Focusing on the Positives for the 2022 Green Bay Packers

A little optimism can go a long way

Robert Tonyan (All-Pro Reels, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons)

It might seem like ancient history now, but the Green Bay Packers began the 2022 season with a 3-1 record.

Those three wins weren’t pretty, far from it, but they were wins.

From that point on, there’s been a lot more negatives than positives for the Packers. We figured we could write about either today and opted for the positives. Had we chosen to focus on the negatives, this might have been a four or five part series.

Joking aside (was it a joke?), we’re not focusing on the positives out of naivety or homerism. We’ve chosen to look at that side of the coin because there’s a lot of season left. There’s no point in throwing in the towel as fans; we don’t have control over the flow of the damn season anyway.

Since we’re talking about the flow of the season…

What followed that 3-1 start was a three game losing streak that has vaulted a fanbase (known for harboring a bit more anxiety than it should, us included) into an absolute frenzy.

Logging onto “Packers Twitter” earlier this week, for those that partake, had a similar vibe to the scene where Troy Barnes (Donald Glover) from Community walks into the burning room holding pizza — you know the scene/meme. If you don’t, imagine walking into a room that is on fire.

That’s what it was like.

[In this very complex, totally not-overused metaphor the flames represent the many hot takes and arguing over the current chaotic state of the Packers — keep up]

There were factions of fans blaming the head coach while others blamed the quarterback. Many fans went after the receivers (easy target, if you ask us), while some focused on the defense. The defensive coordinator, Joe Barry, received a healthy dose of vitriol. Just about everyone received criticism from someone.

Let’s just say the most nuanced opinions weren’t the loudest. Shocking, I know.

There was and is a lot of blame going around. And honestly, there should be. This team, and its fans, did not expect to see a three game losing streak this season, much less in the “easier” half of the schedule.

Losing streaks happen in the NFL though, sometimes even to good teams. It’s a hard league.

But losing three straight games to the New York Giants, New York Jets, and Washington Commanders was a bit too much to swallow for most fans. Especially with the perceived “lack of heart” out on the field while the streak continued on. We’re not making a judgement there, regarding the heart of this team, but we get the accusations.

It was troubling. It’s still troubling.

It’s impossible to watch those last three games and call these Packers “a good football team.” There’s time to turn it around though, hypothetically speaking. The season can, and likely will, have multiple changes in flow. Most seasons do.

Matt LaFleur hadn’t lost consecutive games in the regular season as head coach of the Packers before this dreadful stretch. Now he’s trying to keep his team from falling in four straight games for the first time since 2016 (before the team ran the table).

No easy task considering the next team on the docket is the Buffalo Bills.

The Bills, led by MVP front-running quarterback Josh Allen, might be the best team in the league. They’re hosting the Packers on Sunday Night Football at Highmark Stadium. They have an elite defense, perhaps the best in the league, and their fans are going to be out-of-their-minds boisterous. Great fans up there in Buffalo.

Not to mention, the Bills have an elite receiver in Stefan Diggs, who has a long history of torching the Packers. When he was with the Vikings, he put up eight touchdowns in nine games against Green Bay.

As if that isn’t enough, the Bills are coming off of their bye week. They’ve had two weeks to prepare for Green Bay.

Yikes.

But we (the minds behind this site) are not really the game preview types. You can easily find that sort of thing elsewhere.

Instead, we figured this would be a good time of the season to take a deep breath, center ourselves, and dive into the good that this season has offered.

[Don’t mind the smell of burning sage]

There has been a lot of good this season, we promise.

If you’re looking for a deep-dive into the negatives, I’m sure you can easily find that, too. Packers fandom has no shortage of great, in-depth content being produced right now.

On that note, here are a few (but not all) of our favorite outlets for Packers content right now: Packers WireCheesehead TV, Acme Packing Co., and Game On Wisconsin. The best Packers podcast going at this moment in time is Pack’s What She Said. Check it out if you haven’t yet. And if you do have Twitter, you simply have to be following Andy Herman.

OK, onto the (many) positives for the 2022 Packers! And who knows, maybe these positives will culminate in a surprising upset win over the Bills!

