The Green Bay Packers will enter the 2019 season with chips on their shoulders. They haven’t been to the Super Bowl since 2010, despite featuring one the best quarterbacks of this generation. Green Bay has made the playoff in six of the last eight seasons, but something has been missing about this legendary franchise for years.
Time is ticking for this franchise. Several key players are entering the twilight of their careers, including 35-year-old Aaron Rodgers. The Packers have plenty to prove in 2019, but here are three players that need to leave their mark next season.
Rodgers began the 2018 season with a new stable of receivers and a refreshed defense behind him. It appeared that all of the pieces were in place for the Packers to recover from their mediocre 2017 campaign. Instead, Green Bay struggled throughout the season, and long-time head coach Mike McCarthy got his walking papers.
Rodgers took his fair share of heat as well. His stats are still outstanding, but there have been some downturns in his numbers. His touchdown percentage (4.6%) is the lowest its been since his first year as a starter. His 4-year average per pass attempt (7.1) is far lower than at any point between the previous six seasons. Even Rodgers’s adjusted yards per pass is 1.2 yards lower than his 2014 league-leading 9.5 AYP.
Still, it’s not just the more in-depth statistics that show a small decline in Rodgers’s performance. It’s the results. The 2014 Aaron Rodgers doesn’t lose a three-point game to the 2-9 Arizona Cardinals. He completed 31 of 50 passes for only 233 yards and a touchdown in that game. A week earlier, Rodgers recorded just 198 yards on 17 of 28 pass attempts in a 24-17 loss at Minnesota. That’s not horrid, but it’s also not what we’ve come to expect from Rodgers.
Sooner or later, age will catch up to Rodgers. His time is short. Does he still have it after 11 years and multiple injuries? That’s the question Aaron Rodgers will need to answer in 2019.
Aaron Jones will enter the 2019 season with all new question marks. His injury problems seem to wreak havoc on him every time he emerges as a centerpiece in the Green Bay offense. Jones’s 2018 season just ended with another knee injury thought to be similar to the one he suffered last year. His 2017 MCL injury limited him to 12 games.
Jones proved himself as the most dangerous player alongside Rodgers throughout the year. It could be argued that the Packers failed to utilize him enough, especially with the young receiving corps learning the ropes. He finished his 2018 campaign leading the team in rushing with 728 yards and eight touchdowns. His 5.5 yards per carry led the NFL through Week 15. In fact, Jones finished with a 5.5 YPC for the second consecutive year.
Imagine what he could do in a full season without an injury. And that’s what it comes down to for Jones. There’s no doubt that Jones possesses the potential to be a star. That’s what the Packers need him to be game in and game out. If Green Bay is going to overtake Chicago next season, Jones must emerge as a Pro Bowl running back.
The lack of a star running back has hurt the Green Bay offense for years. Teams have learned how slow down the Packers offense by forcing Rodgers to rely on his arm. I’m not sure if former head coach Mike McCarthy or Rodgers is to blame for that, but one thing is true. The Packers must develop a strong running game, and Jones is the only player on the roster with ability to be that featured back.
Wide receiver Davante Adams has been one of only a few bright spots for the Packers in 2018. Through 14 games, he compiled 100 receptions for 1,315 yards and 12 touchdowns. His numbers prove that the Packers were right to hand him a 4-year, $58 million contract, including $30 million guaranteed. Adams’s $14.5 million average salary puts him near the top of the Packers’ salary table at a time when the team must start thinking of its future beyond Rodgers.
With Rodgers on the downside of his career, the pressure will be on the Packers even more than usual to win in 2019. Adams will not only be responsible for being the No. 1 receiver, but he’ll also have to set the example for one of the youngest receiving corps in the NFL. Basically, Adams must live up to his contract with not just production, but leadership.
The Packers still feature one of the more talented rosters in the league. There is absolutely no excuse for them missing the playoffs in 2018. However, if Rodgers, Adams, and Jones can spearhead an offensive renewal in 2019, there is no reason to be believe they won’t challenge the Bears for the NFC North crown sooner rather than later.