The Green Bay Packers regular season kicks off in just over a week against the Chicago Bears. With a number of changes this offseason, along with the league’s youngest roster, there are a lot of unknowns with this year’s team. However, there are reasons for optimism as well.
So, with training camp and the preseason behind us, we’ve learned quite a bit over the last five or so weeks. And as we turn our focus to the 2023 regular season, here are six reasons to be optimistic about this year’s Packers team.
Football has certainly changed a lot over the years, but one thing that remains the same is that games are often won or lost in the trenches, and the Packers appear to be very good in this aspect on both sides of the ball.
The interior defensive line looked much faster this summer and did well creating consistent push up the middle against the run, along with moving sideline-to-sideline in pursuit of the ball carrier. The edge rusher room is “loaded,” as Matt LaFleur said, and from the top of the depth chart to the bottom, they were able to generate regular pressure throughout the summer. A year ago, the depth of the edge rusher unit was a concern, but right now, that is far from an issue.
On the offensive line, the Packers have an experienced unit that should be one of the best in football. In the preseason, Jordan Love had 19 dropbacks in the first two games but was pressured only twice and wasn’t sacked. Against Seattle in the finale, Love wasn’t hit or sacked in that game. As an offensive line unit, the Green Bay running backs averaged 4.6 yards per rush over those three games, which, for reference, would have ranked 11th last season.
Success for the defense begins with stopping the run and putting the opposing offense in predictable passing situations, where the pass rush can really have an opportunity to get after the quarterback, and the secondary can be more aggressive. On the other side of the ball, if Love is under consistent pressure when dropping back, things probably won’t end well. If the run game struggles, that puts this young offense in obvious passing situations, which again, probably won’t end well.
Winning games this season starts up front on both sides of the ball. And the good news for the Packers is that they have the potential to be good in both areas.
Packers running backs Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon
There is a lot of inexperience on offense, but the Packers have a veteran duo at the running back position that can be one of the best duos in football. Among qualified backs, Aaron Jones led the NFL in yards per carry in 2022 with 5.3. With AJ Dillon, meanwhile, LaFleur has said that the emphasis for him this offseason has been running with a low pad level and using his big frame to his advantage. Along with their impact in the run game, both are also very active in the passing game and will continue to be this season.
As was just mentioned, a consistent run game will be a must for this Packers offense if they are going to find success, as it will help keep Love out of obvious passing situations and then really opens up the entire playbook for LaFleur from a play-calling perspective. However, in addition to that, a somewhat balanced run-pass mix is also a core element of the LaFleur offense, as is utilizing play-action, which of course, becomes more effective when the offense is able to move the ball on the ground.
It’s difficult to envision a scenario where this Packers offense finds consistent success without an effective run game. As I just said, it’s a must. But between the offensive line play and these two running backs, the Packers are positioned well to have a strong rushing attack this season.