Many have lauded this season as “The Last Dance” for this Green Bay Packers roster.
Right, wrong, or otherwise, the Packers are all-in and have constructed a roster expected to compete for a Super Bowl. In order to reach the pinnacle, the team is going to need a few players to step up and help elevate the team to new heights.
Today we take a look at superlatives surrounding the 2021 Green Bay Packers.
Top player: Aaron Rodgers
Predicting Aaron Rodgers to be the team’s best player isn’t exactly going out on a limb, but I’d be hard pressed to pick someone other than the reigning MVP. After the off-season both he and the franchise endured, it’s fair to assume Rodgers will have a little bit of added incentive to light the league on fire and make himself irreplaceable.
Even though it’s unlikely he remains in Green Bay after this season, Rodgers will do everything in his power to hoist one more Lombardi trophy in Green Bay, which we all know would mean a great deal to 12. I expect a slight decline in production (last year’s QBR was second in NFL history) but upper-echelon quarterbacking nonetheless.
Breakout: A.J. Dillon
A.J. Dillon will be assuming the 1B option in the Packers backfield, formerly held by fan-favorite Jamaal Williams. Dillon gives the Packers a battering ram who is insanely athletic for his size. He will give the Packers a higher-upside option to split carries with Aaron Jones and may even give Matt LaFleur the opportunity to put both backs on the field at the same time.
Williams received roughly 40 percent of the team’s carries a season ago, and will assuredly step into all of those. Not to mention, the team will want to keep Jones’ legs fresh for late in the season. They will be one of the league’s better tandems and a player like Dillon can help unlock this offense’s full potential if he performs like we know he’s capable.
Comeback: Randall Cobb
Randall Cobb was acquired to appease Aaron Rodgers, this isn’t exactly a secret. However, his addition will undoubtedly help this football team.
Cobb’s return gives the Packers a sure-handed option in the slot who has chemistry with Rodgers, and another asset as a run blocker. No, he hasn’t played in LaFleur’s offense, but it shouldn’t take long for the veteran to get up to speed and help this team.
Cobb’s best days are certainly behind him, but let’s not act like there’s a team capable of getting more from Cobb than Green Bay.
Rising star: Darnell Savage
Darnell Savage has shown flashes of being a true game-changing safety, but hasn’t put it all together just yet. Savage has the versatility to play either safety position or even in the slot depending on the match-up.
Under Joe Barry, Savage will get the chance to move around and use his natural aggressiveness and play-making to his advantage. I don’t think there is much separating Savage from forcing six-plus turnovers and becoming a star for this defense. It may be a year too early, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see Savage make a Pro Bowl in year three.
Don’t forget: Josiah Deguara
Josiah Deguara was handpicked by this regime to be LaFleur’s H-back/hybrid tight end. Had his season not been cut short by injury I think Deguara would have played a massive role in last year’s offense. His ability to play out of the backfield and use his athleticism to get out ahead of the running back and lay down a block could really open up some big-time runs.
The way Kyle Shanahan uses George Kittle and Kyle Juszczyk in so many different formations to confuse opponents is exactly what I think the Packers are trying to emulate with Robert Tonyan and Deguara. Deguara is a seemingly perfect fit for LaFleur’s offense and could be a vital part of the Packers sustaining their success on that side of the ball.
Rebound: Kevin King
Kevin King took a lot of heat during the off-season due to the way he finished the year, and understandably so. But let’s not forget that King is an adequate-to-above-average second corner in the NFL, and that this secondary is better off with him than without.
I’m not predicting some monster campaign this season, but King is back on a one-year prove-it deal with first-round pick Eric Stokes nipping on his heels. He should have all the motivation he needs to stay healthy and play his best in hopes of securing a long-term deal from some team next off-season.
Darkhorse: Krys Barnes
It’s no secret that under the previous two regimes, inside linebacker isn’t a position they have valued highly. This is evidenced by the little to no significant draft capital allocated to the position over the last decade. The results have varied, but largely the Packers have gotten what they paid for, disappointment.
Last season the Packers may have found a glimmer of hope in UDFA Krys Barnes. Due to lack of overall talent at the position, Barnes climbed his way up the depth chart and proved to be a difference maker. He did struggle to stay healthy and that’s something worth monitoring in year two, but he’s earned the right to be entrenched as a starter.
The team is undoubtedly hoping to have finally found a long-term solution at the position, and Barnes offers some upside and athleticism at a fraction of the cost.
Under the radar: Kylin Hill
This is not to overstate the potential impact of a rookie seventh-round draft pick, but more to highlight the early returns – which have been promising. Kylin Hill was someone I thought was a steal in Round 7, and could definitely be a contributor for this team in year one.
Hill is a really smooth runner with some burst and he can also catch out of the backfield. Due to the pairing ahead of him, Hill isn’t likely to garner significant snaps right away. However, his skill-set as a third-down back is undeniable.
Injuries happen in the NFL and if either of Jones/Dillon were to miss time, I’d feel plenty comfortable with Hill spelling either of them and playing those snaps. Traditionally the third back doesn’t receive too many touches but I trust Hill will show well in the few he does get.
His most immediate impact will likely come on special teams – a unit the team is working desperately to rebuild. Hill has already been given opportunities in the return game, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him begin the year in that role. As far as I’m concerned, Hill is already third on the depth chart and a lock to make the team.
New addition: Josh Myers
Josh Myers was drafted in the second round specifically to replace Corey Linsley. Myers has been running with the ones since mini-camp and nothing has changed entering the pre-season. Even though we haven’t seen him in a game yet, the early reports have been great. Aaron Rodgers and coaches have both showered Myers with praise.
You could argue there were better centers left in the draft but his fit in LaFleur’s running scheme is nearly perfect. You don’t see many centers with Myers’ size (6-foot-5, 310 pounds), and when you do, you assume they’re a below-average athlete. In this case you would have assumed wrong. Myers is a superb athlete for his size and moves really well – constantly looking for work.
He does have the versatility to play any of the interior spots on the offensive line, but it would appear that center is going to be his home for the foreseeable future. It’s not fair to expect Linsley-level production, but Myers is going to fill a significant hole in his rookie season for the Packers.