The Green Bay Packers have mismanaged their championship window. The front office thought the current version of the roster had a real shot at competing, but the first six weeks of the regular season have made it clear that this team isn’t good enough to win it all — and it’s not like there are injured players ready to come back or a major shift in sight. If the present is not bright, it is probably time to adjust the route and think about the future.
It’s still early to discuss here the trade deadline implications. The Packers might be sellers and not buyers, but there is still time to figure it out. It’s also too early for them to know if Aaron Rodgers will be the quarterback in 2023. Yet it’s too late to think about significant changes. But small adjustments are more realistic, and it might be the perfect time to give the young recruits more playing time.
The Packers have played poorly in most of their games. After a 3-1 start, which could easily be much worse based on their performance, Green Bay has lost back-to-back games against the New York Giants and the New York Jets. The schedule only gets harder. The playoffs, which were an expected baseline for this team, are starting to seem out of reach.
Therefore, it’s essential to play guys who will be on the Packers in 2023. General manager Brian Gutekunst needs more information about who can contribute moving forward to build a better version of the team next year — a year in which Rodgers might have already retired.
It’s early to give up on Rodgers, by the way. He will be the Packers’ starting quarterback while the team has a shot to make the playoffs, and rightfully so. But there are other areas where exploring new alternatives is possible.
The line has been surprisingly bad this year, especially considering how much Gutekunst has invested in it and how the unit was a strong part of the roster in the last couple of seasons.
After the frustrating loss to the Jets, where the offense scored only 10 points, head coach Matt LaFleur said “everything is on the table” regarding the offensive line formation. If the idea is to make changes, it makes sense to invest in players with a higher upside, and the Packers have two mid-round rookie guards waiting for an opportunity.
Zach Tom, particularly, should have already been put on the field. He was good at right tackle and left guard during the preseason and training camp, and right guard Royce Newman has been the weakest link on the line. Tom would probably be an immediate improvement. But even if he isn’t, giving him experience and tape to learn is important.
Sean Rhyan didn’t have as much space during training camp, but he is a talented prospect who showed decent signs in preseason games.
Wide receiver is the most glaring need for the Packers after trading Davante Adams and losing Marquez Valdes-Scantling in the offseason — and it probably had already been their shallowest position for some time. The team drafted three receivers. Now, it’s time for them to be the main weapons in the passing game.
“That’s about as frustrating of a game as I’ve ever been a part of from an offensive perspective,” LaFleur said after losing to the Jets. “Just trying to get something going.”
The Packers have already used Romeo Doubs as much as possible, but Christian Watson must have a more significant role when he returns from a hamstring injury. Watson must be a vertical deep and intermediate weapon, not only a horizontal stretcher.
Amari Rodgers, who has two years left on his contract after this season, is also underutilized on offense. Maybe he will have more slot snaps because Randall Cobb suffered what may be a serious ankle injury on Sunday. Samori Toure is a talented prospect for a seventh-round pick. But he’s been inactive all season, which can’t happen anymore in the near future.
This is a topic I’ve already written about. It looked like the Packers had planned defensive changes, but they haven’t applied those yet. Rookies Devonte Wyatt and Jonathan Ford must be on the field to allow the defensive line to play heavier. Even practice-squader Chris Slayton deserves some opportunities after outstanding preseason performances. Older players, like Dean Lowry and Jarran Reed, should lose snaps — and the Packers might even trade them before the deadline.
The Packers are not yet in position to punt the season. But if the plan never was to go all-in, the correct approach now is to use their next games to see who can help the team now and in the future — be it with Aaron Rodgers or not.