When the Green Bay Packers step on Clarke Hinkle Field for the first time on Monday for the start of organized team activities, the offense will look a lot different than the unit that lined up 12 months earlier.
Running backs Eddie Lacy and James Starks are gone. Ty Montgomery, who was a receiver a year ago, is now the No. 1 running back. He’ll be surrounded by a fleet of five rookies, including draft picks Jamaal Williams, Aaron Jones and Devante Mays.
While the offense might not have a proven thumper in the backfield, the offense might be more physical, anyway, with the transactions at tight end. Gone is Jared Cook, who emerged as a big-time receiving threat during Green Bay’s playoff push last season. He’s been replaced by Martellus Bennett, who is one of the top all-around tight ends in the game, and Lance Kendricks. What Green Bay’s run game might be losing in physicality with its runners, it might make up for with physicality from its new tight ends.
Coach Mike McCarthy, who’s always had an affinity for tight ends, now has three proven ones to choose from with Bennett, Kendricks and fourth-year pro Richard Rodgers. Bennett had 55 receptions last year, 90 in 2014 and five consecutive seasons of 53-plus. Kendricks had a career-high 50 receptions last year. Rodgers had 30 receptions last year but 58 in 2015. That depth and talent should open new options on an offense that has relied heavily on three-receiver, one-back, one-tight-end packages.
“Oh, I’m excited. No doubt about it,” McCarthy said this week on the “Wilde and Tausch” radio show on ESPN Wisconsin. “But it’s my responsibility. It’s important to make sure you create opportunities for all these guys.”
On paper, the Packers have an embarrassment of riches on offense. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, of course, is the one who makes it all go. They have arguably the best tight end group in the NFL and one of the top three-receiver packages with Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Davante Adams. Geronimo Allison emerged late last season as a quality fourth option at receiver, and Trevor Davis and draft picks DeAngelo Yancey and Malachi Dupre could add to the depth.
“How can you get Randall the ball a couple more times a game? Those are the things I think about at night – just making sure that our system has something for everybody, because you need everybody,” McCarthy said. “You need to make sure the right guys are touching the ball as much as possible.”
Tempering all of that are the obvious question marks. Can Montgomery or anyone provide a consistent running threat? Can Jahri Evans capably replace Pro Bowl right guard T.J. Lang? Is the depth strong enough to withstand injuries in the backfield or the line?
“A big part of it is, everything we do, we start up front with the line,” McCarthy said. “I think our depth is outstanding, I really like the personality of the room. Running the football, protecting the quarterback, that’s where it starts. We’ve got to make sure we have all our options in line to take advantage of them.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.