Analyzing the Packers Five Biggest Areas of Concern Entering the Season

Like all NFL teams, the Green Bay Packers have areas of concern heading into the 2020 season. While the Packers are projected to be contenders again in the NFC North and have many strengths, here are the areas that are less certain now just before the season gets under way.  Being on this list doesn’t necessarily mean there will be a problem, just that it’s an area with many questions as the season is about to start.

5.   Defensive Line

Kenny Clark is an outstanding lineman but then there are a lot of questions. The Packers are hoping Kingsley Keke makes a second-year jump because so far, Tyler Lancaster and Dean Lowry have been average players at best. Montravius Adams is hurt right now and has yet to play up to his draft position. He is on the roster bubble. The Packers didn’t upgrade this position in the offseason so they need the players they already have to step up. They also really need Clark to stay healthy because the other players around him are nowhere close to his level of play.

4. Wide Receiver

The Packers know Davante Adams is their top receiver and Allen Lazard is likely to be WR2. But after that, there are questions and the Packers surprised everybody when they didn’t add any receivers in this year’s draft.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling had an outstanding camp and will be in the mix for the top three receivers. His speed and ability to get deep make him the receiver with the most potential out of the remaining options on the roster but MVS must show more consistency especially on short and intermediate routes. He and Aaron Rodgers finally seem to be getting on the same page and that is a big potential step forward.

Equanimeous St. Brown was having a good training camp before he got banged up a bit. The Pack is hoping EQ can recapture some of the form he showed late in his rookie season before an injury cost him all of 2019.

There are other potential players on the roster but none them are considered impact players at the position right now. Jake Kumerow heads the list but he struggles to get open consistently downfield. Other possibilities to make the roster include Canadian import Reggie Begelton, veteran Malik Turner and Darrius Shepherd who had another strong camp but needs to show he can contribute during the regular season.

The Packers have more questions than answers here and will need at least one if not two players to step up at this position to get better results than they got a year ago.

3. Inside Linebacker

Christian Kirksey is the starter at one ILB position but there are a lot of questions at the other and who would take over if Kirksey missed any time.

Rookie Kamal Martin was having a strong training camp but he got injured and will miss significant time. That means Ty Summers and Oren Burks are the biggest contenders to start at the other ILB spot although neither has established themselves as a starter in this league. The Packers are hoping one of them to prove worthy as the other starter.

The Packers also may go to a hybrid S/ILB in this spot on many plays with Raven Greene as the leading candidate to fill that position if he can stay healthy.

The Packers won’t have two ILBs on the field most of the time, but the depth at this position is questionable and we still don’t know who will start at the second ILB spot. If Martin can come back sometime this season, he could add depth and talent to this position.

2. Right Tackle

Who will replace the departed Bryan Bulaga? Injuries have made a mess of this position and the Packers have several options, but a lot of uncertainty here. Billy Turner and Rick Wagner were the two main contenders entering camp but both are now injured and their availability for the season opener in Minnesota is uncertain.

Behind them are players who are on the roster bubble entering cuts. Has Alex Light showed enough to stay on the roster, let alone to start? Is the talented Yosh Nijman ready to step in? What about John Leglue? All these players are border line roster candidates but could the Packers count on them to step in and start just yet?

The Packers could also try to move Lane Taylor or Elgton Jenkins out to tackle in an emergency but that would leave a hole at guard and then Lucas Patrick would likely fill in there.

The Packers could also reach out to Jared Veldheer who indicated a week ago he was willing to return to Green Bay if the Packers called on him. Veldheer would add some experience and stability if they re-sign him.

There are a lot of question marks here. A return to health by Turner or Wagner could solve them at least on paper, but even if they are healthy, they seem to be a step down from Bulaga. This position may be the Packers biggest question heading into Week 1.

1. Run Defense

No, this isn’t a position, but it is a huge concern. The NFC Championship Game against the 49ers exposed this as the Packers biggest weakness last season. It will require the defensive line, linebackers, safeties and all working in coordination to improve this aspect of the game.

Mike Pettine does not emphasize the run and that is unlikely to change. The Packers don’t need this to be an outstanding area this season, but they can’t let it be so bad that it beats them like it did in the NFC title game.

