2021 Season Kickoff Q&A

We’ve got NFL football on the schedule in two days, and the Packers will take on the Saints at 3:25pm this Sunday. Before the regular season gets underway, I thought I’d do a quick mailbag:

R. Laurens - Do the top 2 RBs rotate as per the teams we’re playing? Jones is the main featured back but AJ when the game plan calls for it. 

Jamaal Williams had 741 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns in 2020. I think AJ Dillon exceeds that number. It’s easy to get excited about Kylin Hill and what he can bring to Head Coach Matt LaFleur’s offense, but he’ll still have his largest role on special teams to start the season. I think the game plan and conditions will certainly help dictate how LaFleur wants to use Aaron Jones and Dillon in specific games, but Jones will remain the lead back by a wide margin. Look for Dillon to have a significant impact in the passing game. It’s something he never got to showcase at Boston College but something the Packers worked on quite a bit at training camp. 

M. Pickett - Bold predictions? AND, as a counterpoint to all of the bold predictions this week, how about some perfectly reasonable predictions?

I combined two of your questions, Matt, because I liked the juxtaposition of you asking both. I actually wrote an early predictions article for CHTV in June, and I’m sticking with those. I’m not sure how bold all of them are, because I do still believe all of them. But I’ll also add one more. I think Davante Adams will set a new career high for receiving yards, eclipsing his 2018 total of 1,386. A perfectly reasonable prediction? That Darnell Savage will lead the team in interceptions, and Za’Darius Smith still leads the team in sacks. 

Tater - MVS rec yards over/under 950.5? A lot of mouths to feed this year. 

I’ve been saying on Pack’s What She Said all offseason I think Marquez Valdes-Scantling has at least 800 yards and eight touchdowns this season, so I guess I have to take the under here. But it also absolutely wouldn’t shock me if he had a 1,000-yard season. He’s going into the season as WR2, even with the addition of Randall Cobb in the slot. If anything, that will help his production as the team’s deep threat. Expect big things from MVS in 2021. 

P. Bretl - Who is one under the radar player that becomes a contributor? 

I’m going with Henry Black for this one, and I think it’ll largely be for his role on special teams. The Packers lost both Will Redmond and Randy Ramsey for the year, and those were two of their best ST contributors last season. Despite having veteran mainstays like Oren Burks and Ty Summers back on the roster, I think Black is really going to shine on teams and work his way into the defensive rotation with Amos dropping into the box more regularly. 

J. Ojanen - The Packers win the Super Bowl if...The Packers don’t win the Super Bowl if…

The Packers win the Super Bowl if they put together a complete game on the big stage. Green Bay had all of the tools to beat the Buccaneers last season, especially at home. Even after blunders, there were still plenty of opportunities to get back into the game that the Packers couldn’t capitalize on. In 2021, this is a team that didn’t lose any firepower on offense, and has a new defensive coordinator that players rave about. The roster is still a Super Bowl-caliber squad. Now, the Packers don’t win the Super Bowl if everything is forced. You can tell when the play of the field is natural versus when the leaders on the team are trying too hard to force a big moment to happen. I really think this roster is its own best strength and worst enemy. If the playmakers make plays (and there are playmakers at just about every position), it’s their year to represent the NFC in Super Bowl LVI. 

T. Nelson - Is there a value in the T formation in today's football? GB has backs and TEs that could handle the T formation. I would love to see them run it

I absolutely think the T formation has value, and now you’ve got my wheels spinning about how LaFleur could mix up his personnel. (For those that aren’t familiar, the T formation has three RB/WR/TE (traditionally RB though) in a row a few yards back from the quarterback, creating a “T” shape). Just using his three running backs could create mismatches with all of them having the ability to catch out of the backfield. Or you’ve got Marcedes Lewis and Josiah Deguara as lead blockers for one of your running backs. Stick Cobb or Amari Rodgers in the formation too and have the opposing defense decide between defending the run or pass. Great question, Trever. I’m all about all of this. 

D. Monigal - Has our Special Teams scheme and or talent changed, or is it wait and see?

I think special teams will improve this season, and I say that because there hasn’t been any complacency. JK Scott “won” the punting job during camp, but the Packers still moved on from him for Corey Bojorquez. Hunter Bradley is on about as thin of ice as you can stand on, and even that’s starting to crack with a new long snapper on the practice squad. New coordinator Maurice Drayton knows the unit needs to improve (and honestly there’s barely anywhere to go but up). Hopefully Rodgers and Hill can provide a spark in the return game, too, since that was something the Packers lacked last season. 

