This Packers Prediction Column is not Like the Others

You want more predictions? You can’t handle more predictions!

You want more predictions? You can’t handle more predictions!

I know I can’t. At least not the usual ones, which are floating around football media these days like lint, and are often worth about as much. But it’s that time of year, and there’s not much else to do as we gather up the tailgating gear, buy bigger-screen TVs and stare obsessively at the clock counting down to opening day.

So let’s try something a bit different. No win-loss records, or which teams will reach the Super Bowl, or which head coach will be fired first (Mike McCarthy).

Instead, here are some things to which my Magic 8 Ball responds, “it will be so.”

Prediction #1.

Amari Rodgers will line up in the backfield for at least 25 snaps during the season. 

Many were surprised when the Packers kept only two running backs on the 53-man roster, but this is not about possible injury replacement. The Packers must diversify the offense and deploy every bit of trickeration to help make up for the loss of Davante Adams. 

Rodgers’ highlight videos at Clemson notwithstanding, picking him in the third round felt like a hope and prayer for someone who could provide quality receiver play and improve the team’s pathetic return game, rather than finding a bona fide difference-maker for one or the other. But instead of a new Randall Cobb, the football gods gave us a new Ty Montgomery. 

So why not use Rodgers in other ways? In fact, why not use him like the Packers eventually used Montgomery, but more creatively? Rodgers’ talents do not seem to include getting separation as a wideout. And he’s clearly a below-NFL-level return man. But he has enough bulk to withstand the physical punishment of some gadgety runs out of the backfield, and of catching passes by sneaking out over the middle. He  has just enough speed, and good enough hands, to give opposing defenses some serious heartburn in a role that looks similar to what the 49ers are increasingly doing with Deebo Samuel. Could save wear and tear on Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon, too. 

The Packers have never been big on surprise formations (three-running-back sets, anyone?) or out-of-the-box plays that can put defenses back on their heels, at least for a down. The bet here is that the coaches spent the past few weeks scheming up ways to change that, with Rodgers as a key element, regardless of when Kylin Hill comes back. 

Prediction#2: 

Robert Tonyan returning to form from his ACL injury will be more important to Green Bay making a deep run than whether or when David Bakhtiari or Elgton Jenkins returns.

With all due respect to the wide-receiver room, this isn’t Moneyball, and Davante Adams can’t simply be re-created in the aggregate. Adams’ production was not merely phenomenal; it dictated what defenses had to do, opening up opportunities for everyone else. 

Yes, the Packers managed to win a lot whenever Adams missed time with injuries. There were different reasons for this depending on the game, but throwing to the running backs was key to picking up the slack. Yet the tight-end position was also crucial, accounting for six touchdowns when Adams was out, just one behind the running backs and ahead of all the other wideouts combined. This is why Tonyan returning to form is my prime concern (except for special teams) as opening day approaches. 

The Packers’ remarkable success at finding depth and flexibility along the O-line has the team covered, for lengthy stretches of time if necessary. Not so in the tight-end room, where Tyler Davis has been inconsistent, Marcedes Lewis is no longer much of a receiving factor and Josiah Deguara seems more of a — well, no one really knows. 

Statistics from last season suggest little drop-off in offensive production after Tonyan went down in week 8. The presence of Adams, MVS and Allen Lazard saw to that. But in the divisional game against the 49ers, we saw what happened when both Tonyan and MVS were out. The Packers were held to 10 points, as San Francisco stifled everyone else.  

Adams and MVS are gone. Romeo Doubs could turn out to be MVS, or even MVS plus. Christian Watson could be the stud the Packers spent a lot of capital to get. But tight ends and hybrids like Cooper Kupp and Kyle Pitts are critical in successful, modern football schemes. The Packers were lucky to unearth Tonyan after whiffing on several attempts to replace Jermichael Finley. Mr. Tonyan must be fully healthy for the Packers to have a good shot to get back to the Big Dance.

Prediction#3: 

After a secret workout this week, the Packers will sign Desmond Howard to return kickoffs and punts. Howard, 52, currently works on the ESPN College GameDay program, but will take a one month leave of absence to bridge the gap while Green Bay waits for Hill to come off the PUP list. 

In 1996, Howard totaled 875 punt-return yards, a record that may never be broken. He also brought back three punts for touchdowns in the regular season that year. And he had 460 kickoff return yards, plus one return touchdown each in the playoffs and the Super Bowl, which the Packers won over New England. I’m double checking with our analytics department, but it’s possible that in the combined 26 years since then, the Packers have totaled fewer return yards and touchdowns. Some will call the move desperate, but most fans will applaud it, and Rich Bisaccia will be quoted as thanking Brian Gutekunst for “leaving no stone unturned to improve our ball club.”

