To say the Green Bay Packers overachieved this season would be, to many, an understatement. Not only did many national media members believe they would finish last in the NFC North following the trade of Aaron Rodgers, many of their own fans did too. Following the trade, general manager Brian Gutekunst was called out on The Pat McAfee Show (of course) for not being a smart man.
Rodgers, of course, was traded in favor of Jordan Love, whom the Packers drafted in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft to be his eventual replacement. Key veterans like Allen Lazard, Marcedes Lewis, Mason Crosby, and Adrian Amos were all allowed to depart in free agency. Instead of signing other significant free agents to fill their spots, the Packers instead looked to the NFL Draft and bargain bin free agents.
As all football fans are now aware, the result of these decisions was that the Packers are the youngest team in the NFL. With such a young roster, a playoff run seemed far from probable, and when Green Bay started 2-5, it appeared that the woeful predictions would come to fruition.
After October, though, Love and his young group of pass catchers began hitting their stride. Despite injury after injury all over the roster, the next man up did his job to fill the void. As a result of their success, Love and right tackle Zach Tom were named to PFF’s 2023 All-Breakout Team.
Green Bay Packers’ Jordan Love Named PFF’s All-Breakout Team Quarterback
Jordan Love finished his first season as the Packers starter with better numbers than either Rodgers or Brett Favre had before him in their first seasons as starters:
He also finished the season with a PFF passing grade of 85.4, the eighth best mark among quarterbacks in the NFL. Of his selection to their All-Breakout Team, PFF wrote:
“Perhaps no player was under more pressure to succeed this season than Jordan Love. Not only was he taking over as the face of one of the league’s iconic franchises, but he was replacing future first-ballot Hall of Famer and four-time MVP Aaron Rodgers.
“It was a rocky start to Love’s tenure as the face of the franchise, as he didn’t earn a 70.0 passing grade in a game until Week 9 against the Rams. Heading into that matchup, Love owned just a 62.8 passing grade, which ranked 24th out of 35 quarterbacks with at least 100 dropbacks at the time. Since then, he has put up a whopping 90.9 passing grade, ranking second only to Brock Purdy by a tick (91.0) during that stretch.
“This torrid pace was a major factor in Love leading the Packers to the final wild-card spot in the NFC.”
Prior to the season, PFF had predicted that Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett would emerge as their breakout quarterback of the year.
Green Bay Packers’ Zach Tom Named PFF’s All-Breakout Team Offensive Tackle
As great as it is that the Packers have found their quarterback of the future, it also appears that they have found their right tackle of the future. And it’s about time, too. They have not had a consistent long-term starter at the position since Bryan Bulaga’s last season.
That right tackle, of course, is Zach Tom who ended the season as the Packers’ best all-around blocker, at least according to PFF. Of his place on their All-Breakout Team, PFF wrote:
“The 2022 fourth-rounder out of Wake Forest secured the Packers’ right tackle job and never looked back, playing more than 1,000 snaps — and well. Tom’s 75.8 run-blocking grade in 2023 ranked 15th among all tackles, a massive jump from the 55.7 mark he posted as a rookie. He also finished 23rd with a 73.9 pass-blocking grade, allowing just two sacks and 33 pressures all season, with the sacks coming against Danielle Hunter and Chris Jones.”
Tom’s emergence as a Pro Bowl caliber right tackle has presented the Packers with an intriguing question going forward: should Green Bay keep him at right tackle or move him to center or even left tackle?
On the one hand, Tom can play both positions well and, perhaps, better than the other candidates the Packers have to fill them (minus a healthy David Bakhtiari, of course). On the other hand, Green Bay has not had a great right tackle in years.
Whether or not he remains at right tackle is a question for the offseason, but for right now it is the best place for him to be as the Packers make their unexpected playoff push.