D. Parkes - How does GB handle their tough schedule. Do you foresee any stretches of inconsistency throughout the season like we saw in the MC era or will the Packers roll through the season like they have the last two years?

The Packers definitely have a tough draw with nine playoff teams from last season on the schedule, but none of the road stretches should be too daunting. They don’t have back-to-back road games until Weeks 5 and 6, and both of those games are still in the Midwest so travel is brief. Having a Thursday night game Week 8 is a quick turnaround after Washington at home, but then the team gets a mini-bye before the Chiefs. A Week 13 bye can be tricky from a “getting healthy” standpoint, but it’ll get Green Bay ready for the final five-game stretch playing two AFC contenders and the entire NFC North. That stretch of five games could have huge implications on playoff seeding. I think Green Bay handles the schedule the same way it has the last two seasons though under LaFleur. Don’t look past anyone and take it one game at a time. 

P. Preston - What is your favorite play in football and why (safety blitz, hail mary, interception, etc.)?

I’ve been thinking about this one for a while. I love everything about football. But I think I’ll take the unexpected big-man plays. I love when the big guys get to make a play like a skill position player would. Give me a B.J. Raji pick-six, or a Dean Lowry fumble recovery touchdown. Any time the big guys get to run down the field like they’re a WR or DB. 

Swieter - How do you take care of your mental health, especially during a crazy offseason full of tabloid rumors? 

This is a great question to end on. I burn out from social media really easily, so I take time away to recharge. With the crazy offseason, I think I also have to remind myself what football means to me and why I love it. It’s the same with writing and podcasting. If it ever stopped being fun and became “work” I’d have to stop doing it. So during the offseason where there was so much speculation about this “Last Dance” in Green Bay, I decided early on I’d enjoy this season for what it is, whether it is the last run or not. Because at the end of the day I’ll always be a Packers fan and football will always be my favorite thing. Take care of your mental health, everyone! And get ready for an incredible 2021 season! 

 

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Maggie Loney is a writer for Cheesehead TV and podcaster for the Pack-A-Day Podcast and Pack's What She Said. Find her on Twitter at @MaggieJLoney.

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Comments (12)

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mnbadger's picture

September 07, 2021 at 12:11 pm

Great questions and thoughtful responses. GPG!

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LambeauPlain's picture

September 07, 2021 at 12:34 pm

Wow...if Adams earns a record receiving season at say 1,400 yds....MVS 800....Lazard 500...Amari 300....the TEs 700 collectively...and the RBs 800 through the air, that's 4,500 yds with the Air Force. When would the infantry be be deployed?

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PeteK's picture

September 07, 2021 at 02:43 pm

Take some away from RB especially since Williams was an excellent receiver, but give at least 500 to Cobb. Play-action heaven.

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Leatherhead's picture

September 07, 2021 at 06:34 pm

Run more, pass less. Some people would like to see 600 passes or more. Not me. 500 is plenty.

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jannes bjornson's picture

September 07, 2021 at 08:58 pm

Go for the wild blue yonder and toss for 5,500 yards. Air Coryell tribute Par-tay...and Colonel Wassum.....

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Lphill's picture

September 07, 2021 at 02:33 pm

The bigger the season Adams has the bigger contract he will be expecting he may price himself off the Packers.

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MarkinMadison's picture

September 07, 2021 at 08:55 pm

He is already looking to be the highest paid receiver in the NFL. I don't think him blowing the top off the numbers matters that much at this point.

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mbpacker's picture

September 07, 2021 at 04:18 pm

Thanks for doing that! Enjoyed hearing from fans and your thoughts. GPG!

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

September 07, 2021 at 07:29 pm

The STs probably regress at its core. Bojorquez probably will be better than Scott. Crosby will be good, though there is probably some regression from perfection. The punt returner might be better, or not. TBD.

The coverage units and return teams will be worse. GB lost its two best special teamers, forcing it to take STs as a larger factor when choosing its final roster. Drayton doesn't inspire and he has fewer proven special teams players.

