Hello Packer Nation!
The 2018 off season started off with a bang for the Packers, uncharacteristic of years past but well overdue. Changes started at the top and worked down into the coaching staff. Ted Thompson was relieved of his GM duties. Eliot Wolf and Alonzo Highsmith took a "red eye" to Cleveland. Dom Capers received his long awaited walking papers. Edgar Bennett, Darren Perry, Mike Trgovac and Alex Van Pelt were told their services were no longer needed.
On the player personnel side, fan favorite Jordy Nelson was released. Damarious Randall was traded to Cleveland for DeShone Kizer. Jeff Janis found greener pastures in Cleveland. Morgan Burnett filled a need with Pittsburgh. Richard Rodgers signed with Philadelphia.
New GM Brian Gutekunst started off free agency by signing All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham, defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson, tight end Marcedes Lewis, cornerback Tramon Williams and offensive tackle Byron Bell. Gutekunst signed more free agents than Ted Thompson acquired in the last three years. It was a start but not enough.
As we stand today, we have gone through 10 training camp practices and our first preseason game against Tennessee is almost here. We have lost LB Jake Ryan for the year but otherwise have been relatively healthy with a few scares from David Bakhtiari on Family Night.
Lets talk about losing Jake Ryan for the year due to a torn ACL. Linebacker depth was paper thin before Ryan went down. He was a substandard ILB to begin with. Third round draft pick Oren Burks will be thrust into the lineup and will go through significant growing pains as he tries to learn the NFL game after only playing linebacker for two years in college. Behind Martinez and Burks, you have three UDFA's; Ahmad Thomas, Greer Martini and Naashon Hughes. Yikes!
I will say this again and again. There is absolutely no downside to having depth on a football roster. If any player can make it through a 16 game season they are in the minority. Roughly, only half of all starting NFL players are able to play all 16 games. Again...Yikes!
In retrospect, that means most backups will find their way onto the field during a season and replace injured starters. Teams that have good positional depth can overcome most injuries. Positional depth was our saving grace in 2010-2011 when the Packers last won Super Bowl XLV. From Desmond Bishop to James Starks, Bryan Bulaga, Charlie Peprah, Howard Green and Frank Zombo, all these players stepped in and performed so well that Nick Barnett, Ryan Grant, Mark Tauscher, Atari Bigby and Brandon Chillar were after thoughts. A total of 15 players on that 2010-2011 roster were placed on injured reserve. That is well over 25% of the team, or roughly a third of an active day roster!
Our 2018 Packers do not have comparable positional depth that 2010-2011 team had. I hope I am wrong and veteran Geronimo Allison, along with rookies Moore, Valdez-Scantling and Brown, exceed expectations and provide Rodgers a multitude of weapons at wide receiver. I also hope I am wrong that not signing (thus far) an available free agent linebacker such as Navorro Bowman or Karlos Dansby to fill a glaring hole at inside linebacker will not backfire.
I do hope that Kyler Fackrell, Reggie Gilbert or Vince Biegel will provide productive depth at outside linebacker, Justin McCray will perform admirably at right guard, and Josh Jones proves that his rookie year was an aberration. In the event Bakhtiari or Bulaga go down, I hope Jason Spriggs or Kyle Murphy can step in and keep Rodgers on his feet.
I also hope Montravious Adams shows all that "potential" and is a disruptive force that coaches cannot keep off the field, Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson are ballhawks, and Aaron Jones can stay healthy.
All players mentioned above will be depended on tremendously. I feel strongly the Packers have not done everything possible to improve overall team depth to withstand inevitable injuries. Signing a free agent such as LB Navorro Bowman or Karlos Dansby, safety Eric Reid or Mike Mitchell, offensive guard Jeff Allen or Luke Joeckel, offensive tackle Chris Clark, wide receiver Jeremy Maclin or Brandon LaFell, or even defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins...it would solidify the Packers roster.
You could say the Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl last season with depth at important positions. They won with Nick Foles...a backup quarterback who replaced MVP candidate Carson Wentz!
What is the winning recipe in today's game? Teams that maximize full value out of their roster. Players who exceed their contract values and play above expectations are most valuable. Backups play a huge roll in that area. This is why there is absolutely no downside to positional depth!
Go Pack Go!