Ranking Green Bay Packers' Best Surprises of 2021 NFL SeasonDecember 8, 2021
Ranking Green Bay Packers' Best Surprises of 2021 NFL Season
The Green Bay Packers entered the 2021 NFL season with a handful of concerns about their defensive unit.
A majority of those questions have been answered by some unlikely figures on the roster who either stepped into larger roles compared to last season or exceeded expectations after joining the team in the offseason.
De'Vondre Campbell brought stability to the second layer of defense. Campbell is the overwhelming team leader in tackles.
Rasul Douglas added extra help to the secondary, which was one of Green Bay's biggest question marks going into the campaign.
The veteran cornerback has been vital to the Green Bay defense with Jaire Alexander out. Douglas provided a nice complement to 2021 first-round pick Eric Stokes.
Most of Green Bay's biggest surprises come from the defense because there were a lot of known quantities on the offense.
There have been a few surprises on the reworked offensive line, including Lucas Patrick, who has stepped in and played well at center after an injury to Josh Myers.
3. De'Vondre Campbell
De'Vondre Campbell's numbers stand out in a linebacker group that includes Rashan Gary and Preston Smith.
Campbell was expected to be a solid piece in the Green Bay front seven, but few people thought of him to be the leading tackler going into Week 14.
Campbell leads the Packers with 99 tackles and 69 solo tackles. He is also tied for the team lead with two interceptions.
The 28-year-old is one takedown away from the second 100-tackle season of his six-year career. He had 129 tackles for the Atlanta Falcons in 2019.
The offseason acquisition of Campbell flew under the radar a bit because his production dropped off in his one season with the Arizona Cardinals.
Campbell has been a terrific fit inside the Packers defense, and he gives the NFC North leader a few different options to halt the progress of opposing rushing attacks.
2. Lucas Patrick
Green Bay found its 2021 replacement for Corey Linsley in one of its versatile offensive linemen.
Lucas Patrick played at guard last season, and he was projected to play there again in 2021 before Josh Myers was placed on the injured reserve.
Patrick alleviated some concerns about the position with his consistent play over eight starts in front of Aaron Rodgers.
Patrick's steady hand at center allowed the Packers to put together a more permanent lineup on the interior instead of shifting around the entire unit because of one injury.
The fifth-year player and the rest of the offensive line deserve credit for their protection of Rodgers, who has been sacked on 21 occasions in 11 games.
Rodgers was sacked once in three of the last four games, and he was taken down twice in Week 11. If that protection holds in December and January, Green Bay's quarterback will have plenty of time to work in the pocket and put up high offensive totals.
1. Rasul Douglas
Rasul Douglas went from the Arizona Cardinals practice squad to a starring role in the Green Bay secondary.
Douglas turned into the ideal fill-in for Jaire Alexander at cornerback. He has a pair of interceptions, including one for a touchdown against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 12.
The veteran defensive back is also playing well in coverage. He allowed 51.2 percent of his targets to be caught over seven games.
That is a dramatic drop from the 63.3 percent of catches he gave up on targets during his 2020 season with the Carolina Panthers.
Douglas has become a solid complement to Kevin King and Eric Stokes, who the Packers drafted to help avoid the secondary issues that plagued them during the 2020 postseason.
As long as Douglas continues playing at a high level, the Packers should feel confident about their defensive back unit going into postseason, where they will be one of the top four seeds in the NFC.
Statistics obtained from Pro Football Reference.