Packers have new look as Rodgers continues Super Bowl chase
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will try to earn his elusive second Super Bowl berth without many of the guys who helped him earn MVP honors each of the last two seasons.
Two-time All-Pro receiver Davante Adams is now in Las Vegas. Former offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett is in Denver as the Broncos’ head coach. Former quarterbacks coach Luke Getsy is now the Chicago Bears’ offensive coordinator.
All those changes will make it tough for the Packers to post the NFC’s best regular-season record for a third straight year. Rodgers looks forward to the challenge.
He’s helped by the return of Tom Clements, who is back as quarterbacks coach after filling the same role during the Packers’ 2010 championship season. That season remains Rodgers’ lone Super Bowl appearance.
“It’s adjustments every single year, but happy for those guys and where they’re at,” Rodgers said of the staff changes. “I definitely miss their friendship, but the guys who have taken those spots have done a really nice job.”
Replacing Adams could prove much tougher.
The Packers restocked their receiving corps by drafting Christian Watson in the second round, Romeo Doubs in the fourth and Samori Toure in the seventh.
“This is the way that we do things here,” veteran wideout Randall Cobb said. “It’s either you deal with it or you get out of the room and we’ll find somebody else that’s going to get on board with what we’re trying to accomplish.”
The Packers also have concerns on the offensive line as David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins return from knee injuries. Bakhtiari has appeared in only one game since tearing his left anterior cruciate ligament on Dec. 31, 2020.
If the Packers get the production they want at receiver and on the offensive line, they again should boast one of the NFC’s top teams.
“There’s enough talent in that room, no doubt about it,” general manager Brian Gutekunst said. “Not every team can probably say that, but this team can. But they’re going to have to come together and be a team.”
The Packers ranked ninth in total defense and tied for 13th in scoring defense last year but ought to fare even better this year.
They added two first-round picks to their defense by selecting former Georgia teammates Quay Walker at linebacker and Devonte Wyatt at defensive tackle. They also brought in veteran free agent lineman Jarran Reed and completed long-term deals with All-Pro linebacker De’Vondre Campbell and cornerback Rasul Douglas.
“I’m loving every piece of the defense,” outside linebacker Rashan Gary said. “I’m loving how we’re jelling together and holding each other to that standard.”
SEARCHING ON SPECIAL TEAMS
The Packers hired former Las Vegas Raiders interim head coach and longtime special teams coach Rich Bisaccia to upgrade a special teams unit that ranked as the NFL’s worst last season according to Football Outsiders efficiency metrics.
Green Bay gave up a 59-yard kickoff return, had 12 men on the field for one punt return and had 10 men on the field for another punt return in its second preseason game.
Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon should give Green Bay one of the league’s top running back tandems.
Dillon rushed for 803 yards and five touchdowns and caught 34 passes for 313 yards and two more scores last year. Jones ran for 799 yards and four touchdowns and had 52 receptions for 391 yards and six scores.
Rodgers believes both could catch 50 passes this season.
“Last year, we wanted to get the ball in 17’s hands in space anywhere,” Rodgers said in reference to Adams. “This year, 33 (Jones) and 28 (Dillon) are going to get a lot more opportunities.”
OFFENSIVE LINE ISSUES
Jenkins and Bakhtiari were recently removed from the physically unable to perform list, raising hope they could be ready early in the season.
The Packers’ starting offensive line for their first two preseason games had Yosh Nijman at left tackle, Jon Runyan Jr. at left guard, Josh Myers at center, Jake Hanson at right guard and Royce Newman at right tackle.
The Packers promoted offensive line coach Adam Stenavich to replace Hackett as offensive coordinator. Luke Butkus took over for Stenavich as offensive line coach. Butkus, the nephew of Hall of Fame linebacker Dick Butkus, was the Packers’ assistant offensive line coach from 2019-21.
Jason Rebrovich was hired as outside linebackers coach once Mike Smith left to join the Minnesota Vikings’ staff. John Dunn was promoted from senior analyst to tight ends coach after Justin Outten departed to become Hackett’s offensive coordinator in Denver.
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL