These three Green Bay Packers outperformed their preseason expectations and came up huge for the team on their way to an NFC North title.
The Green Bay Packers were fortunate in a lot of ways this season. Whether it was the beneficiary of officiating, good health or winning close games, Green Bay created a lot of their own breaks. They were also fortunate that a number of players exceeded their individual expectations coming into the season.
Those individuals who outperformed their own expectations help set the table for the Packers to outperform their team’s forecast. Without further ado, let’s take a look at three Packers who surpassed the hype coming into the season.
Allen Lazard wasn’t even on the radar of most Packers’ fans coming into the season. After all, he had just one reception for seven yards in his NFL career coming into the 2019 season. However, he used a very strong preseason and training camp to earn a spot on the 53-man roster.
At 6-foot-5, Lazard represents a huge target for Aaron Rodgers to throw to. He does a great job of using his body and then high-pointing the ball while catching it with his hands. It resulted in a few big plays throughout the season.
As the year went on, Lazard earned a bigger and bigger role in the offense. Although he was inconsistent, he slowly earned Rodgers’ trust throughout the season. He finished with 35 receptions for 477 yards and three touchdowns. Not bad for a guy who wasn’t even supposed to make the roster heading into Training Camp.
Despite coming off a strong sophomore campaign that saw Aaron Jones rush for 728 yards and eight touchdowns in just eight games, nobody expected him to burst onto the scene as he did in 2019.
Jones proved to be one of the best dual-threat running backs in the league, striking fear in defenses both on the ground and through the air. He racked up over 1500 yards of total offense and an insane 19 touchdowns in the regular season. In a lot of ways, he was the Packers’ biggest offensive threat.
Head coach Matt LaFleur showed a nice ability to unlock Jones’ dynamic skills and put him in places to succeed. It also helped that Jones stayed healthy for the first time in his three-year career. If the Packers want to build on this season’s success they’ll have to rely on Jones, even more, moving forward.
One of their three big free agent acquisitions, Za’Darius Smith lived up to the hype of his four-year, $66 million contract and quickly became underpaid.
Some questioned whether he could go from being a part-time player with the Baltimore Ravens to a full-time defensive centerpiece. Well, that answer was boldly marked with a yes. Smith proved to not only be the heart and soul of the defense, but also a consistent disrupter, finishing the season with a career-high 13.5 sacks, 37 quarterback hits, 17 tackles for loss, and 55 combined tackles.
Smith was much better than even the Packers could’ve hoped for when they signed him last offseason. And the good news is that at 27-years-old, he’s just getting into his prime.