Packers fans had their world blown apart last week with the news of Davante Adams being traded to the Las Vegas Raiders. I for one could not believe what I was reading and prayed it was a false leak. Alas, the football God’s didn’t answer my prayers and 17 was in fact headed for Sin City.
Once I passed the anger and denial phases, I rather quickly found myself at the acceptance phase of my Davante grief. As the circumstances surrounding the trade became more apparent, I couldn’t help but think that Brian Gutekunst had played a blinder and added yet another feather to a cap that already boasts a healthy plumage. A first and second round pick in the upcoming draft for a guy who had decided to leave felt like he should have worn the mask of a cartoon bank robber. However, a burning question still lingered: are we now considered contenders in 2022?
For me the answer is a firm yes. Watching 12 and 17 over the past few seasons had become to football what The Renaissance was to art, but ultimately, the masterpiece was never completed. Conventional wisdom would say that losing a player of Adams’ calibre will greatly reduce the chances that its ever completed and I can understand why. However, I firmly believe that whilst not enhancing our chances, it certainly doesn’t diminish them as much as we may have initially thought.
Forget about Rodgers’ determination to get the ball to 17, or the forced passes against the 49ers, and remember that the Packers are 7-0 without Adams under Matt LaFleur. Whilst seven games is a small, well spread sample size and doesn’t for one minute lead me to think we will be 17-0 next season, it does provide sufficient evidence that the offence will continue to operate successfully long term without the Adams/Rodgers combination. The Packers possess arguably the best run duo in football and a strong running game can open up a whole world of possibilities to a mind like Matt LaFleur’s. Having looked at his scheme in a little bit of detail, its so quarterback friendly I think I could even play it well.
So much of LaFleur’s playbook allows receivers to become open almost effortlessly. Remember Arizona where Juwann Winfree had four catches for 30 yards, one of which was his first NFL catch. Winfree is no world beater, but made a positive contribution on the night, much, if not all of it, owing to simple play design that allowed an average receiver impact the game. Aaron Jones had over 100 yards from scrimmage and Dillon rushed for 78 yards of his own. This was a night when on the road, against an undefeated team, we perhaps got a small insight into how 2022 may look. Establishing the run game, using Jones out of the backfield, particularly from a two back set and Aaron Rodgers using the open receivers to gain the yards, move the chains and keep the clock ticking.
As it stands, the wide receiver room isn’t good enough to get back to Arizona in 2023, but there is no way we go into week one without additions. Names like Landry, Jones, Smith-Schuster and even Hill have floated around as possible targets, but nobody has been acquired as of yet (editor’s note: Hill was traded shortly after this article was submitted). The recent signing of Jarran Reed could well be a clue into the Packers upcoming draft strategy. I previously believed that a D-line starter was a must in the early rounds, particularly with the additional “Davante picks”, but for me the signing of Reed lessens that need. Can we now hope of a trade up for Drake London or take the chance that either he or Chris Olave is still available at 22. I don’t think the draft God’s will be any kinder than the aforementioned football God’s, so catching both and 22 and 28 is highly unlikely. I do believe that whatever it takes to get one of these guys in the first, will be done. I don’t think Brian Gutekunst stops there either. Treylon Burks, Jahan Dotson, George Pickens and Christian Watson could be available after the first round and each would bring further improvement to the wide receiver room.
If we couple these possibilities on offence with the defence that The Packers have built over the past two off seasons and you absolutely have a championship ready roster. Clarke and Reed can become our Donald and Robinson, our edge is vicious and I challenge anyone to show me a better secondary in football. If all these elements come together over the coming weeks and months, if we trust the plan the Gutekunst and LaFleur have concocted, if we realise that we still have a stacked roster in terms of top end talent, then I’m certain you will join me in believing that the Packers are still contenders and that the masterpiece may finally be completed next season.