Packers open workouts with some new changes in mind
Following the Packers’ drubbing at the hands of the Atlanta Falcons in last season’s NFC Championship, quarterback Aaron Rodgers said the team needed to “reload” and “make sure” it went “all-in every year to win.”
The Packers’ revamped roster convened for the first time Tuesday for the start of the offseason program.
“It’s Day 1,” Rodgers said. “We’re going to wait and see how everybody looks moving forward, but I like the pieces we’ve put in.”
This has been an offseason with an unusual amount of turnover on the depth chart, at least for the Packers. While Green Bay has not replaced burly running back Eddie Lacy or Pro Bowl guard T.J. Lang, it did swap out one tight end (Jared Cook) with two tight ends (Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks). That will provide a dramatic new look to an offense that used to rely on three-receiver sets under coach Mike McCarthy.
“I think we saw a shift last year as we shifted away from really an 11 personnel — three receiver, one tight end, one running back (almost) exclusively — to really mixing things up,” Rodgers said. “Mike did a great job of that, of really evolving the offense and trying to get more people involved as we saw it was going to be important that we didn’t just stick in one personnel group.”
With the draft next week, the Packers likely will add another piece to a backfield puzzle that is led by converted wide receiver Ty Montgomery. Whoever lines up at running back will see more two-tight-end personnel groups than Green Bay has used the past few seasons, with McCarthy taking advantage of the options provided by Bennett, Kendricks and holdover Richard Rodgers.
“I think we’re going to have a lot more flexibility in that package,” Rodgers said. That “is more of a run-pass balance personnel. The opportunity to put two guys on the line of scrimmage and have an opportunity to run right, run left and then run all of our vertical passing game is going to be something that could definitely change and be more difficult to stop.”
Change is on the way on defense, too, and that starts with its most recognizable player. McCarthy has signaled that Clay Matthews, who is coming off the worst statistical season of his career with five sacks and 24 tackles, will move around the defense more than he did last season.
“I think the flexibility of myself being able to play multiple positions is really going to help this defense out,” Matthews said. “It’s really early right now, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up playing all over the defense.”
With outside linebackers Julius Peppers and Datone Jones leaving in free agency, it will be up to Matthews, returning standout Nick Perry, and unproven youngsters Kyler Fackrell and Jayrone Elliott to help bolster a defense that finished 21st in points allowed during the season and was gouged for 44 points by the Falcons in the championship game.
“I just had this conversation with Nick when we got into town,” Matthews said. “We’ve had years where Nick’s had an exceptional year, like last year, and I was bitten by the injury bug. And I’ve had years when I’ve gotten after the quarterback and he hasn’t been able to finish the season. If you’re able to put us together, I think the possibilities are great.”