The Packers will now take their final break before training camp. One recurring theme in the press conferences that was also highlighted by coach McCarthy’s presser earlier today was the fact that the athleticism of this year’s team “jumps off the page”. Packer Nation has seen this in several players but as a group, this team could become the kind that can push defenses with the hurry-up offense early and on defense, can bring it at the end of games.
Now, admittedly, there is much more to a great football team than raw athleticism but the game is still made up of athletes of varying degrees and it is worth highlighting the ways in which this team has improved in that regard.
When coach McCarthy spoke to the media earlier today, he mentioned that the team had gotten in a lot of good work and was ahead of schedule. He also said that the athleticism of the team was high. This really isn’t a surprise to those who follow the team and have heard of the way (especially the younger) players have built their bodies over this off-season. A run-down is in order:
- Aaron Rodgers – 220 pounds, as light as he has ever been this time of year and says his arm feels great. Coaches echo that sentiment.
- Kyler Fackrell – Added five pounds of muscle
- Dean Lowery – added five pounds of muscle
- Jason Spriggs – added ten pounds of muscle
- Kentrell Bryce – added five pounds of muscle
- Ty Montgomery – a lean 220 pounds
Other players are trimming down or bulking up and the result is showing on the practice field. Add to that the rookies that the Packers brought in which can be characterized as fast and athletic as well. Kevin King and Josh Jones add speed and Montravius Adams’ quick feet have already caught the attention of the coaching staff. When it all comes down to it, football is a game for athletes played by athletes and the athleticism of the team should not be underestimated.
In the past, the Packers have leveraged the no huddle, hurry-up offense to lock opposing defenses into a personnel group that they could then exploit. The hurry-up does more than that though…it puts defenses in an oxygen deficiency. Aaron Rodgers – a lighter Aaron Rodgers who will be lighter on his feet, has the potential to be even more of a “gasser” to those defenses. The beauty of it is…most defensive linemen and linebackers won’t know the difference. They will however find it out when Rodgers dances around them and runs for a first down. And the overall effect on the defense goes beyond that. If the Packers can have success with the hurry-up, and get ahead in the score, then teams will be forced to abandon the run which means attempt to score via the passing game which in turn tends to (assuming they score) happen faster which puts the defense back on the field with that much less rest.
On the defensive side, forcing three-and-outs later in a game in which the opponent has to force the pass, compounds the problem for that team. Guys like Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark (who McCarthy described as “crushing it in the weight room”) will have more stamina down the stretch. We know Clay Matthews and Nick Perry are athletic but a guy like Fackrell, adding some weight and strength, can have an impact on the outside allowing Matthews to be placed anywhere behind the line. Josh Jones has been practicing some of the ILB position and he certainly brings athleticism into the mix. When all is said and done, the health of the team may be the biggest factor but keep in mind, the first priority of these athletes working out is injury prevention.
So the Packers are not just in a better place as far as their ability to play the game, the work they are putting in also will have an impact on their ability to avoid injury, and stay fresh in what is a long season.
In an athletic game, athleticism is gold. It sounds like the Packers individual players have taken the off-season seriously and if we can get through to training camp without any major setbacks, the stage is set for a great 2017 season.