The Green Bay Packers are entering 2022 with high expectations. Both their defense and offense have received top ten rankings by various publications. If everything plays out according to plan, the Packers will finally hoist the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the season. However, for this to happen, five Packers players need to prove that their performances in 2021 will improve this season. Questions still need to be answered from special teams to offense and defense.
Related: Packers 53-man roster prediction
1. Darnell Savage needs to prove 2021 was just a “down” year
The Green Bay Packers drafted Darnell Savage with their second first-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. He was a player that produced right away. Over the course of his first two seasons, Savage appeared to be on the rise as one of the premier young safeties in the NFL.
- 2019: two interceptions, five passes defended, two forced fumbles, 55 tackles, 56.7% completion percentage allowed, 71.1 passer rating when targeted, 196 yards allowed, two touchdowns allowed
- 2020: four interceptions, 12 passes defended, one sack, 75 tackles, 56.4% completion percentage allowed, 67.4 passer rating when targeted, 381 yards allowed, two touchdowns allowed
For as promising as those first two seasons were, 2021 was equally, if not more, disappointing for Darnell Savage:
- 2021: two interceptions, nine passes defended, 63 tackles, 64.9% completion percentage allowed, 117.4 passer rating when targeted, 496 yards allowed, eight touchdowns allowed
Green Bay has already picked up Savage’s fifth-year option, so they obviously still have faith in him. However, he will need to prove that faith is warranted with a much better 2022 campaign.
Related: What to expect from Darnell Savage in 2022
2. Mason Crosby has no clarity on his future with the Packers
Mason Crosby is the all-time leading scorer in the history of the Green Bay Packers. Crosby also ranks 14th in NFL history in points scored. He could move up into the top 10 this year. The question is: will he bounce back after a poor 2021?
Last season, Mason Crosby made just 25 of his 34 (73.5%) of his field goal attempts while connecting on 49 out of 51 extra point attempts. The usually sure-footed Crosby had a down year in 2012, too, but bounced back and was as reliable as could be expected over the next eight years. In 2020, for example, he made 100% of his field goal attempts and was 59 out of 63 on extra point kicks.
At 38 years old and in the last year of his contract, there are questions about whether or not this season will be one of the all-time great Packers players last. Retirement is certainly on the table for Mason Crosby if he does not bounce back in 2022, and he certainly could be replaced after the season regardless. In any case, Crosby has a great deal to prove this season.
Related: Mason Crosby could break two records in 2022
3. Josiah Deguara needs to back up his preseason talk
Earlier this month, I wrote about how Josiah Deguara sees an opportunity for himself to be a more significant part of the offense now that Davante Adams is no longer on the team. Indeed, Deguara did lead all Packers players at the tight end position receptions (25) and receiving yards (245) in 2021.
Robert Tonyan will likely begin the season on the PUP list. Marcedes Lewis will return for his 17th NFL season, but is not the receiving target he once was. Dominique Dafney and Tyler Davis are also tight ends on the roster. Yet, neither were not as productive as Deguara was last season. If Deguara is ever to prove that he was worth being taken in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft, the time is now.
Related: The Packers do not have a good recent history of third-round draft picks
4. Rasul Douglas needs to prove 2021 was not a Packers fluke
The emergence of Rasul Douglas as a lockdown corner and ballhawk was likely not on anyone’s Packers players 2021 Bingo Card. When Jaire Alexander went down with a shoulder injury and the secondary experienced other setbacks, the Packers signed Douglas off of the Arizona Cardinals’ practice squad. In 12 games with Green Bay, Douglas put up very impressive numbers:
- five interceptions (two touchdowns), 13 passes defended, 57 tackles, 50% completion percentage allowed, 44.5 passer rating when targeted, two touchdowns allowed
Up until the 2021 season, though, Douglas was not a dominant cornerback. In fact, he had bounced from practice squad to practice squad during the 2021 offseason. Despite winning a Super Bowl with the Philadelphia Eagles, his production was not nearly as good as it was with the Packers. Douglas had five career interceptions before coming to Green Bay and had not intercepted a pass in over two seasons. The Packers certainly feel like it was no fluke as they awarded Douglas a three-year $21 million contract this offseason. It will be up to him to prove he is worth it and 2021 was not a one-hit wonder.
5. Amari Rodgers was ineffective in 2021
There was a lot of hype surrounding Amari Rodgers when the Packers drafted him in the third round last year. However, the production on the field fell far short of meeting expectations. As a rookie, Rodgers recorded just four receptions for 45 yards. He also lost the kick returning job due to poor decision making.
Of course, a poor rookie campaign is not a perfect indicator of future success for Packers players. As I laid out here, many Packers wide receivers have struggled as rookies. Allen Lazard, had one reception for seven yards as a rookie. Now he is a candidate to be the Packers’ top wide receiver. That said, it is on Rodgers to put in the work and translate it on the field to justify his place on the team.
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