The T formation is dead.

I predicted 1,000 yards for MVS, so I suppose I am bound to take the over on MVS. That said, 950 yards is roughly a 40% increase over his career high. That seems more like a bold take than where Vegas would set the over/under.

Lazard played 47 snaps per game when healthy (470 snaps). I'd predict that he gets closer to 30 snaps per game. If healthy for the entire season he gets a few more total snaps than last year.

Now to make myself unpopular and politically incorrect. Back in the day I admired players who I thought were mentally tough, some of whom weren't the most athletically gifted people. I never thought I was anything other than average in that regard, btw. If a player is not mentally strong, I think that is a huge problem in the NFL. Getting help in that area is not usually a quick process, and the NFL is a not for long league. The margins are narrow in the NFL. Just another factor for a GM to consider during the draft and when giving out extensions.

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Johnblood27's picture

September 07, 2021 at 09:25 pm

James, I love your exploration of player mental toughness from your perspective.

Could you expand on what you define that to be and how a player projects that?

How about some players, both good and bad along with examples of why they grade that way for you.

Always like your takes, Im serious.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

September 08, 2021 at 05:49 am

It is easier to spot in individual sports or those that have more one on ones moments. And it is hard to quantify or even explain.

Watching the Bucks beat the Suns to win the championship game, I thought I would have taken Connaughton out of the game late. It isn't that he missed two free throws with about a minute left, it was the poor strokes and what looked like tentativeness. Yes, I now know he's a good FT shooter (career 79%). I looked him up just now and now know he was 11 for 11 on free throws during the playoffs prior to those two bricks. Yes, Giannis also made just one of two, but his routine and shooting stroke looked normal. Yes, I'd rather have Rick Barry in his prime shooting those free throws for Milwaukee, but I'll take my chances with Giannis.

I thought Jim Gantner of the Brewers was mentally tough. Barclay and Jamaal Williams, probably Bulaga, for the Packers. I hope I am not conflating smart or hard working with mentally tough.

The sport I know best is tennis. As player/coach of a state league team, I always played "Pete" at #1 singles and I would move over to #1 doubles. I am sure when warming up Pete's opponents thought they were going to win easily. Pete hit a lot of good shots, but almost never a splashy shot. Pete could be a backboard if necessary but he would go on the attack during points if it was there. The crappier the weather, the better. A tough out.

At least in individual sports, most of the players who aren't mentally tough get weeded out before fans see them on TV. There are tennis players who are known for their meltdowns (can't handle their emotions) and a few who are professionals but get the yips. I knew a player in high school who came from a tennis family. He had an extremely successful older brother. I could tell he was under a lot of pressure. He did win State twice, so he handled it and I would say he was mentally tough, but I gather he declined to attend a big time D-1 university. He may have been mentally exhausted. Some others I've known seemed a little brittle. [I've only discussed athletes but I imagine most of us have known people under immense pressure to succeed in the classroom and other situations.]

Naomi Osaka has won no less than four grand slam tournaments by the age of 23 and was ranked Number One in the world in 2021. Due to anxiety and bouts of depression that began in 2018, she pulled out of interviews and the US Open. I don't know one single thing really about mental health. Can you be mentally tough and anxious and depressed at the same time? Seems like Ms. Osaka did it at the highest level for at least three years. Is she anxious and depressed when on the court or does a whole different world open up for her when she is playing? In that case, her anxiety perhaps only affects her preparation.

I'd be elated if Jace Sternberger became the best TE in the world for 3 years and an elite one for a couple of more years like Ms. Osaka managed to do in the tennis world. I'd be happy if he became a legit starter in the NFL. I would think being depressed would make it more difficult to become successful on the field, or it might take more time to learn the playbook; it can be done if the depression/anxiety isn't too debilitating. Or maybe they should take time off to deal with it depending on the severity. IDK. That's the main thing - I do not know and have zero qualifications. I've got some experience with relatives who have had troubles in this regard.

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Guam's picture

September 08, 2021 at 07:52 am

I share your concerns about special teams, TGR. Drayton has shown little ability to better organize the special teams during the three preseason games and then to lose Redmond and Ramsey on top of that is deeply concerning. The only bright spot is Kylin Hill may be a better returner than we have had for awhile (not great, but better).

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