Sjoberg: Development is the key to success for Green Bay in 2020
Many organizations (and fans) hope that a big draft can help the team ‘win now’
rather than having to wait a few years. Most of the time, those hopes are crushed by
reality by the time midseason hits… the reality that most rookies are just not very good
in year one. Instead, let’s take a look at a couple of guys on the Packers roster that
could take that second or third year leap to solidify their role on the team.
Obvious Breakout Candidates
RASHAN GARY – EDGE – Year 2
Rashan Gary should be able to see the field more after the departure of Kyler
Fackrell. Gary only registered 244 snaps (14.3%) in 2019, but Defensive Coordinator
Mike Pettine really found something down the stretch when he started moving Za’Darius
Smith around, mainly to the middle of the defense, and putting Gary on the field to rush
DARNELL SAVAGE – SAFETY – Year 2
Darnell Savage started off the season looking like a bonafide starter in the
secondary. The fast, rangy safety showed the ability to play the free safety spot as well
as nickel-back… Then the ankle injury occurred. After that, Savage wasn’t really the
same player and lacked the explosiveness he showed prior to the injury. Expectations
are high heading into his second year.
Surprise Breakout Candidates
EQ ST. BROWN – WIDE RECEIVER – Year 3
EQ never was able to see the field last year due to an injury suffered in the
preseason game against the Raiders. Looking back to 2018, St. Brown was gaining
the trust of quarterback Aaron Rodgers and showed a lot of promise as a big slot
receiver. Is that a roll he can fulfill in Matt LaFleur’s offense? St. Brown would present a
mismatch in the slot as he stands at 6’3 and can run well for his size. Smaller, slot
corner types would struggle with his length and physicality. I can see St. Brown finishing
as high as number two on the Packers roster for receiving yards.
Jace Sternberger – Tight End – Year 2
The Packers need a big year out of Jace Sternberger. They’ve made it clear
they’re riding with him as the TE1 on the roster. After coming back from injury last
season, it seemed as though big number 87 was getting open quite often. Now it’s time
to develop that chemistry and trust with Aaron Rodgers and Sternberger could be
number 12’s best option at tight end since Jermichael Finley.
Oren Burks – Inside Linebacker – Year 3
Oren Burks is one of the more interesting players on the roster. He is an athletic
freak in the middle of the defense, but he really hasn’t been in the middle of the defense
a whole heck of a lot the past two seasons. By all indications, Burks is a film and study
junkie. If that can translate into him reading opposing offenses quicker and staying
injury free, it could be a big year for Oren. If not, his time in Green Bay could be coming
to a close as he will be in a major training camp battle for snaps behind Christian
Kirksey with Oren Burks, Curtis Bolton and rookie Kamal Martin.
From Good to Great
Jaire Alexander – Cornerback – Year 3
This last one is pretty obviously a good player already, but 2020 is the year Jaire
Alexander cements himself among the league’s best shutdown corners. Trusted by
the Packers to mirror the opposing team’s best receiver, Alexander has posted top 10
numbers at his position for contested target percentage as well as forced incompletion
percentage, according to Pro Football Focus. These two numbers don’t always translate
to turnovers or explosive plays, but they show that Alexander is always blanketing the
opposing receiver. If Alexander can limit the over-aggressiveness that burned him a
couple times in 2019, it could be an All-Pro type of season for the Louisville product.
If three or four of these guys make the jump, all the clamoring for immediate rookie impact players will start to quiet down.