The Green Bay Packers are entering the 2022 with a great deal of optimism. Despite losing Davante Adams via trade to the Las Vegas Raiders, the Packers boast an offense and defense that both earned top-10 offseason rankings. In order for the team to live up to these high expectations, they will need several players to step up and make improvements from last season. Here, I present three players that I believe will break out in 2022 and become major contributors.
#1- Allen Lazard
There has been a lot of speculation over whether or not Allen Lazard will be able to take Davante Adams’ place as Green Bay’s top wide receiver. For a while, it did not appear as if Lazard would even return to the Packers as he did not sign his tender until recently. However, Lazard did sign the tender and will be back with the Packers in 2022.#
Allen Lazard returns to the Packers as the most productive wide receiver on their roster over the past three seasons:
- 2019: 35 receptions, 477 yards, three touchdowns
- 2020: 33 receptions, 451 yards, three touchdowns
- 2021: 40 receptions, 513 yards, eight touchdowns
Last season, Lazard’s receiving numbers were second only to Davante Adams among Packers wide receivers. Additionally, Packers quarterbacks had a 132.8 passer rating when targeting Lazard last season. Now Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling are gone. These developments in addition to his increased production over time make him a prime candidate for a major breakout season.
#2- Darnell Savage
There is a great deal written about Rashan Gary, who was drafted in the first round in the same year Darnell Savage was selected by the Packers in the first round. However, whereas the material written about Gary is centered around how deserving he is of a massive extension, the little that is written about Savage centers around questions concerning his long-term future in Green Bay. The Packers have picked up his fifth year option, but there is not much going around in terms of what a contract extension for him would look like.
Over the first two seasons of his career, it looked as if the Packers had found the next great ball-hawking safety in Darnell Savage. His production, especially in 2020, showed an immense amount of potential.
- 2019: 55 tackles, two interceptions, two forced fumbles, five pass deflections, two touchdowns allowed, 71.1 passer rating when targeted
- 2020: 75 tackles, four interceptions, one sack, 12 pass deflections, two touchdowns allowed, 67.3 passer rating when targeted
2021, though, saw Savage regress mightily in his third NFL season:
- 63 tackles, two interceptions, nine pass deflections, eight touchdowns allowed, 117.4 passer rating when targeted
Now, why is Darnell Savage a good candidate for a breakout season? Based on his 2019-2020 numbers, it is clear that he has what it takes to be a turnover machine. Additionally, 2021 was his first season in defensive coordinator Joe Barry’s defense. There was, obviously, a lot of learning that occurred. He will almost certainly have a better season in 2022.
In addition, the Green Bay Packers are boasting three of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. Last year, Jaire Alexander missed significant time with a shoulder injury and the defense was short several other key pieces. With the defense at full strength, all signs are pointing to a big season for Darnell Savage.
#3- Sammy Watkins
When Sammy Watkins signed his ridiculously team-friendly contract earlier this offseason, it was clear that both parties are hopeful for a breakout season. During mandatory minicamp, Watkins himself opened up about his career has not gone according to his expectations. Last season, Watkins had a career low 27 receptions for 394 yards. Ravens quarterbacks also had just a 79.8 passer rating when targeting Watkins.
So why is Sammy Watkins a prime candidate to be a breakout player for the Green Bay Packers? For one thing, the departures of Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling have opened up opportunities for all Packers wide receivers. Aaron Rodgers also really wanted Watkins on the team, so it can be assumed that he will get targets early and often. Finally, the Baltimore Ravens are a run-first offense. The last time Watkins was in a pass-first offense (with the Kansas City Chiefs), he put up decent numbers:
- 2018 (10 games played): 40 receptions, 519 yards, three touchdowns, 102.2 passer rating when targeted
- 2019 (14 games played): 52 receptions, 673 yards, three touchdowns, 92.5 passer rating when targeted
- 2020 (10 games played): 37 receptions, 421 yards, two touchdowns, 102.2 passer rating when targeted
Obviously, health is going to be a huge factor in what kind of production Sammy Watkins has in Green Bay. However, when healthy, he is still a lethal weapon in a pass-first offense. IF, and we cannot emphasize IF enough, he stays healthy, he very well could end up being a top-two wide receiver on the Packers.
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