The Packers run defense will require improved play from the defensive line, Christian Kirksey to be at least as good as Blake Martinez, the Smiths to do a better job of staying in their lanes and containing the edge, the safeties to take better tackling angles—in other words, a total team effort.

You can follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

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Comments (42)

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splitpea1's picture

September 05, 2020 at 12:26 pm

Concerning the run defense, Kirksey needs to be better than Martinez, and at least two of the linemen have to be a lot better than they were last season. We need elevated play from another ILB as well. Maybe the run defense can improve, but I just don't believe the Packers have the personnel to be that much better. Since we went nearly all offense in the last draft, I'm expecting an emphasis on defense in the next--and in my mind, that would be welcome.

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GilMartin's picture

September 05, 2020 at 12:37 pm

No doubt the Pack is counting on a lot of returning players to take a step up: Keke, Gary, Summers, Burks, Lowry, Lancaster etc. Most of our recent drafts before this year were defense first. I agree, we will likely go back to that emphasis next year, but it's still a long way to go before the draft. Thanks as always for commenting, splitpea1.

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PF4L's picture

September 05, 2020 at 07:02 pm

It seems to me since 2012, the defense has gotten the majority of the high draft picks. If you look at the first 3 rounds of draft picks between 2012 - 2019, they break down like this....

Defense..18 picks
Offense...6 picks.

For a change in 2020...the Packers went offense the first 3 rounds....A #1 pick designed to sit on the bench for at least two years.
A #2 pick at rb, when we already have a rb who just happened to score 19 td's last season.
A 3rd round undersized tight end. I guess the Packers don't have much faith in the tight end they got in round 3 last season.

So in summary....yea, lets stop focusing on the offense and put more "emphasis" on the defense next draft.

Maybe....if this team could draft worth a F......we wouldn't be talking about this.

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GilMartin's picture

September 06, 2020 at 11:48 am

Thanks for the comment PF4L. I think the Packers draft was designed specifically to get Matt LaFleur pieces to add to his offensive system and Dillon and Deguara fit that description. I was surprised by Love's selection and the lack of a WR but the organization clearly has positions they prioritize in the draft like DB and OLB others that they value less like ILB, DL etc. I know it's been controversial but we shall see how these picks work out in a few years. The draft is the key to the continued success of the franchise and if we don't do it well, it's a long fall from 13-3. Thanks for commenting.

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PF4L's picture

September 08, 2020 at 09:43 pm

Thanks Gil....

I appreciate a fans thoughts vs an empty thumbs down.

I have no doubt you are right, they are drafting for Shanahan's (oops), i meant LeFleurs offense.

It's simply a matter of drafting and building for the future......Surely, you don't draft an OLB at #12 for the bench after spending 100 million on two starting OLB's...to win now?

Surely, you don't grab a QB to sit on the bench, while giving up a 4th round player you traded up, for a player, you went to go scout last fall...to win now?

Do you really "need" a rb now, when you have a very good one already? Was that to win now? You have no other more important needs?

Maybe Dequara works out. But as a Packer fan capable of critical thinking, is it likely, or would it be an anomaly?
I mean....the Packers search for a tight end hasn't exactly been known as a success story (starting with letting Cook go). Plus i don't think drafting Dequara in the 3rd puts Sternberger (last years 3rd) and the rest of our tight ends in a confident position.

Now...if Gute, or Packer fans think that the current wide receivers and tight end groups needed no upgrade to win now....God bless them.

Aaron Rodgers has an expiration date, and the only conclusion i see is that Gute doesn't care, evidenced by his first move as Packer GM 2 1/2 years ago...to this latest draft.

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Bearmeat's picture

September 05, 2020 at 12:35 pm

We've all beat these five positions to death this offseason. Depth is just as much a concern. We have our holes. More than some teams, less than others. All have some holes. Most of the regression talk has centered around health, turnovers, record in 1 score games. It's not likely but we can replicate those things with some luck this year.

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GilMartin's picture

September 05, 2020 at 12:39 pm

Injuries are chance and in this salary cap era, few teams have a lot of depth. Many people forget how many injuries we overcame to win in 2010. One score games and turnovers are tough to replicate and the schedule is tougher this year at least on paper. Still, I'd take 10-6 and a Super Bowl like 2010 over a 13-3 season and an early playoff exit. Should be an interesting season. Thanks for the comment, Bearmeat.

