There should be more production from the Green Bay Packers offense this season. Here is how things could play out.
The Green Bay Packers had a surprisingly successful 2019 season, but they were not overly impressive, from a statistical perspective. This is Matt LaFleur’s second year as head coach and play-caller, and the Packers acquired more players that fit his system during the 2020 offseason. So, I’m expecting the Green Bay Packers’ offense to be much more productive; more points, more yards, and more ball control.
LaFleur’s offense is vastly different from the one he took over from Mike McCarthy, but you could see a gradual transition, last year, as the season progressed. With a shortened offseason, it’s difficult to see what the offense will look like. I’ll do my best to offer a preseason look at the roles I expect each skill-player to have and the statistics that will follow.
Number of Starts
I’ll preface the stats with the most difficult, yet most boring part of this exercise. Sixteen games for five skilled positions, excluding quarterback, means there are 80 starts to go around for this talented group. The Green Bay Packers will transition to double-tight end formations and give their versatile running backs some reps at wide receiver, due to the lack of depth at the position.
Davante Adams and Aaron Jones tie for the most starts (15) among skilled players, and for a good reason. They’re two of the most talented players on the Green Bay Packers’ roster and should start every game they appear in. As a group, the wide receivers account for 35 of the 80 starts, 20 for the running backs, and 25 starts for the tight ends.
Adams hasn’t made sixteen appearances since 2016, so it’s unlikely that he accomplishes that in 2020 but Allen Lazard has shown durability during his small sample size. Add in the fact that Lazard is almost guaranteed the number two receiver position now that Devin Funchess has opted-out due to the pandemic, Lazard should compete in sixteen games for the second straight year, and I have him starting fourteen.
Equanimeous St. Brown hasn’t been able to see the field much due to his injuries, but he may win the third receiver role, so I penciled him in for fourteen appearances, with five starts. Marquez Valdez-Scantling and Reggie Begelton will have limited roles but should still see the field in over half the Green Bay Packers games in 2020, provided they both make the roster.
The running back group should see plenty of action in 2020. Aaron Jones hasn’t missed a game due to injury in the last two years, but it’s difficult to stay healthy at the running back position, so I have Jones, Jamaal Williams, and AJ Dillon all missing one game due to injury. The one game Jones misses will account for AJ Dillon’s first start, while Jamaal Williams mixes his starts between RB2 and receiver.
The tight end group should be more talented than last year, with a healthy and improved Jace Sternberger and third-rounder Josiah Deguara in the fold. Marcedes Lewis will be in the mix as the best blocking tight end on the team. I’m expecting tight end by committee, early on, while Sternberger and Deguara develop into a capable one-two punch at the position. Robert Tonyan will provide depth.
On to the predictions!
As long as Aaron Rodgers is on the Green Bay Packers, it’s his team. If he’s healthy, he’ll play 95% of the snaps. In 2019, Rodgers completed 62% of his passes for just over 4000 yards, with 26 touchdowns to 4 interceptions. I expect this passing attack to be more explosive than it has been the past few years. If Rodgers throws 7.8 yards per attempt, it would be his best since the 2014 season.
Tim Boyle should see an appearance or two, during garbage-time, in the early goings of the year. When Jordan Love develops into a player the coaching staff can trust, Boyle will be shown the door.
Once Love is in the fold, I expect him to see plenty of appearances, as I highlighted last week. If given a package with a small playbook and limited reads, Love should develop nicely, though he’ll take his lumps early on.
During the 2020 offseason, LaFleur was vocal about adding a bruising ball-carrier to the backfield. That came in the form of AJ Dillon in the second-round of the 2020 Draft. He, along with Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams, will form a three-headed monster for the Green Bay Packers.
This means there won’t be enough carries for Aaron Jones to repeat his career year, of 2019, in which he carried the ball 236 times, for 1084 yards and 16 TDs. Dillon will likely steal some red-zone opportunities from Jones, which should limit his touchdown production, though I expect Jones’ efficiency to increase from 4.6 YPC in 2019, which was already pretty decent.
Jamaal Williams’ production on the ground will take a step back. He should be priority number three to assume carries, while AJ Dillon will be priority number two. Dillon should take a lot of the short and goal-line carries. He’ll be productive in this offense.
Aaron Rodgers was a threat to run early in his career, but he’s lost a step. Love will likely scramble often, as athletic rookie quarterbacks do, and he’ll likely have some called runs when he’s on the field. Scantling has recorded two rushing attempts each of the last two years.
|Equanimeous St. Brown||14||5||44||26||360||13.8||2|
Davante Adams is one of the best receivers in the league, but he was limited by injury last year. I expect him to bounce-back in 2020, recording double-digit touchdowns, as he did from 2016-2018. Jones was second in targets in 2019. With his talent out of the backfield and the lack of depth at the receiver position, I expect him to repeat that this year.
Jace Sternberger, Allen Lazard, and Jamaal Williams should compete as the third receiving threat. Sternberger will eventually find a home as the every-down tight end for the Green Bay Packers, which will place him on the field for a large portion of offensive snaps. The same can be said of Lazard in the number two receiver role. Either player could take advantage of their opportunity and pass Jones in targets.
Lazard proved to be a decent deep threat/ possession receiver in 2019 when he was able to haul in 63% of his targets for 13.6 yards per catch. He’ll see plenty of deep shots again in 2020. With a more explosive offense and improved skill set, I expect Lazard to increase his YPC while converting his targets at a similar rate.
Jamaal Williams might see a dramatic change in his role. Williams will likely see fewer reps as the lone back, but last year he saw snaps as the second back on the field with Jones. I think we’ll see more of that in 2020, and he may be a move-back, with reps at wing and slot receiver. An expanded role will give him more opportunity to capitalize on his versatility. That will allow him to have similar receiving production to his 2019 season.
St. Brown will see a decent share of targets as the third receiver, while MVS will primarily be used as a deep threat. He’s been unable to convert his targets in the past, which is why his appearances have been limited. Unless the light switches on for him, that will continue in 2020.
Dillon, Tonyan, Lewis, and Begelton, because of their roles, will finish near the bottom of the list in targets. I expect some fun plays in the Jordan Love package, which might result in opportunities for the young quarterback to catch some passes.
Yards From Scrimmage
|Equanimeous St. Brown||26||360||13.8||2|
I’ve spoken at length about every player on this list, aside from Josiah Deguara and Tyler Ervin. Both players offer versatility, but their roles couldn’t be more different. Deguara, as the H-back, will see more offensive snaps than Ervin. Most of those snaps will be as a move-blocker, but he will get touches in both the run-game and the pass-game. He’ll likely see his touches in short-yardage and play-action situations.
Ervin, however, has already carved out a nice role for himself as the Green Bay Packers’ go-to return-man. He’ll see more all-purpose production than Deguara but will likely have a limited role on the offense. Last year, Ervin saw spot appearances where he was used as a move-wing and last-ditch 3rd down back. He proved to be one of the shiftiest players on the roster last year, which may give him a larger role in 2020, but more often than not, he’ll back up Jamaal Williams on the offense, which should limit his snaps.
This offense will live or die on Matt LaFleur’s ability to adjust, both mid-game and in season. He’ll need to balance his new versatile players with the talent already in place. I’m confident he’ll accomplish that, and the offense will benefit. Who exactly benefits from that remains to be seen. GOW will cover the progress of these players, as best we can, throughout camp. Get back here for your best takes.
All stats courtesy of ProFootballReference.com