The Green Bay Packers might be the most fascinating team in football entering training camp, which begins across the NFL in late July.
The Packers, with Aaron Rodgers, are one of the favorites in the NFC and legitimate Super Bowl contenders. Without Rodgers, the Packers would begin a brand new era with a young, unproven quarterback guiding a talented roster.
No one truly knows if Rodgers will be at camp. But this Packers offense has question marks that go beyond the uncertainty of the MVP quarterback’s future.
Here’s a closer look at the biggest questions facing the offense of the Packers going into training camp:
Will Aaron Rodgers show?
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As of early July, no one really knows if Aaron Rodgers will be at the start of Packers training camp later this month. He has major, unresolved problems with individuals in the organization and may not want to return and play in Green Bay in 2021. The start of training camp will be the biggest milestone to date in the saga. If Rodgers doesn’t show, the likelihood he doesn’t play for the Packers this season would grow exponentially. If he does report, there’s a great chance the two sides will have something worked out that would ensure Rodgers is a Packer for at least one more season. A resolution is coming for the reigning NFL MVP.
How far along is Jordan Love?
Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur engages with Jordan Love (10) as he participates in minicamp practice Wednesday, June 9, 2021, in Green Bay, Wis.
The Jordan Love factor is an increasingly intriguing part of the Aaron Rodgers situation. A first-round pick with obvious physical and passing talent, Love will enter training camp with an opportunity to be the starter of a terrific football team if Rodgers isn’t there. But after essentially redshirting his rookie season, Love is a great unknown, probably even to the Packers. They haven’t seen him in a preseason or regular-season game and he had limited practice opportunities in Year 1. All the training camp reps headed his way – and the live snaps of three preseason games – provide the perfect chance for Love to prove to the Packers’ brass that he can play. Everyone, including the team, will learn a lot about Jordan Love in the next couple of months.
Can Devin Funchess add something to the WR group?
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After missing the better part of the last two seasons, it’s fair to wonder if Funchess can offer something of value to the Packers offense as a complementary player. He’s still only 27 years old and has terrific size and plenty of playing experience, and the team believes he arrived at the offseason workout program in terrific shape. The Packers will give him every opportunity to win a roster spot this summer. But again, by Week 1 in New Orleans, it’ll have been over two years since Funchess played in a regular-season game. Who knows how that much time off will affect him as a player. Can Funchess prove during training camp that he’s one of the top four receivers on the roster? Without any value on special teams, Funchess must be able to contribute something offensively to stick on the roster.
Who will play left tackle?
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David Bakhtiari is a rare type of athlete, making it possible he’ll be back by Week 1. More than likely, the Packers will take it slow and make sure the All-Pro left tackle is 100 percent before stepping foot back on the field. Who will play left tackle until he returns? Billy Turner played there extensively while Bakhtiari was hurt last season, but Pro Bowl guard Elgton Jenkins – maybe the most versatile offensive linemen in football – might be the early front-runner. Ben Braden even took snaps at left tackle during the offseason workout program. The Packers will use training camp to get the pieces of the offensive line sorted out before Week 1. Even if Bakhtiari isn’t ready for the start of the regular season, the Packers still have the talent and depth to field a strong starting five.
How will Amari Rodgers be used?
Wide receiver Amari Rodgers (8) is shown during the second day of Green Bay Packers rookie minicamp Saturday, May 15, 2021 in Green Bay, Wis.
The rookie receiver looks like a mix of Randall Cobb and Ty Montgomery, given their body types, playstyle and expected role. So, how will Matt LaFleur use his new, shiny weapon? Rodgers played all over the formation at Clemson, from the perimeter to the slot and even in the backfield, creating endless options for his usage in Green Bay. The Packers don’t have a traditional slot receiver on the roster outside of Rodgers, who could provide immediate impact as a gadget player within LaFleur’s diverse and creative scheme. Think of all the manufactured touches the playcaller could devise with Rodgers in this offense. Training camp should provide a better glimpse at how Rodgers will fit in. And don’t forget, he’s the front runner to be the team’s primary returner on special teams.
How will the Packers replace Corey Linsley?
Offensive lineman Josh Myers (71) is shown during the second day of Green Bay Packers rookie minicamp Saturday, May 15, 2021 in Green Bay, Wis.
Linsley, a first-team All-Pro in 2020, departed in free agency, leaving a gaping hole at center in the Packers offensive line. The most likely replacement is Josh Myers, the team’s second-round pick. He is big and strong, and his experience as a captain at a major program likely provides the necessary tools for playing early in his NFL career. If the new center isn’t Myers, starting guard Lucas Patrick could be a candidate to move over one spot. During training camp, Myers needs to show a strong grasp of the details within the scheme to be the Week 1 starter. He’ll enter camp as the favorite.