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ShanghaiKid's picture

September 05, 2020 at 11:06 pm

@Gil. Yes, the 2010 season had a boatload of injuries. But what gets left out is that the defense was still stacked. Despite all the injuries, the defense still had a HOF CB, an All-Pro FS, 2 pro-bowl caliber CB’s, a DPOY caliber edge rusher, not to mention versatile horses along the D-Line start a SB. That collection of talent isn’t walking through the door anytime soon. It’s apples to oranges when comparing any team to the 2010 SB winners, because few teams in the history of the franchise has had that collection of talent.

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GilMartin's picture

September 06, 2020 at 11:50 am

I agree, the depth that team had was outstanding and that's why they were still able to win. Well, one of the big reasons anyway. Right now, this team has depth at some positions and big questions at others. On paper, overall, they certainly do not appear to have the depth that the 2010 team had, but we'll see what these players develop into and how many injuries strike this season. Thanks for the comment, ShanghaiKid.

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SpikeHyzer's picture

September 05, 2020 at 01:43 pm

Considering that it was a new system, the turnovers are a surprise, but winning a lot of close games should not be an indictment of a team either (it's still a win).

They aren't a dominant team yet and did all of that in ONE season.

They do play a tougher schedule, but I still expect 11 wins and I expect far, far less one score wins. A lot of blowouts. Very close games with those better teams that we have to play again in the playoffs (where we can adjust this year).

The talent is better. The system has been in place now. There will be leaps by 2nd and 3rd year players and maybe a few surprises from rookies.

We don't need to replicate last year.

We're going to actually BE a good team this year that doesn't struggle as much with new fundamentals in concept.

I only see 4 weak position groups and all could be better after final cut downs.

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Coldworld's picture

September 05, 2020 at 02:31 pm

The holes aren’t as big as they were last year. Depth is generally better. It remains to be seen if the holes in the middle of the D and pass catching have actually been filled though. I do think that we have stronger young prospects in the pipeline than we have had.

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GilMartin's picture

September 06, 2020 at 11:54 am

I am hoping your predictions come true. I think this team is a bit more talented than last year's club with the possible exception of RT and ILB if Kirksey doesn't stay healthy. There is more depth at most positions and the potential is there to win 10 or 11 games but still be a better team than last year's squad. Thanks for the comment, Spikehyzer, always good to hear from you.

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SpikeHyzer's picture

September 05, 2020 at 01:38 pm

It's a category area to include a strategic concern with 4 position groups (after all, that concern is the product of poor DL and ILB play for the most part, which you oddly ranked only 5th and 3rd as position concerns; wouldn't they be the 2 greatest weaknesses if run defense is the biggest strategic issue?).

I rank it a bit differently.

1--RT. It's simply a disaster.
2--DL. It will never be good with Lancaster and Lowry on the roster.
3--TE. Lewis is old, Jace has been bad in camp, Deguara is a rook. Tonyan has long been a favorite of mine, but he has to stay health. A weak position is one injury away from being very bad. And this position is said to be so integral to the success of this scheme. We should be worried.
4--CB. Solid top 3 who could all still be average. Nothing behind them. Samuels would be better than Sunderland (and maybe makes it anyway if Ento goes to IR?).
5--WR/ILB. I actually think both of these groups are vastly improved and will show much better than last year and are not a concern at all (but I had to have a 5th place, so I made it a tie).

The rest of the team is as solid as it gets and I'm very pleased with cuts going almost exactly as I've been projecting (and I still have hope that IR, injury settlement and some more surprise late cuts will help a few of my picks get back on to the roster).

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GilMartin's picture

September 06, 2020 at 11:57 am

I agree with you on RT and DL, TE could be good but I think either Sternberger or Tonyan really needs to step up. Should still be about as good as we had last year since Graham really didn't do much. I like the top three CBs but the depth is questionable. I wouldn't be shocked to see the Packers sign Veldheer after they place some players on IR and set the practice squad. That may shore up RT for the time being. Thanks for commenting.

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BrettFavor's picture

September 07, 2020 at 06:16 am

Jace Sternberger looked like he was trending upward towards the end of last season after coming back from injury. Tonyan has flashed potential, but injury is a concern.

