We all heard it at the draft prior to the 2020 season-what on earth are the Green Bay Packers THINKING? The first ballot hall-of-fame quarterback is beginning to decline; they should’ve drafted more weapons in one of the deepest receiver classes in recent history. It was a huge mistake to draft Rodgers’s eventual replacement and a running back when we already have a stacked backfield. They’re wasting his talent and giving up on the present to plan for the future...or were they paving the road to Super Bowl 2021?
Looking Back Now
With the benefit of hindsight being 20/20, perhaps the Packers’ staff knew what they were doing all along? Maybe they knew just what they had already and knew they could plan for the future AND win now. That’s precisely what they’ve done and done so in a dominant fashion. Heading into the bye week, after one of the best seasons in franchise history in which records were approached, met, or outright broken, what appeared to be foolhardy turned out to be genius.
We know all about Rodgers and Davante Adams, they were a given, but this season’s success comes down to those players who were discounted at draft time and became hidden gems that were not so hidden after all.
In a season somewhat plagued by injuries, Kevin King finished strong. When you have All-Pro shutdown corner Jaire Alexander, on the other side of the field, you have to expect a lot of attention your way. The final game against the Bears was a good microcosm of that sentiment as they stayed away from Alexander, focusing their attention on King’s side of the field. He stepped up with a career-high ten tackles, seven solo, and had two pass deflections as well.
While not a flawless day, he did not allow a reception longer than 23 yards while hitting double-digit tackles for the first time in his professional career. King showed he cannot be taken lightly and will not go quietly into the night if teams choose to avoid Alexander.
Darnell Savage, along with the defense in general, took about half the season to find his groove, but find it he did. The 2019 first-round free safety clicked midway through the season, culminating in a career-high eight solo tackles and two assists in the season finale. This was a fitting end to a November and December in which he made an immense impact, garnering 43 tackles (34 solo), one sack, four picks, and 10 pass deflections in the final eight games. Quite a groove indeed.
The other half of the impressive safety duo, strong safety Adrian Amos, followed a similar trajectory as his safety brethren. In the first half of the season, Amos registered 35 tackles (27 solo), one pass deflected, and no interceptions. Over the final eight games, however, was a much different story with 48 tackles (39 solo), eight pass deflections, and two interceptions.
Not that an NFL player needs motivation, but playing against the team who essentially didn’t see your value can certainly spark the fire. Playing against his former team, the Bears, in the final frame, he hit season highs with nine tackles, seven solo tackles, and one interception. If the Bears hadn’t regretted their decision at the time, they certainly do now. The defense grew in leaps and bounds over the latter half of the season. Amos and Savage are very big reasons for that growth.
While Pro-Bowler Aaron Jones gets a lot of deserved attention, Jamaal Williams’s impact cannot be dismissed. Whether playing a backup role when Jones is healthy or taking over in his absence, the offense never misses a beat. Williams could easily start on most teams in the league and makes the most of every opportunity he is given.
The energy he brings to the team, whether it’s his pre-game dancing or his energetic celebrations on big plays, gets the team going. No matter what his role is or what is asked of him, the man brings it to the maximum each and every time. Having him back from injury going into the playoffs certainly bolsters the Packers’ chances.
Marquez Valdez Scantling
Drops. Unfortunately, that’s what stands out most to the general public when it comes to Marquez Valdez Scantling, and that’s a shame. His occasional drops have overshadowed the incredibly positive impact he has on the offense. A big-play threat that can spread the field wide open, making far more big catches for significant gains than he misses. He doesn’t bring a polished overall game like Adams or fellow receiver Allen Lazard, finding his niche as a deep threat, but what a niche it is.
MVS ranks ninth in the league in deep passing yards (over 20 yards in the air), and with three deep touchdowns, he is tied for third in the league. However, in week 14 versus the Lions, MVS hauled in all six targets in more low and mid-range areas, indicating a potential beyond the deep threat. His missteps may garner more attention, but the Packers are by far a better team with him.
The Road to Super Bowl 2021
It all boils down to an improbable run by a team that didn’t have the weapons, didn’t have the coaching, didn’t have whatever to be a Super Bowl contender. Yet, here we are at the end of the season, with the Packers clinching the number one seed, making sure the road to the Super Bowl 2021 goes through Lambeau. Almost like the Packers’ staff knew what they were doing all along.
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