Matt LaFleur enjoyed a successful first season as Green Bay Packers head coach in 2019. Green Bay won the NFC North after winning 13 regular season games, the franchise’s highest total since 2011. After defeating Seattle in the divisional round of the playoffs, Green Bay’s Super Bowl dreams came to a crashing halt in the NFC title game, as the Packers’ inability to stop the run played a significant factor in their 37-20 loss to the San 49ers.
While they did not add any receivers to the roster via the draft, the Packers did address several other areas of need. On Day 3 of the draft, Green Bay selected three offensive linemen as well as three defensive players. The previous two days, the Packers added to their skill positions, drafting former Boston College running back A.J. Dillon in the second round and former Cincinnati tight end Josiah Deguara in the third round. In the first round, the Packers shocked everyone when they traded up to select former Utah State quarterback Jordan Love, who will spend the 2020 season learning from the team’s future Hall of Fame quarterback, Aaron Rodgers.
With training camp on the horizon, we decided to project what the Packers’ starting lineup and 53-man roster may look like when Green Bay kicks off the 2020 regular season against the Minnesota Vikings.
Rookies will be denoted with a (*).
Without further ado, let’s jump right into it.
If you like offensive line talk, you’ve come to the right place. With longtime Bryan Bulaga now with the Chargers, and with the influx of three new rookies, the Packers’ offensive line will look a little different in 2019.
The favorite to replace Bulaga is veteran Rick Wagner, who was signed by Green Bay earlier this offseason. But given Wagner’s previous durability issues, the thought is that Lane Taylor, the team’s former starting left guard, may be moved to tackle in case the team needs more depth at that position. If this happens, that would allow Elgton Jenkins, who enjoyed an impressive rookie campaign, to move into a starting position for the 2020 season, with rookie Jon Runyan backing him up.
Fellow rookies Jake Hanson and Simon Stepaniak will also be entrenched in position battles this summer. Hanson, a sixth-round pick out of Oregon, will be competing with Cole Madison to be Cory Linsley’s primary backup at center. A seventh-round pick out of Indiana, Stepaniak will be competing against John Leglue to back up Bakhitiari at left tackle.
Expect LaFleur to have some fun while creating ways for Deguara to make an impact in Green Bay’s offense. The 6-foor-2, 238-pound Deguara was a mismatch nightmare at Cincinnati, where he caught 12 touchdown passes during his last two seasons with the Bearcats. LaFleur will also look to utilize Dillion, who scored 15 touchdowns during his final season at Boston College while averaging 5.3 yards per carry.
The Packers’ young defense (the unit’s oldest returning player is 28-year-old Za’Darius Smith) brings back nine of their 11 starters from the previous defense. To help replace Blake Martinez, the Packers signed Christian Kirksey, a former third-round pick who recorded 53 career starts in six seasons with the Browns. The other starting spot at inside linebacker will be filled by Oren Burks, Ty Summers or rookie Kamal Martin, a fifth-round pick out of Minnesota who recorded 12.5 sacks and 167 tackles during his final three years with the Golden Gophers.
Green Bay’s secondary, a unit that finished 14th in the NFL in passing yards allowed last season, is hoping to get a boost from rookie Vernon Scott, a seventh-round pick who broke up seven passes while returning an interception 98 yards for a touchdown against Oklahoma during his final season at TCU. Undrafted rookie Stanford Samuels is also looking to make the Packers’ roster following a highly productive career at Florida State, where he recorded eight interceptions while breaking up 16 passes.
The Packers are surely hoping that Jonathan Garvin, the team’s final pick in the draft, can contribute to a Green Bay defense that recorded 41 sacks in 2019. Nearly half of Green Bay’s sack total last season was tallied by Za’Darius and Preston Smith along with Kenny Clark.
One of the NFL’s top kickers, Mason Crosby is coming off a 2019 season that saw him make all but two of his 24 field goal attempts and 97.6% of his point-after attempts. J.K. Scott, the Packers’ punter each of the past two seasons, averaged 44 yards per punt in 2019.
Tyler Ervin paced the Packers in both punt return (9.6 yards) and kickoff return (26.7) average in 2019. A backup defensive back, Sullivan returned three kickoffs last season while appearing in each of the Packers’ regular season games after appearing in just five games during his rookie season.