I'm not as concerned about RT, Wagner or Turner will be healthy soon enough. Jenkins is a freaking stud, I wouldn't sleep on him playing RT at the same level he played G last season. Keeping Lane Taylor really helps with depth and being able to bring back Veldheer is a pretty good insurance policy.

I was fine with ILB until Martin got hurt, but I think people underestimate Burks if he can stay healthy. Kirksey is an improvement on Blake Martinez in every way except for availability, but none of his past injuries have been chronic issues. He gets more stuffs, he doesn't miss tackles and he's much, much better in coverage. I wouldn't underestimate Raven Greene being back at that hybrid position in helping against the run and the pass, his loss was a surprisingly huge blow last season.

I'm good with WR as well. People forget Jordy Nelson didn't break out until the playoffs of his third season. Fans were talking about cutting Davante Adams in his second season because he wasn't consistent (mainly because he was hurt), he broke out his third season. MVS was playing really well until he hurt both his ankle and knee, definitely needs to be more consistent, but he has the ability to be a really good #2 and hearing Rodgers finally talk like they are on the same page is huge. EQ showed the same kind of potential, but after missing all last season might be a little behind. Lazard is steady, reliable and put up good numbers in his limited opportunities last season. If they can scheme Ervin open he's great with the ball in his hands. I wouldn't mind if we signed a burner after cuts, but I'm cautiously optimistic about this WR group. Not drafting a WR in this years extremely deep draft was a little head scratching, but that was more a function of the talent/depth of the position. Giving up on MVS and EQ this early shows a lack of awareness and patience by fans.

My biggest concern is the D-Line, but I think with Rashan Gary's improvement we can slide Z in more often as they did towards the end of last season. Kenny Clark is a stud and I'm a little higher on Lowry than most. Unless Montravious Adams finally makes the jump that 3rd spot and our depth is pretty weak.

I saw Ibraheim Campbell was cut by the Titans (I think?). I always liked the depth/versatility he provided even though I wouldn't want him to be a starter for the entire season. Chandon Sullivan was quietly another really good signing by Gutekunst last offseason.

What gives me hope more than anything else, Gutekunst completely turned around a roster that had become devoid of talent/depth at so many positions. His only real miss was Jimmy Graham, I think fans should have a little more faith in him. He's earned it thus far... I also think we have a good coaching staff and being in the 2nd year is only going help. We probably won't win 13 games because the regression in one score games and with turnovers is a real concern, but I think we can be a better team with a worse record. Seeding is less important with the changes to the playoff format, only one team gets a bye and that team will probably be really lucky with health, turnovers, etc. While a bye would be great, we've seen over the past decade that a great regular season with no adversity rarely translates into a Super Bowl. Last year shows the Packers were ahead of schedule with many predicting a complete rebuild coming. We definitely need improvements from within the building, but the talent is there at almost every position group and being in the 2nd/3rd year of a new system cannot be under estimated.

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jannes bjornson's picture

September 08, 2020 at 10:13 pm

Tramon will probably come on board a little later in the season, depending how he views the pandemic.

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PF4L's picture

September 08, 2020 at 10:00 pm

I agree through #4. #5 is a different story.

I'm of the belief that a wr group isn't vastly improved and hasn't shown improvement, until they can show it in actual games on the field. Nothing gets proven in training camp.
To say they are not a concern at all, well....that just makes me giggle a little bit.

As far as the rest of the team being as solid as it gets, well, you have serious questions at ILB, and the guy you signed to replace your leading tackler, missed 15 games last season and has no promising depth behind him.

I'm not so sure you want to call the right side of the O line as solid as it gets....but.....it's your world.

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Lphill's picture

September 05, 2020 at 02:11 pm

Run defense and right tackle are the main issues , receiver depth won’t matter much if the defense can’t get off the field and Rodgers has constant pressure from the right side. Thanks

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GilMartin's picture

September 06, 2020 at 12:00 pm

RT will be vital. They need at least decent play at that position. Veldheer may be added after they place players on IR and sign players to the practice squad. I like Nijman but don't think he's ready to start just yet. Run defense is of course important and hopefully the improvement from within helps a bit. Thanks as always for commenting Lphill.

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Since'61's picture

September 05, 2020 at 02:34 pm

I would rank the right side of the OL including obviously RT as the #1 and biggest concern. Protecting QB1 and running the ball effectively will be the deciding factors in how far this season’s Packer team goes. If RG and RT are solid we’ll be fine. If not, the defense will be on the field too much and it will be a long season.
2. DL. The DL is the key to stopping the run game whether they are absorbing blockers or getting penetration. If Clark doesn’t get support on the DL we’re going to see many RBs have career games against us.
3. WRs - Nothing proven after Adams who will likely be double covered on every play especially obvious passing downs. Right now no one in the WR group scares anybody.
4. TEs - Another position group that no one is afraid of. Lewis is the best of the bunch but he is no game breaker and he is easily covered by an LB. The rest are ??? at best.
5. ILBs - we are an injury to Kirksey away from having no experience at ILB. Enough said for that group.

We have 3 skill players on offense. Rodgers, Jones and Adams. Defenses will take them away until another WR, RB or TE shows that they can make plays and need to be accounted for.
On defense, teams will run the ball until we prove that we can stop them.

Bottom line is that we need numerous players to step up
and stay healthy. We should go 10-6/11-5. After that it will depend on our playoff seeding. Thanks, Since ‘61

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dobber's picture

September 05, 2020 at 04:00 pm

Right now you have to ask yourself who the backup LT is on this team.

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Stroh's picture

September 05, 2020 at 10:57 pm

Same can probably be said for most other NFL teams. There aren't even 32 starting caliber LT in the league. If Bahktiari gets injured (God forbid) they would limp thru the remainder of that game and Veldheer would get a phone call. IMO, HE'S the backup LT.

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GilMartin's picture

September 06, 2020 at 12:03 pm

Good to hear from you Since'61. I agree with your analysis. I hope the DL can at least occupy enough blockers to allow others to make plays. We'll see if Keke can take a step up. TE is another big question mark with Sternberger not having a good camp and he and Tonyan set to be the receiving TEs this year. RT and RG are concerns mostly because of the injuries to Turner and Wagner and it is vital they get some stability there. I don't even want to think what ILB looks like if Kirksey goes down for an extended period. Thanks for the comment.

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Stroh's picture

September 05, 2020 at 03:42 pm

IMO the Packers would very nuch like to have 2 ILB on the field for most downs, instead of going the hybrid route with Rave Greene. That would be one way of improving the run D.

It just requires an ILB that excels in coverage and can run sideline to sideline. Hope Burks can step into that, but at this point we can't believe he will. Summers is being groomed as the backup to Kirksey as the Strong ILB.

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GilMartin's picture

September 06, 2020 at 12:06 pm

Would love to see Burks play well this year, he seems like a good kid but he has struggled to stay healthy. We shall see what happens. Martin was off to a great start and maybe he can contribute later in the season if he can return to health. Thanks for the comment, Stroh, always good to hear from you.

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BrettFavor's picture

September 07, 2020 at 06:29 am

You're underestimating Raven Greene, he was playing really well before his injury last year and that's when our run defense started to struggle. Burks has the athletic ability and he's intelligent, if he can just stay healthy. I feel for the kid, but he's finally had a healthy offseason and he has the potential to be really good, we'll see what happens though. This year is going to be huge for him. Kirksey is an upgrade. And the Martin kid looked great, if he can come back by week 4 then I feel like the bigger concern is the D-Line, but that can be somewhat mitigated by having the Smith Bros and Gary all on the field at the same time. Rashan Gary needs refinement as a pass rusher, but he was good against the run. He's a freak athlete and hearing Mike Smith constantly rave about the kid speaks very well for his ability to assume a much larger role in year 2. Z's versatility to line up anywhere along the line really helps the situation as well.

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GilMartin's picture

September 07, 2020 at 10:31 pm

Big fan of Greene's and I think he can help the run defense and the pass defense if he can stay healthy and in the lineup. I also love Gary's potential vs the run and we'll see if Keke can help there as well. Should be an interesting season. Thanks for your comments, BrettFavor.