If you’re too down on this team to envision an upset, remember that you’re allowed to be a bullish fanatic, you’re a fan after all.

Positives: The Players

Aaron Jones

Could we have started with anyone else?

Jones, the biggest star on this offense at the moment, is having a great season despite continually not being given the ball enough. It’s a testament to how dynamic he is, but it’s still frustrating as hell that — oh yeah, we’re staying positive today.

Jones is so much fun to watch play football; we’re thankful he’s on this team… regardless of his usage.

One thing about Jones is he always plays hard. Always. He sets such an example for the rest of the team. He has been the biggest positive on this team as he’s maintained a fantastic yards per rush average of 5.50. That is the number he put up in 2018 when he led the NFL in that category.

Jones is on pace to put up the most first downs of his career, again, despite not touching the ball as often as he should.

He’s also adding to his legacy as the best receiving running back in Packers history this year, too. His second receiving touchdown against the Commanders will be on his career highlight tape. The others in the conversation are Johnny Blood, Dorsey Levens, Paul Hornung.

Rashan Gary

He’s quickly becoming the leader of these Green Bay Packers. His motor cannot be questioned and his ascension to superstar has been so much fun to behold. This season he’s posted six sacks and 10 additional QB hits in seven games.

The stats are finally coming for Gary. We all believed they would, but it’s nice to finally see them. He was brought along relatively slowly and that patience is paying off for him and this defense. He’s also helping fellow edge Preston Smith rush the passer. All eyes are on No. 52 (especially as he works his way back from concussion protocol).

Pro Football Focus continually has Gary listed near the top of the league in pass rush rating and pass rush win percentage. He has arrived as a superstar.

But Gary’s development, and stardom, is partially owed to the man in the middle.

Kenny Clark

That man in the middle? None other than Kenny Clark.

His push up the middle of the defense and the double-teams he eats up pave the way for Gary to attack the quarterback. Clark often doesn’t allow the quarterback to step up and Gary takes it from there.

There isn’t much to say about Clark that hasn’t been said. He’s the consummate professional and he has a chance to land his first All-Pro nod this year. His play has been stellar this year.

Robert Tonyan

Not all knee injuries are created equal. Just as not all recoveries from such injuries are created equal (obviously referencing the David Bakhtiari knee injury/recovery here).

If this piece was about the negatives we’d be diving further into Bakhtiari’s knee. All we’ll say is we feel for the big fella. It sucks. But since today is about the positives, how about we acknowledge how awesome it is to have Tonyan back!

He’s quickly becoming Rodgers’ go-to target again. Teams have to account for him going down the middle of the field again. Something teams didn’t have to prepare for last year when he was out with that knee injury.

If the Packers turn this season around, Big Bob Tonyan will be a big part. He’s on pace to smash his career high in receptions. If he continues at this pace, he’ll snag 73 balls. His career high is 52 (2020).

Those 73 catches would be the most in Packers history for a tight end in a single-season. The all-time record is 62 receptions by Jermichael Finley (2012).

History is on the line. Give ’em hell the rest of the season Tonyan!

Mason Crosby

Age is just a number to the best kicker in Packers history.

No talk about the holder or bad snaps this year because only one kick all year has been missed (out of eight field goals and 15 extra points).

How can you not love Crosby?

Allen Lazard

Need a big play or a first down?

The ball is going to Lazard.

He got hurt last week and the team failed to convert a third down for the first time since 1999. That’s not a coincidence.

He doesn’t put up huge numbers overall, but he is a touchdown machine. Incredibly, he has nine touchdowns in his last 11 games played.

Also, has any position in football undergone more scrutiny than the wide receiver group in Green Bay? He’s brought a small level of calm to the position group and a bit of normalcy. It’s unfortunate he’s currently hurt, but once he’s back he’ll be one of the most important players on the field again.

Can the others step up without him in Buffalo? He’s likely going to miss the game. Hopefully. Looking at you Romeo Doubs.

Pat O’Donnell

The punter deserves some love, dammit.

He’s just been steady and he’s pinned the opposition deep many times. That’s really all you can ask for.

Thanks to the Chicago Bears for letting O’Donnell slip away!

