Packers Players with Most to Prove Ahead of 2021 SeasonMay 26, 2021
Packers Players with Most to Prove Ahead of 2021 Season
One of the Green Bay Packers' early-round NFL draft picks from 2020 is expected to play a significant role in 2021.
While Jordan Love still sits behind Aaron Rodgers, A.J. Dillon is projected to have a larger workload behind Aaron Jones.
Dillon will be the team's No. 2 running back after Jamaal Williams departed in free agency, and if he fails to deal with the increase in touches, the Packers could be in a tough position offensively.
The wide receivers around Rodgers will be under scrutiny as well, even if Davante Adams produces another career season.
Just like the wide receivers around Adams, the pass-rushers beneath Za'Darius Smith on the depth chart need to increase their production to help fill the gap between the top sack earner and the rest of the roster.
Green Bay's first two draft picks from 2020 played minimal roles last season.
Dillon has a chance to be one of the most productive young running backs in the league if he can continue carrying the workload Williams had behind Jones last season.
Williams contributed 505 rushing yards on 111 carries and caught 31 of his 35 targets for 236 yards. Dillon earned 48 touches in both aspects of the offense.
The 23-year-old is expected to at least match what Williams added to make Green Bay's offense a well-rounded unit around Rodgers.
When Dillon was at Boston College, he ran for 1,000 yards in each of his three seasons, but he only had double-digit receptions in his final year.
The pass-catching skill set is there, and given how often Jones and Williams were used in 2020, the usage rate should be there for Dillon to take advantage of in his sophomore season.
If he transitions well into the secondary role behind Jones, Green Bay's offense should be as dangerous as it was in 2020.
Green Bay could produce even more of a threat around Rodgers if its No. 2 and No. 3 wideouts increase their totals around Adams and Robert Tonyan.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Allen Lazard
Much has been made about the talent that has been placed around Rodgers in the last few years.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Allen Lazard are the options behind Adams on the depth chart since the Packers did not significantly address the position in the draft or free agency.
Amari Rodgers was selected in the third round of the 2021 draft to become the only notable addition made through those two acquisition mechanisms.
Valdes-Scantling and Lazard need to increase their production for Green Bay to keep pace with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC and to avoid losing their place to the Clemson product.
In 2020, the wideouts brought in 33 receptions. Valdes-Scantling had 690 yards and six touchdowns, while Lazard put up 451 yards and three scores.
Neither player has proved they are close to being a top wideout to complement Adams, like Mike Evans and Chris Godwin do in Tampa Bay, but an uptick in numbers is needed to challenge the Super Bowl champion if the two sides meet in the playoffs again.
The Tampa Bay duo came 160 yards from Godwin shy of having a pair of 1,000-yard receivers. Rob Gronkowski and Scotty Miller both had over 500 receiving yards as well.
If Green Bay can go four deep with Adams, Valdes-Scantling, Lazard and Tonyan all going over 500 receiving yards, they will put the team in position to host the NFC Championship Game again.
The Packers had two players record five or more sacks in 2020.
For the defense to have more of a bite on the interior, Tyler Lancaster and others need to step up.
The 26-year-old saw his production dip from 2019 to 2020. He had 30 tackles and 1.5 sacks two years ago but produced 23 tackles and no sacks last season.
Since Green Bay did not add many young players to the defensive line, the pressure will be on the incumbent players to provide more sacks behind Smith and Rashan Gary.
If Lancaster, Kingsley Keke and Dean Lowry all increase their totals, Green Bay could have a more ferocious pass rush in 2021.
Since Keke and Lowry totaled seven sacks last season, more pressure will be on Lancaster to prove he can be a menace on the defensive interior.
Statistics obtained from Pro Football Reference.