Through 5 weeks this season the Packers have looked lackluster at best. They find themselves 3-2 and in 2nd place in the NFC North. While technically only a game back of Minnesota for 1st place, Minnesota currently owns the Divisional record and head-to-head tie breaker. Both losses are understandable. Minnesota is a tough place to play and honestly the Vikings just looked like a better team that week (and so far this whole season). And historically weird things have happened in London games. The more surprising part of the loss to New York is that the Giants are somehow 4-1 and still in 3rd place in the division.
This being said, Green Bay is exactly who we thought they were. While the defense has faltered at times, it’s been mostly dominant, including having the best 3rd down defense in the league. And there are parts of the offense that have been impressive so far. As week six approaches, here’s a few of my early takeaways from the season so far:
It’s no secret that Special Teams has been this team’s Achilles heel for the last few seasons. And it has overall looked a lot better. Punt coverages have been good and so far Mason Crosby has looked good. The signing of Pat O’Donnell has worked wonders in the punt game as Green Bay continuously wins the field position battle. But there is still some concern. First off, Amari Rodgers’ role is still just as a return man, and they don’t seem confident in letting him do it. And secondly, while everything has worked out so far, almost every punt looks as if it’s about to be blocked. I don’t know if it just bad TV angles or what, but it always looks like O’Donnell barely gets the kick off.
The offense has been inconsistent at best. Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon have been dominant when getting touches. Romeo Doubs has looked phenomenal so far and Allen Lazard has been his usual productive self. Perhaps most surprising is how well Randall Cobb has played. We expected an increase in usage, at least to start the season, but Cobb is playing like he did 6-7 years ago and that’s great news for Green Bay. Somewhat surprisingly (and quietly) Christian Watson is second on the team in targets, although it doesn’t feel real since his production is mostly lacking. All of these are relatively positive things, except that they can’t do more than one or two of these things in the same game. If the offense is able to fire on all cylinders like the last few years, it clearly can be just as explosive as last year – even if it does look different.
This was always supposed to be the team’s calling card. And outside of a few moments (or the entire first half against Minnesota) that’s been true. Jaire Alexander and Rasul Douglas have played well, and the initial concerns about Adrian Amos have been mostly resolved. De’vondre Campbell looks good again and Quay Walker, while still adjusting to the pro level, has looked mostly to be a stud. Rashan Gary is playing at Pro Bowl/All-Pro level at minimum. At this rate I would expect him to finish top 5 in DPOY voting this year if nothing else changes. Both Kenny Clark and Preston Smith are playing at a high level as well and putting other teams’ quarterbacks under pressure. But of course, they still struggle against the run. It appears that they either stop someone for a loss or give up 10 yards a play. No in between. They are getting destroyed on the ground. Although the third down defense is best in the league so they are getting off the field quickly.
Ultimately the team still looks competitive and we did expect these growing pains. It’s good to see the team is still in a playoff spot, even if it does currently mean having to play Minnesota in Minneapolis in the first round.