Inside Linebackers

Quay Walker has had some rookie blunders, which were expected, but to us he has been the player we were promised. His speed is noticeable and his sideline-to-sideline ability cannot be questioned. He’s getting a bit more comfortable rushing the passer, too, which we believe will end up being a big part of his game in Green Bay.

De’Vondre Campbell has been a tackle machine despite starting the season pretty quiet. Yeah, he’s missed more tackles this season than all of last season, but he’s coming off his best game of the year against Washington. In that game he put up 12 tackles, three tackles for loss, a QB hit, a pass defended and a pick-six interception.

He’s going to be just fine.

The middle linebackers in Green Bay are a positive, even if their run defense has been questionable to start the year.

The Rookies:

We did include Quay Walker in the blurb above, but we figure he belongs right there beside De’Vondre Campbell, just like you’d find them on the field. Alright, onto the other rookies.

Romeo Doubs

The rookie fourth-round pick wide receiver has struggled with drops lately, but he’s also shown flashes of star ability. I’ll take that trade-off in a young pass catcher any day. The drops will likely go away, but that special ability to get open is rare.

If Lazard can’t play against Buffalo, Doubs has to be the guy. It’s that simple. We, like many, think he has the goods to be the guy.

He’s on pace for 63 receptions this year!

Zach Tom

The Packers may have done it again, folks.

The rookie tackle stepped in at left tackle, perhaps the most crucial position on the team after quarterback, and he didn’t flinch.

Green Bay has a knack for finding these athletic, versatile linemen. It looks like that trend is continuing with Zach Tom. That’s a major ‘positive’ for this team moving forward.

Kingsley Enagbare

The rookie edge rusher from South Carolina is making the most of his opportunities. The fifth round draft pick has put up sacks in consecutive weeks, the first two sacks of his career. He saw the field more in those two games than he had all year.

He’s trending in the right direction as a young player and honestly has been a nice surprise. This team needed depth at edge and he’s providing it.

Miscellaneous Musings:

Not having Aaron Rodgers listed as a “positive” is not a shot at him. We promise. It’s just that his play has been subpar for what we’ve all come to expect from him. And that’s the truth.

Do we think he’s going to start playing like the one of the best quarterbacks in the world again?

Yes. An emphatic yes!

[Bears Fan/Copy Editor’s Note: NOPE]

Yosh Nijman probably deserves mention, too. His ability to step into the lineup and shine hasn’t gone unnoticed. It’s hard to go from in the lineup to out of it and back into it. He’s mentally tough enough to handle it.

Rookie wide receiver Christian Watson has been battling a hamstring injury, but his speed has been incredible to behold (when healthy). Once the rest of his game catches up to his speed, look out.

The defensive backfield has to get it together. They’re going to be playing more man coverage moving forward, it seems. So it’s likely their production is going to trend up in the coming weeks. They’re a strength of this team, even though they haven’t been great so far this season.

Again, there’s a lot of season left. If the Packers make some noise, this group will be at the forefront.

There’s a lot more to say about this team, but we can’t get into all of it!

Other Positives:

The Packers didn’t lose to the Bears!

OK, we might be scraping the bottom of the barrel here for positives, but just imagine what this season would look like had Green Bay lost to Chicago in Week 2?

We shudder to imagine it.

Um, that’s about it.

Did you notice how we didn’t say anything positive about the offensive or defensive schemes?

OK, maybe we could list a few positives about the schemes…

But first, heading into this season we put out two pieces where we got quite excited about this team.

The first one was about the defense. We were stoked to see all the pieces work together, and much of our excitement was centered around how the Packers have three cornerbacks talented, fast, and instinctual enough to play press man coverage.

Oops.

Joe Barry began the year with the secondary primarily playing zone coverage. Not great. But then, after much pushback from media and fans because the defense was flailing, Barry said the Packers will start playing more man coverage.

It was odd for it to take that long to adjust, but better late than never I guess.

The other piece we put out we talked about how excited we were to see the offense built around Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon. We predicted that they’d break franchise records for production. Welp, you have to get touches to break records, unfortunately.

Matt LaFleur has continually acknowledged that Aaron Jones needs to touch the ball more. That’s good. He keeps not touching the ball 20+ times, somehow. That’s bad.

