Following 2018, the Packers were searching for a head coach for the first time in over a decade. Mike McCarthy had been fired and Joe Philbin did not inspire confidence as a long-term replacement. Matt LaFleur came to Green Bay as a first-year head coach and the team exceeded expectations under his system. After winning 13 games and an appearance in the NFC Championship game in 2019, expectations should certainly be high for 2020. How high? Here, we take a look at three reasonable expectations the Packers should have under LaFleur this year:
Aaron Rodgers Will Return to MVP Form
When Matt LaFleur took the reins of the Green Bay Packers offense, the expectation was the Aaron Rodgers would return to his MVP form. That, however, was not the case. Rodgers’ 95.4 passer rating was the second-lowest of his career. His 26 touchdown passes were the second-fewest in any season in which he started 16 games. LaFleur, though, does not believe these numbers tell the whole story. “I’ll be honest, the passer rating, I don’t even look at that anymore. I don’t think it’s a true indication of evaluating whether a quarterback played well or not.”
The fact of the matter is that Rodgers had two down years in a row under Mike McCarthy. He also had to learn a new offense for the first time in 14 years. The fact that he had as good of a season as he did is a testament to his own greatness and LaFleur’s ability to work with quarterbacks. A second season with the same system will only produce better results. It is important to remember, finally, that Matt Ryan won his only MVP award during his second season under LaFleur’s guidance in Atlanta. The chances are good that Rodgers may do so as well.
Stop the Run
The Packers went 13-3 last season, earning a first-round bye and while winning the NFC North. This happened despite the defense giving up 128.7 rushing yards per game. In their last three games, opponents averaged 188.7 yards on the ground. Infamously, at least in Green Bay, San Francisco torched the Packers’ defense for 285 rushing yards in the NFC title game, costing the Packers a trip to the Superbowl.
Many fans have been frustrated by the lack of big-name free agent signings this offseason. The Packers, though, have addressed the issue by signing Christian Kirksey, the oft-injured former Cleveland Brown. While injuries have been a concern as of late, Packers’ fans should note that none of Brian Gutekunst’s free agent signings from last year missed significant time. In other words, the Packers have done their due diligence and are convinced Kirksey’s injury woes are behind him.
Kirksey bring much more speed to the inside linebacker position than Blake Martinez, who signed with the New York Giants. He also played for Mike Pettine when Pettine was the head coach of the Browns, so learning the defense will not be an issue. Basically, the Packers have brought in a linebacker who knows the system and is faster.
Kamal Martin, who was drafted by the Packers in the fifth round, is also expected to help stop the run. He was second on the Gopher’s squad with 66 tackles. He also had two interceptions and two forced fumbles. While he will have a learning curve, he is an upgrade over Kyler Fackrell.
Win the Superbowl
Is this a reasonable expectation? I think so. Everyone who follows the Packers talks about the proverbial window that is closing on the career of Aaron Rodgers. Are the Packers really going to fail to win multiple Superbowls with a second straight Hall of Fame quarterback?
Of course, winning a Superbowl is no easy feat. The Packers have been to four NFC Championships with Rodgers and have only gone on once.
Here’s the thing: the Packers had a horrible run defense and very few receiving weapons behind Davante Adams, and STILL were just one game away from the Superbowl. While the draft failed to bring in a wide receiver that most fans wanted, no one can say the Packers are worse at that position than they were last year. A rookie wide receiver likely would not have had much of an impact anyway. The drafting of AJ Dillon provides the Packers with a better change-of-pace back, a bruiser who is a perfect contrast to the swift-footed Aaron Jones.
It is also important to remember that the team now has had one full year in a new offensive system. A second year will only bring more consistent results. The defense, especially the run defense, is the wild card. If they can contain the run and rank at just the league average in that category, there is no reason why the Packers cannot finally get Rodgers that coveted second ring.
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