12th overall pick, new head coach and $127 million spent on four free agents, that was the Packers heading into the 2019 NFL season. The team exceeded expectations to earn a 13-3 record and made it to the NFC Championship game where they would end up losing to the San Francisco 49ers. The team had players like Za’Darius Smith, Aaron Jones, Allen Lazard and Darnell Savage step up and lead the team. But they also had players who did not quite meet expectations. Here are five players that need to bounce back next season.
Defensive Tackle Dean Lowry:
The Packers defensive line had a big three form last season with the Smith Bros and Kenny Clark. The hype around these three players is well warranted, but people forget that another defensive linemen signed a contract extension last year. The Packers signed DT Dean Lowry to a three year $20 million contract after a career year in 2018. He was expected to be a consistent role player next to Kenny Clark in the middle of the defense, but did not live up to that expectation.
In 2018, Lowry appeared in all 16 games with eight starts. He earned three sacks, five tackles for loss, and 44 tackles. He had a career high in snaps with 697 which was good for 66% of defensive snaps. Looking at the 2019 season, his production went down in almost every category. He started all 16 games, but did not manage a single sack, two tackles for loss and 47 tackles. Lowry also had a dip in snaps to 637 with a 61% total.
The Packers will need Lowry to perform like he did in 2018 to help support Kenny Clark. The Packers run defense last year was one of the biggest weaknesses on the team, and if Lowry can bounce back that could turn it around.
Wide Receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling:
MVS came into the season with probably the highest expectations of any Packers player. After his rookie season as the third receiver, MVS was expected to carry the load as the WR2 with Cobb headed to Dallas. Fans’ expectations grew after reports and videos showed MVS training with HOFer Randy Moss in the offseason. He not only failed to meet those WR2 expectations, but fell out of the rotation.
MVS’ rookie season was productive with 38 receptions, 581 yards and two touchdowns. Many, myself included, expected MVS to capitalize on Adams being across from him and become close to a 1,000 yard receiver. Last season he managed 26 receptions, 452 yards and two touchdowns. His production fell as well as his snap totals. During his rookie campaign he played 691 snaps, but last season only had 542 snaps. He fell out of the rotation during the second half of the season, only having games with seven, 10 and 11 snaps.
With a deep WR draft, Funchess signing and Lazard stepping up, MVS needs to bounce back in his third year. He could easily find himself out of the rotation or worst case on another team if his production does not improve. He has immense talent, but needs to show he can be a consistent part of the offense.
Cornerback Josh Jackson:
I almost put an amber alert out for Josh Jackson last season. The second round pick in the 2018 draft was expected to be a top corner for the Packers. Jackson however, did not earn enough time on the field to show exactly what he was capable of. He led the nation with 8 interceptions during his last season at Iowa, but has yet to have an interception in the NFL. In this defense, it is hard to get an interception when you are not on the field. During his rookie season, he appeared in all 16 games and even started four of them. Last season his snaps went from 718 to 103 during 14 appearances with zero starts.
Jackson is extremely athletic and with Tramon Williams currently not on the roster, he has the opportunity to show that he can join King and Alexander as the Packers top young corners.
Right Guard Billy Turner:
Billy Turner was one of the four free agency signings last season. He was the only signing on the offensive side of the ball, and helped give consistency to an offensive line that struggled in 2018. Coming to a team after signing a big contract, especially a team that is not known for signing free agents, fans expect immediate production. Do not get me wrong, Turner was productive and made the offensive line better, but he was the weakest link on the line last season. Elgton Jenkins, Packers 2nd round pick, did not allow a single sack during the season. Billy Turner allowed six alone last season. That was the most out of any starter for the Packers last season.
Turner will be playing next to a new right tackle in Wagner, so he will need to quickly build chemistry to ensure Aaron Rodgers stays off the ground. Turner also will have Lane Taylor fighting to earn a starting spot back, so he will need to improve to win that training camp battle.
New Free Agent Signings:
Both Devin Funchess and Christian Kirksey signed with the Packers this offseason. They are considered low risk, high reward signings because their contracts are low, but have shown the ability to perform at a high level. Another similarity is that they were both injured for almost the entire 2019 season. Kirksey suffered his season-ending injury week two while Funchess suffered his during the fourth quarter of week one. Not only do they need to bounce back so the Packers can improve, but for their own careers. They signed cheap one and two year contracts that set them up to sign for more money if they can stay healthy. Look for these two guys to show the NFL they are ready to be dominant at their positions and help lead the Packers on a Super Bowl run.