Can Marquez Valdes-Scantling take another step?
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Valdes-Scantling became a much more dangerous deep threat in his third NFL season, and there were signs during training camp that a step forward was coming. Can he repeat the trick this summer? MVS led the NFL in yards per catch and catches over 40 yards in 2020, and he likely would have finished well over 800 receiving yards without a handful of big drops. The next step will be cleaning up the little mistakes and creating even more consistency week to week. Keep a close eye on how Valdes-Scantling attacks camp this summer. He needs to keep stacking success in a contract year.
Who wins the third running back job?
Green Bay Packers running back Kylin Hill (32) is shown during a mandatory minicamp Tuesday, June 8, 2021 in Green Bay, Wis.
The departure of Jamaal Williams in free agency opened the door for A.J. Dillon to become an important complementary player to Aaron Jones at running back. But his exit also created an opening behind Dillon and Jones on the depth chart. Rookie Kylin Hill is versatile and talented and might be the favorite. But don’t rule out returning players such as Dexter Williams and Patrick Taylor. The third running back position isn’t a vitally important one, but it can quickly become important with an injury to either Jones or Dillon during the season. Matt LaFleur always wants three capable running backs; a fascinating battle at training camp will determine which one gets the first crack at the role.
Will Jace Sternberger emerge?
Green Bay Packers tight end Jace Sternberger (87) during the second day of organized team activities.
A two-game suspension to start the 2021 season looms large, but training camp still provides Sternberger a real opportunity to show he’s taken a big step forward in his NFL career. The receiving talent is there. He is playing in a friendly offense for tight ends. Making the transition to the NFL is increasingly difficult at his position, which demands so much in both the run and passing game, but Sternberger is now entering his third season in the same offense and is running out of excuses. Now is the right time for a breakout. Maybe his crummy luck will turn during training camp. If Sternberger emerges, the Packers offense will have another intriguing weapon to play with in the passing game.
Which receiver makes the end of the roster?
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Juwann Winfree (88) participates in minicamp practice Wednesday, June 9, 2021, in Green Bay, Wis.
Every year in just about every camp around the NFL, a roster battle gets underway at receiver. The Packers will be no different this summer. Four spots on the roster are locked up by Davante Adams, Allen Lazard, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Amari Rodgers. Devin Funchess will get a chance. So will Equanimeous St. Brown and Malik Taylor, who each made the roster last season. But what about Juwann Winfree, who impressed during minicamp? Or Reggie Begelton, the former CFL star entering Year 2 in Green Bay? Or Bailey Gaither, the undrafted free agent who made a few plays this spring? As always, eyes will be on the receivers during camp. Special teams may make the difference for the final spot or two.
Will Josiah Deguara’s role expand?
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As a rookie, Deguara was featured within the Packers offense during training camp and the start of the regular season, particularly Week 1 in Minnesota. His season ended with a torn ACL. He’s still recovering, but might his role expand in Year 2? He’s the perfect player for the H-back role within Matt LaFleur’s scheme. The Packers think he can play in the slot, inline and in the backfield, creating pre-snap issues for the defense. Think of him as the Amari Rodgers of the tight end position. One thing is certain: LaFleur knows how to get tight ends on the field in specific roles. While he might need time to get back to 100 percent, don’t be surprised if Deguara’s role is more expansive to start his second season.
Can Lucas Patrick hold onto a starting job?
(AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)
The Packers love Patrick’s toughness and versatility. He’s always looking for work, and he can play all three interior line positions. But will he keep his starting job in 2021? The Packers have invested a lot of draft picks – six, to be precise – on the offensive line over the last two drafts. Jon Runyan Jr. could be a starter in Year 2, and both Josh Myers and Royce Newman got run with the first-team offensive line during minicamp. Would the Packers deem Patrick too expensive to be a backup if he loses a starting spot? The team could save around $2 million on the cap if he’s released before the season. Patrick knows the grind. He needs another big summer.
Will the Packers get creative with A.J. Dillon?
Green Bay Packers running back A.J. Dillon (28), running back Aaron Jones (33) and Mike Weber (24) participate in organized team activities Wednesday, June 2, 2021, in Green Bay, Wis.
Dillon, a second-round pick in 2020 who had a 100-yard rushing game as a rusher, will become the new Jamaal Williams in Green Bay. He’s on track to get 100 or more touches as the No. 2 back behind Aaron Jones. But how will Matt LaFleur find new and creative ways to get him the ball? He showed some two-back looks with Dillon and Jones during the postseason, and the Packers are confident Dillon is a much better receiver out of the backfield than anyone knows. Jones has been dynamic within this scheme, and Williams was a highly useful secondary back. There should be confidence in LaFleur’s ability to get the ball to the position in positive ways. Training camp could provide a better look at how the ball will end up in Dillon’s hands in 2021.