PERSONNEL NEWS

Strategy And Personnel

The Sports Xchange

September 05, 2018 at 1:08 am.

GAME PLAN: Much like Brett Favre before him, Aaron Rodgers has been a Bear killer throughout his career. Rodgers is 15-4 lifetime against Chicago with 42 touchdown passes and just nine interceptions. Time and time again, the Packers have devised their game plan around the unique skills Rodgers possesses, and for the most part, he’s delivered. This week will be no different as the Packers – shorthanded in the backfield – will ask Rodgers to try carving up the Bears one more time.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH

–Packers Ts David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga vs. Bears OLBs Khalil Mack and Leonard Floyd. Green Bay’s tackles are the strength of its offensive line. Mack, who the Bears acquired Saturday, is a pass-rushing force while Floyd has star power if he can stay healthy.

–Packers CBs Kevin King and Tramon Williams vs. Bears WRs Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel. Green Bay upgraded its cornerbacks more than any position on the team, while the Bears invested heavily in their wide receiver group. We’ll find out in Week 1 who spent their money the wisest.

UNIT-BY-UNIT ANALYSIS

QUARTERBACKS: Starter – Aaron Rodgers. Backups – DeShone Kizer, Tim Boyle.

Rodgers, a two-time MVP and the NFL’s highest-paid player, remains one of the best signal-callers in football. But the Packers desperately need him to stay healthy to have any chance at making noise in the NFC. Rodgers broke his left collarbone in 2013 and his right collarbone in 2017. Counting the games Rodgers was injured, Green Bay is 5-12-1 without its Pro Bowl quarterback. Rodgers, 34, remains one of the most gifted passers in football and currently holds the all-time mark for passer rating (103.8). In Rodgers’ last 17 games, he’s thrown 43 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. Kizer – who went 0-15 as a starter with the Browns last year – was handed the backup job when Green Bay traded Brett Hundley. Boyle impressed this summer and was given a roster spot when the Packers feared they couldn’t sneak him through to the practice squad.

RUNNING BACKS: Starter – Jamaal Williams. Backups – Ty Montgomery, Darius Jackson, Aaron Jones (SUS).

Williams sat in mothballs for nearly half of his rookie season, yet still finished as Green Bay’s leading rusher (556 yards). There’s no mystery to Williams’ game. He’s a sledgehammer who loves contact and brings it down after down. Williams averaged 65.3 yards over the final eight games of 2017 and has the ability to wear out a defense. Jones, a one-cut runner and one of the most explosive players on the roster, will miss the first two games of the year after violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Jones finished 2017 with 448 yards and averaged 5.53 yards per carry. With Jones out, injury prone, converted wide receiver Montgomery becomes the top backup. Jackson was signed from Dallas’ practice squad on Monday.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters – Davante Adams, Randall Cobb. Backups – Geronimo Allison, J’Mon Moore, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Equanimeous St. Brown, Trevor Davis, Jake Kumerow (IR/could return later in season).

Adams has terrific feet, is tough to disrupt off the line of scrimmage and can execute the entire route tree. The diminutive Cobb is the No. 2 by default. Cobb is a slot receiver only these days, is entering his eighth season and has taken a beating through the years. Allison had a terrific summer and is in line for a much bigger role in the offense. It remains to be seen if rookies Moore, Valdes-Scantling or St. Brown can help at all in 2018.

TIGHT ENDS: Starter – Jimmy Graham. Backups – Marcedes Lewis, Lance Kendricks, Robert Tonyan.

Graham has the potential to be the Packers’ best tight end in years. Graham doesn’t run like his early days in New Orleans, but is coming off a 10-touchdown season and quickly developed chemistry this summer with Rodgers. Lewis is a terrific blocker who will be used in two-tight end sets. Tonyan is a fast riser who could play some fullback, as well. Kendricks, now in his eighth season, had a rough summer and must shine early to stick around.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters – LT David Bahktiari, LG Lane Taylor, C Corey Linsley, RG Justin McCray, RT Bryan Bulaga. Backups – Jason Spriggs, Byron Bell, Lucas Patrick, Alex Light.

