Is Packers' youth movement going to plan? The answer will define team's future
The 2023 Packers leaned into a youth movement in a way few have in recent history, and the results have fallen far short of the team's expectations.
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After a tumultuous 2022 campaign with a malcontent quarterback, the Green Bay Packers decided to jettison veteran offense players, lean into the youth, and still attempt to remain competitive with Jordan Love under center. What did Brian Gutekunst, Matt LaFleur, and the rest of the brain trust inside 1265 Lombardi Ave. expect would happen this season?
If this isn’t a rebuild as the team insisted so publicly it wasn’t, how is the plan going? And if it’s not going well, do they need to change course?
For now, the answer is “we’ll see.” But losing a fourth straight game, this time to a divisional opponent, has a way of shifting the urgency in any season. That puts an awful lot of pressure on the Packers during this Sunday’s matchup with the rival Minnesota Vikings.
Maybe David Bakhtiari was right and the Packers are rebuilding, they just don’t know it. The latter part is more crucial than we realized at the time. LaFleur and the Packers believed they could manage being the youngest team in the NFL. As of this moment, with Green Bay sitting at 2-4 with three final possession losses hanging over them, they have not.
“It’s not what we’ve expected so far,” Love said Wednesday.
“Not what we had a plan for but, it is what it is. We’re here now. What are we going to do from it going forward?”
No one expects to be terrible, or at least most teams don’t. Certainly, the Packers didn’t when they traded away Aaron Rodgers this spring nor did they signal any intention of taking a step back last season when they chose to play veterans over young players in need of evaluation. At those times, the team cared more about winning than developing talent.
Developing talent leads to winning, but the second part is the important part, and a winning culture fosters development that leads to more success. At least we can suppose that’s how the thinking works for the Packers.
To date, the offensive line fell apart with the loss of David Bakhtiari, an injury complication that anyone with two eyes and half a brain could have predicted given the All-Pro left tackle’s bumpy, multiyear recovery from his ACL tear. No one wants to be out there more than Bakhtiari does, but Rasheed Walker has regressed as the season has gone on as has the interior of the line, making the offense harder to execute run and pass.
Every game, we see a slew of mental errors on routes, whether it’s guys running the wrong routes or running them without the required nuance. On Sunday, multiple plays on the same drives featured a pair of receivers trying to work the same route in the same area, clearly not how LaFleur and his coaching staff drew it up.
And then there are the details. Second-year wideout Christian Watson staying high on a post concept where Love is expecting him to cut across the field versus a single-high safety negates a chance at a big play. The protection falling apart didn’t help either.
In a year where nothing is more important than trying to evaluate Love, the young players turning into Keystone Cops undercuts the plan for the Packers and raises questions about whether the premise held from the beginning.