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GBPDAN1's picture

September 05, 2020 at 08:08 pm

I'm not sure why I did this to myself, but I re-watched the Packers 49ers NFC championship game yesterday just to see what went wrong against the run. We were in base D most of the game with a safety playing run. This was the best D formation that we have for the run and we gave up 295 yards rushing. The D got pushed around badly. I remember other games last year that the same thing happened including the first viqueens game when Cook was playing (unlike the 2nd minnesota game).

We had no answers. The only change BG did to combat this was replacing our inside LB. This could help some, but it's not going to change Lancaster, Lowry and Adams being crushed at the line of scrimmage. The opener will give us a test to see how our run D looks as minnesota should give us a heavy load of Cook

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PF4L's picture

September 05, 2020 at 07:30 pm

LOL...yea i DVR'd that game myself, not sure if i'll punish myself and watch it though.

Agree with you 100% on the opener being a test for our run defense.....also for the O line and our receivers.

I would be shocked and highly impressed if the Packers win the opener against the queens.

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Stroh's picture

September 05, 2020 at 11:01 pm

Say it with me. Gap discipline! Now keep repeating it. Personnel wasn't the issue with the run D, gap discipline was the issue. The Packers played the run on the way to the QB last year.

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ShanghaiKid's picture

September 05, 2020 at 11:28 pm

This 100%. Lancaster and Lowry were consistently blown out of their gaps all season long. It was, and is a huge problem until proven otherwise.

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GilMartin's picture

September 06, 2020 at 02:04 pm

It was an ugly performance by the run defense, not question about it, GBPDan1. Dalvin Cook will be a big challenge in Week 1, let's hope the defense is equal to the challenge. Thanks for the comment.

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CoachDino's picture

September 05, 2020 at 09:03 pm

Another strong analysis IMHO Mr Gil.

I read the posts and to be honest it's just a matter of mindset.

The pessimistic post seem to me to be very factual, insightful and reasoned.
The optimistic posts seem to me to be very factual, insightful and reasoned.

Just tells me we are all big fans and will be tuning in to see what how it plays out.

Can't wait for Kick-off

Lets go Pack!!!

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GilMartin's picture

September 06, 2020 at 02:06 pm

Well said coach Dino and thanks for the kind words. I can't wait for kickoff either. Thanks as always for commenting, always good to hear from you.

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PF4L's picture

September 08, 2020 at 10:23 pm

Yea Gil....i disagree with many of CoachDinos viewpoints.

I also prefer the word realistic, over pessimistic.

Even if i disagree with someone's viewpoints, showing me your a true fan by being able to talk through your points, earns my respect.

At the end of the day, Dino is spot on, we are all Packer fans.

I've been waiting a long time for upper management to be over hauled, now with Gute, and his building for the future, i have to wait longer while we await the day that will soon be, Rodgers last game in a year or two. Then.....Gutes Legacy will be built, or brought down on his gamble.

But despite all that, I'm a PackerFan4Life (PF4L), i won't miss a game, i haven't missed one in decades, even if i had to tape or DVR it.

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Packers2020's picture

September 05, 2020 at 09:56 pm

I hope Kirksey is better than Blake Martinez. If he is not, we will have the same run issues again.

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GilMartin's picture

September 06, 2020 at 02:06 pm

Yeah, it would be a problem and I can't even think about what happens if Kirksey misses significant time. Fingers crossed on that one. Thanks for the comment Packers2020.

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ShanghaiKid's picture

September 05, 2020 at 10:45 pm

It’s the same concerns as the end of last season. Good to see management improving the roster in the offseason and camp.

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GilMartin's picture

September 06, 2020 at 02:09 pm

A lot of them are the same issues. The team is counting on improvement from many players already on the roster, no doubt. Thanks for the comment, ShanghaiKid.

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ShanghaiKid's picture

September 06, 2020 at 10:29 pm

I just hope management’s faith isn’t misplaced leading to a lost season.

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marpag1's picture

September 06, 2020 at 04:30 am

The Packers might want to take a look at second year ILB Ryan Connelly. I know he blew out his ACL last year but he looked good before getting hurt. He was cleared and participated in this year's training camp, but the Giants just cut him. Maybe his knee is not right...

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GilMartin's picture

September 06, 2020 at 02:10 pm

If the knee is an issue, I doubt the Pack would sign him now. If he is a possibility, I hope Gute and company are ready. Thanks for the comment, marpag1.

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