earth over the last five games, had a critical sack of Russell Wilson in the divisional playoff round, and like every other Packer, was undressed by the 49ers a week later. The Packers have put Smith in coverage much more than they did a year ago, which is a personnel issue more than a coaching fault.

Perhaps Krys Barnes’s emergence will make Mike Pettine more comfortable letting Smith just go after the quarterback every play, but the Packers are paying Smith a rather hefty chunk of money and need to get some more juice from him on the defensive side of the ball.

Smith has just a half sack and five tackles in four games. The Packers have only played one offensive line of any note to this point in the season in the Saints, and are absolutely going to have to get some semblance of pressure on Tom Brady in two weeks.

Next. 5 things Packers need to fix in the bye week. dark