__________________________
Jonathan Krim grew up in New York but got hooked on the Packers — and on hating the Cowboys — watching the Ice Bowl as a young child.  He blames bouts of unhappiness in his late teens on Dan Devine. A journalist for several decades who now lives in California, he enjoys trafficking in obscure cultural references, lame dad jokes and occasionally preposterous takes. Jonathan is a Packers shareholder, and insists on kraut with his brats. You can follow Jonathan on twitter at @Jkrim.

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7 points

Comments (23)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
RedRight49's picture

September 04, 2022 at 06:27 pm

Desmond Howard was more electric than my cousin's Tesla!

When he handled a kick-off or a punt, man, he was something else!

Hopefully Rich Bisaccia and his 2022 STs can field a reasonably competent return man who can move the chains forward and gives the Packer's O some decent, not deficit, field position!

Amari in the backfield once in a while should be an advantage to the O as the opponent's D will have to quickly guess how and with whom to cover him, be it as a runner, receiver or part of a gadget play package.

While I believe at this point Bakh and Jenkins return is more important to the Packer's overall season and post-season successes, Tonyan's ability to stretch and catch could be the icing on the offensive cake - when Big Bob was healthy and at the top of his game he was a true weapon at a position the Packer's needed a real weapon.

Enjoyed the predictions!

7 points
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stockholder's picture

September 04, 2022 at 07:40 pm

Amari Rodgers doesn't belong in the backfield. He's No Cobb and everyone knows it. As fascinating as this might be.
These are the two reasons for it.
1. He gets to handle the football. (Which should help him on Punt returns etc. )
2. Stoping the 3rd round Jinx. His development makes up for the price.
It was obvious he was a better player in space. He better not fumble!

-3 points
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jannes bjornson's picture

September 05, 2022 at 12:45 am

If that's the case then he can go two back sets with A.Jones. Wingbacks and motion, double motion, 1:1 the LBs. This offense should explode if Tonyan can perform? I would rather try to secure another TE. Finesse doesn't win in the Cold.

1 points
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splitpea1's picture

September 04, 2022 at 08:06 pm

We might be getting ahead of ourselves with all the talk about offensive creativity. With three rookie receivers, a new addition in Watkins, and a dearth of pass-catching tight ends, concentrating on the fundamentals should be a higher priority in the beginning. While Amari may be useful on offense at times, we should keep our expectations in check--he's no Deebo Samuel. And we better hope Tonyan returns to his 2020 form; his numbers were down last season before the injury.

If there's any place where we may see more creativity, it's the defense. I'm really hoping it won't take too long for Wyatt to make some contributions given that he's kind of old for a rookie...when's he's ready, pairing him with Clark is really going to be fun to watch.

We already signed a premier gunner, and now you're asking for a premier kick returner, LOL??!! Let's not get greedy....Seriously, if Amari or Hill can consistently make the correct decisions on where and when to field the ball, secure the ball, and go in a mostly vertical direction, then that itself will be noteworthy progress.

7 points
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Bure9620's picture

September 04, 2022 at 09:15 pm

I cannot agree with the Tonyan point. He is nice weapon but Tonyan is not even remotely close to as important as Bahktiari to this offense Jenkins too. If the Packers O-line can protect Rodgers and open run lanes, they will move the ball and score plenty, regardless of who is catching the ball. With a veteran QB, Gute has prioritized protection and I agree with the approach.

7 points
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Patrick's picture

September 04, 2022 at 09:24 pm

Come on Man, very funny, Desmond Howard! I'll say this, we need someone to return punts!!

1 points
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PatrickGB's picture

September 05, 2022 at 09:50 am

It shows that this team has not sought out a player with those skills since that time. With the new ST ‘s coach we may see the emphasis change in the future.

1 points
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Bure9620's picture

September 04, 2022 at 09:33 pm

With regard to Amari Rodgers, I just don't see it. He made the roster due to being a 3rd round pick...I know people believe he is now this swiss army knife because of a pre-season game...The problem is all the blades on this swiss army knife are dull and dont cut shit.

6 points
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PatrickGB's picture

September 05, 2022 at 09:47 am

Bure, I have been posting for some time that I am not enamored with Amari. My friends here in SC saw an average player and I wondered why we picked him in the third round. And I noted his RAS was not ideal for future growth. But we are stuck with him and I hope that there is something that he can do to help justify his selection.

1 points
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Handsback's picture

September 04, 2022 at 09:40 pm

Bure, pure gold!

