Green Bay Packers 2021 Season Recapby Christopher Gallagher January 26, 2022 0 comments
The Green Bay Packers were once again one of the top teams in the NFL during the 2021 season. They won 13 games for the third year in a row. This helped the group capture the number one seed in the NFC to give them home-field advantage for the postseason once again. Battling injuries throughout the season, the team was without top pass rusher Za’Darius Smith after he was placed on the injured reserve list following Week 1.
Furthermore, the group also lost star cornerback Jaire Alexander to a shoulder injury while also being without left tackle David Bakhtiari as he worked his way back from a torn ACL. Receiving significant contributions from players all over the roster, Rasul Douglas played a major role for Joe Barry’s group down the stretch. In October, he was signed to a one-year deal off the Arizona practice squad. The 26-year-old recorded a career-high five interceptions while making multiple game-changing plays.
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What Went Right
One of the top offenses, the Packers finished tenth in the league in points per game. They averaged over 26 points per contest. Along with this, the team also racked up more than 360 yards on average in each matchup. Led by the perennial MVP favorite quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the 38-year-old enjoyed another stellar campaign. Shaking off a slow start in Week 1, he threw for 4,115 yards while tossing 37 touchdown scores to just four interceptions. Continuing to cement his status as the game’s top wide receiver, Davante Adams also enjoyed one of the finest seasons at the position in franchise history. Surpassing Jordy Nelson‘s single-season receiving yards record, he hauled in a career-high 123 passes for 1,553 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Green Bay made significant strides on the defensive side of the ball under Barry in his first year. The former Los Angeles Rams assistant led the unit to a top 15 finish in points, rushing yards, and passing yards per game. Breaking out as one of the NFL’s top edge rushers in his third year in the league, Rashan Gary led the way for the group with 9.5 sacks in 16 games. Along with this, Preston Smith bounced back after a down year in 2020. Playing a bigger role in the absence of Za’Darius Smith, the 28-year-old racked up nine tackles for a loss and two forced fumbles.
What Went Wrong
A nightmare all season long, the special teams unit for the Packers was a sizeable weakness. Making multiple errors, the group surrendered a blocked field goal in the team’s loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the Divisional Round of the postseason. Furthermore, they also yielded a blocked punt, allowing Jimmy Garoppolo and company to climb back into the game. Ultimately finishing 32nd in the league in DVOA, they ranked dead last in opponent punt-return average with 12.8 yards surrendered per runback. Furthermore, they also converted field goals at just a 73.5 percent rate, the second-lowest in the NFL. Largely falling on the feet of Matt Lafleur, the head coach chose to promote coordinator Jerry Gray from within while also failing to recognize the importance of the third phase of the game.
Green Bay was lauded by many as the favorites to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. Instead, the team will spend the entire offseason wondering what if. They earned home-field advantage in the postseason for the second season in a row. However, the Packers fell 13-10 to the 49ers, falling to 0-4 against San Francisco in the playoffs under Rodgers. Becoming bogged down on offense after two successful opening drives, the team managed just 58 total yards in the second half. Green Bay struggled to find production outside of Adams and running back Aaron Jones. The rest of the skill position players combined to record just one catch for six yards in a disastrous showing.
Team Award Winners
MVP – Aaron Rodgers
The betting leader for his fourth MVP award, Rodgers put together another strong season in his 13th year as the starter for the team. As efficient as they come, he completed over 68 percent of his passes while once again leading the NFL in touchdown to interception ratio. Along with this, the one-time Super Bowl champion also posted the highest QBR at 68.9 while also racking up a passer rating of 111.9. Called out by the media after being hammered 38-3 by the New Orleans Saints in the season’s opening game, he responded by tossing 35 touchdowns to just two interceptions to help the injury-riddled Packers to their third consecutive NFC North title.
Offensive Rookie of the Year – Josh Myers
Myers was selected in the second round of the 2021 draft to replace the recently departed Corey Linsley. The Ohio State alum made five straight starts at the center spot to open up the year. He ultimately suffered a torn MCL and a tibial plate fracture in the Week 6 win over the Chicago Bears. This forced the 23-year-old to miss ten weeks after undergoing surgery. Battling back, he would make his return in Week 18 against the Detroit Lions while also starting against the 49ers in the playoffs to solidify the interior. Finishing the year with a grade of 58.3 according to Pro Football Focus, look for Myers to be a mainstay among an offensive line that is destined to be full of new faces next season.
Defensive Rookie of the Year – Eric Stokes
Selected 29th overall by the Packers last April, Stokes has already begun to make a name for himself as one of the elite young corners in the NFL. Recently named to the All-Rookie team after a solid first season, the University of Georgia native racked up 55 tackles, 14 pass breakups, and an interception in 14 starts for the team. Forced to play an increased role in Barry’s defense after Alexander went down with an injury, he played the second-most snaps of any rookie corner while seeing the second-most targets in the entire NFL. Holding up all year long, he allowed just a 49.48 percent completion rate when targeted in coverage, the seventh-lowest mark among qualified defensive backs.
Biggest Surprise – De’Vondre Campbell
Still looking for a home as OTAs opened at the beginning of June, Campbell inked a one-year prove-it deal in Green Bay. Quickly becoming the leader of the defense, the 28-year-old shined at the inside linebacker spot all year long. He made multiple defining plays in 2021, including a fourth-quarter interception of Jared Goff in Week 2 and an interception of Joe Burrow in overtime in Week 5. The Fort Myers, Florida native finished the year with a career-high 146 tackles, two interceptions, and six quarterback hits in 16 games. Selected as a first-team All-Pro at the season’s end, he received 18 of a possible 50 first-place votes. This made him the first Packer’s linebacker to earn the league-wide honor since Ray Nitschke in 1966.
Biggest Disappointment – Amari Rodgers
Rodgers was brought in through the draft to be an added weapon in the team’s passing attack. However, he struggled to make an impact all year long as a rookie. Stuck behind veteran wideout Randall Cobb on the depth chart, he finished his 2021 campaign with just four catches on five targets. A core special team player during his four-year tenure with the Clemson Tigers, the wideout looked uncomfortable on punt returns for the Packers throughout the season. This led him to make multiple errors while finishing 19th among qualified return men with just 177 yards. Next season, the 22-year-old will need to have a bounce-back campaign to avoid joining a growing list of third-round draft busts in Green Bay. Look for him to play a more prominent role on offense as one of the only three wideouts on the roster under contract through 2022 and beyond.
One Burning Question
Is it the End of an Era?
The Packers will face an offseason filled with question marks for the second year in a row. They came up short in the playoffs once again after securing the one seed for the second season in a row. The team currently projects to be $44 million over the cap. This is the second-highest mark in the league behind only the New Orleans Saints. The franchise also has multiple players set to hit unrestricted free agency and will be looking for pay raises. These include Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Allen Lazard, Douglas, Campbell, Robert Tonyan, and Corey Bojorquez. Furthermore, after negotiating his contract before the start of the season to include void years in his deal to control his future, Rodgers has remained non-committal to returning to Green Bay for his 18th season.
This means that Brian Gutekunst will face one major question all spring long. The fourth-year general manager faces two choices, with multiple suitors lined up to trade for their star quarterback. If he believes that the team’s roster can compete for a Super Bowl again in 2022, he can choose to push money down the road again to bring back the core pieces. However, Gutekunst can also choose to ship off his star signal-caller to clear up cap space while turning things over to Jordan Love for a new era in the franchise’s storied history.
Follow Chris Gallagher on Twitter @ChrisGally06
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