It’s frustrating, but again, it seems that the entire coaching staff understands that more man coverage and a bigger commitment to the running game, or at the very least touches for this running back duo, is paramount.

We would have liked these things to have been made a priority from the beginning, as they seemed obvious, but at least we’ll see more of each from here on out. Hopefully, that is, which is a good segue to our next point.

The positives moving forward:

There are many, believe it or not.

Winning DNA and No. 12:

This team still has winning in its DNA. It’s hard to win 13 games three years in a row in this league. Much of the core from that stretch remains. They know how to win.

Aaron Rodgers doesn’t have a chance to win his third straight AP MVP Award, but he’s still Aaron Freakin’ Rodgers. He could begin a stretch of immaculate, inspiring play at any moment. That’s what makes him one of the best players in NFL history.

That’s what gives this 3-4 team hope, legitimate hope.

Rodgers, despite playing at a subpar level for what we’ve come to expect from him, is still tied for the lead in touchdowns thrown in the NFC.

Wide receivers have dropped balls, the offensive line has been in shambles for much of the season, the scheme has been questionable. Those are some of the reasons Rodgers has (comparatively to his career averages) struggled. Then again, when you want to be the highest paid player in football, you’re expected to overcome a lot.

But again, we’re sticking with the positives here.

Many of the impact players on this roster were the impact players on those 13-win teams. Davante Adams is gone. No need to dwell on that anymore. But there are many guys on this team that know what it takes to win.

As the season moves on, this should pay dividends. Winners often keep winning.

The NFC Sucks:

Thankfully the NFC as a whole is struggling. The AFC is the superior conference right now; there’s no other way to slice it. Perhaps this was the right year for the Packers to struggle in the first half a season.

There is still time to right the ship, even when it seems like a fool’s hope. And it might be.

Nine wins could potentially get an NFC team into the postseason this year. Can the Packers go 6-4 from here on out? Certainly. “Just get in and anything can happen” is the best, and truest, cliche in football.

The NFC East looks like a juggernaut at the moment. Will it continue? The eye test says that the Giants will fall back down to earth a bit. The Cowboys are on tenuous ground. The Eagles are the real deal.

The NFC West has only one team with four wins and they, the Seahawks, would have been picked to finish last in the division. That said, any one of those teams in that division could catch fire at any moment. But they haven’t yet!

The NFC South is a mess. Only one team will make the playoffs from that sorry ass division.

Honestly, the NFC North isn’t in much better shape. But that’s also a positive. The Bears are getting better, but they’re still young. The Lions are getting better, but their defense is listless. The Vikings are king right now. Not a fun thing to type, but it’s true — for now.

There’s always hope that Kirk Cousins remembers who he is. Justin Jefferson, one of the best receivers in football, has now gone five games without a touchdown catch. That’s a situation that could easily blow up.

What we’re getting at here is a wild card spot is definitely up for grabs in the NFC. It’s been a weird season so far. If the Packers can start generating some consistent play and put an end to the losing streak, then why not them?

There is a reason that Rodgers is tied for first place in touchdowns thrown in the conference. The NFC is simply not a hotbed for great quarterback play at the moment. Five AFC quarterbacks have thrown more touchdowns, no surprise there. That conference is the one stacked with young, elite quarterbacks at the moment.

And the conference is led by the quarterback the Packers will be tasked with stopping on Sunday Night, Josh Allen.

At least it’s not the other way around. It could be worse. The Packers could be 3-4 in the AFC buried behind a bevy of young, talented teams with burgeoning star quarterbacks.

It won’t be an easy hill to climb, but the Packers have a chance.

They’re in the right conference for the position they’re in. The Packers still have Aaron Rodgers. This team still has winning in its DNA. They have many players that have played well enough to be called “positives” by us, and many others.

Hope is free, so we’re grabbing as much as we can.

Whether the Packers shock the world this Sunday night and head into Week 9 with a 4-4 record or fall to an unfortunate 3-5 record…

Go Pack Go!

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We seek to bring more context to, and share interesting stores about, the history of the Green Bay Packers and the NFL as a whole. Clickbait be damned. "We" are Daniel and David Zillmer; hit the about or contact to learn more.

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