0 points
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murf7777's picture

September 04, 2022 at 09:48 pm

You lost me when you stated Tonyan more important than getting Bak back. I couldn’t read any further.

-1 points
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Littlejim51's picture

September 04, 2022 at 11:33 pm

Ok
We or I will see a big improvement in Amari Rodgers. No one is like Debo S nor Desmond so don’t even go there
The head special teams coach will have Rodgers ready
LaFleur knows how to scheme players open and Rodgers will be consistent and solid
From the schemes
You guys have the best football team in the NFC

3 points
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PatrickGB's picture

September 05, 2022 at 09:42 am

Murf, I see your point. The writer must feel comfortable with the backups we have on the roster. But there is no doubt that the, injured, starters on the line are superior. My guess is that the writer feels that the team can make do with the backups if the passing game clicks. That’s a risky prediction.

1 points
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murf7777's picture

September 05, 2022 at 02:05 pm

Patrick, I think that’s a very big if and we can point to Bak not being our LT the last two playoff game losses as a fairly big part of the reason. As you know, LT is the second most important position on the offense, so even thou we don’t have the best receiving group it isn’t even close in my book. I probably was a bit too strong in my wording, but it’s the truth I stopped ready after that.

-2 points
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NickPerry's picture

September 05, 2022 at 05:33 am

I DO agree with the writer...Getting Big Bob back is important to this team. But...

I've mentioned this more than once and IMO is the key to the whole season...Get Bakhtiari and Jenkins back...ASAP!

Getting those two back doesn't just improve the O-Line. It improves EVERYTHING on the offense including time of possession which will help the defense as well. It goes without saying it improves the passing and running game.

Wouldn't it be AWESOME to see Big Bob and Jenkins out there in week one? Or Big Bob and Bakhtiari? Or Big Bob and BOTH? Getting those 3 back makes this team much, much better.

8 points
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PatrickGB's picture

September 05, 2022 at 09:38 am

I agree. Getting everyone back improves everything. The more of them that are back,the better the team.

2 points
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Rebecca's picture

September 05, 2022 at 04:13 pm

Totally Dood! Everything is better with everyone in on it! All for one and Win for all!

2 points
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Rebecca's picture

September 05, 2022 at 04:19 pm

I DO DECLARE I LOVE YOUR ENTHUSIASM!

1 points
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MooPack's picture

September 05, 2022 at 09:25 am

Prediction #1. Amari Rodgers 25 backfield touches. That’s approx 1.5 a game. Not counting WR/slot touches. Not counting return touches. Sorry, that scares me. Offense has bigger issues if he’s gonna see even that much. Not a big fan of “scheming” open. Usually means he can’t do it on own talent.

1 points
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PatrickGB's picture

September 05, 2022 at 09:35 am

I agree. The scheming factor can only go so far. Defenses catch on. But every now and then it works if the WR knows his job and can catch. A team can’t rely on it but should try and use it none the less. Just sprinkle it in to keep them guessing.

1 points
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PatrickGB's picture

September 05, 2022 at 09:28 am

A dark horse in this conversation should be Watkins. Sammy has more highlight reel plays than Amari and done against tougher competition. The legitimate knock on him has been injuries. So he may not be available the whole season. But when he is, I see a legit veteran WR who can make plays. And because of low expectations, we will be pleasantly surprised. So it is my prediction #4.

3 points
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Cartwright's picture

September 05, 2022 at 04:52 pm

If La Fleur can scheme a plan to get a 100 yard game for Sammy teams thereafter will have to focus on him as well and not write him off. Now that Lazzard might not play this may be possible.

1 points
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Cheesey51's picture

September 05, 2022 at 03:49 pm

Whether or not Tonyan returns to his pass catching self, my prediction is the Packers draft a TE in 1st rd in 2023!
I wasn'r surprised the PACK went with 2 RB's. Preseason and ST and a 55yd rtrn by Amari. Coach B. just might bring the best out of Amari Rodgers. We also have (2) very good RB on the practice squad and and very promising future replacement for Mason when he retires
As for the 2 All-Pro Tackles returning to the lineup believe me I want them back bad, but healthy. I cannot take another year of maybe maybe not with David B & Jenkins.
As for Sammy Watkins give the guy and me a break. He has been to a SB with KC and since he isn't being asked to be the No.#1 and only a sure, solid player who LaFluer can scheme open. I'm in on him.
So what, he has injury hx. who doesn't. How many games did DeVante Adams miss?
Also, with the Defense firing on all cylinders & the ST's & putning unit offering the D good field position,It'll give GB's offense many more opportunites and that's throughout the whole season and playoffs
Go Pack Go!

3 points
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