Bakhtiari has been one of the NFL’s best left tackles in recent seasons. Bakhtiari is athletic, light on his feet and extremely consistent. At just 26-years-old, Bakhtiari is in the prime of his career and should keep Aaron Rodgers’ blind side clean for years to come. Linsley and Bulaga are also high-level starters, while Taylor is a classic overachiever who finds a way to get it done each week. The weak link is McCray, who was in the Arena Football League in 2016. Depth is non-existent as the Packers’ reserves all had rough summers.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters – DE Mike Daniels, NT Kenny Clark, DE Muhammad Wilkerson. Backups – Dean Lowry, Montravius Adams.

Clark blossomed last season and is on the brink of becoming a Pro Bowler. Clark has impressive power and flashed surprising quickness a year ago when he had 4.5 sacks and 18 quarterback pressures. Daniels has a motor that doesn’t quit, but saw his pressures fall to 19.5 last season, his lowest number since 2012. Wilkerson could be the key for the entire unit. Wilkerson had 12.0 sacks and went to the Pro Bowl with the New York Jets in 2015, but slipped badly in recent seasons. If Wilkerson returns to past form, Green Bay’s front could be devastating.

LINEBACKERS: Starters – OLB Clay Matthews, ILB Blake Martinez, ILB Oren Burks, OLB Nick Perry. Backups – OLB Reggie Gilbert, OLB Kyler Fackrell, ILB Antonio Morrison, ILB James Crawford, ILB Korey Toomer.

Matthews and Perry count a combined $22 million against the salary cap. Both are above average starters when healthy, but the problem is that isn’t very often. Matthews, 32, is the Packers’ all-time sack leader (80.0), remains quick around the edge and strong enough to overpower tackles. But Matthews has played all 16 games just twice in the last eight years. Perry, now in his seventh season, has never played a full 16-game season and has missed 26 games since entering the league in 2012. Gilbert had a breakout summer and will try carrying that momentum into the regular season. Martinez almost never leaves the field, is extremely bright and tied for the NFL lead with 144 tackles in 2017. Burks is an elite athlete who steps into the starting lineup after incumbent Jake Ryan tore his ACL this summer. Morrison is a thumper, but can’t run.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters – CB Kevin King, CB Tramon Williams, S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S Kentrell Brice. Backups – CB Jaire Alexander, CB Josh Jackson, CB Davon House, S Josh Jones, S Raven Greene, S Jermaine Whitehead.

King (6-3, 200) has terrific size, but has also suffered injuries to both shoulders since being drafted in 2017. Williams, 35, has found a way to hold off Father Time and had another impressive summer. Rookies Alexander and Jackson were terrific in training camp and will be a part of the defense from day one. One year after setting franchise marks for futility in 2017 in opponent’s passer rating (102.0) and completion percentage (67.8), this appears to be the most improved unit on the team. Clinton-Dix is the most experienced safety on the roster, but he’s coming off a dreadful year. Brice is a terrific athlete who has far too many concentration lapses. The reserves have proven little.

SPECIALISTS: K Mason Crosby, P JK Scott, LS Hunter Bradley, KR/PR Trevor Davis.

Crosby made just 78.9 percent of his kicks a year ago, but was hurt by lousy snappers and an inconsistent holder. Return ace Davis ranked third in the league on punt returns (12.0) and seventh on kickoffs (22.8) last season. Scott has a huge leg, while Bradley struggled all summer.

PRACTICE SQUAD: RB Joel Bouagnon, CB Tony Brown, C Austin Davis, LB Kendall Donnerson, S Marwin Evans, FB Joe Kerridge, DL Tyler Lancaster, DL James Looney, LB Greer Martini, G/T Adam Pankey.

 

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