You probably know the drill. One of the joys of being in SB Nation is being able to reach out to fans or other teams, and on the eve of Chicago’s showdown with Green Bay (their first divisional contest of the season), we had a chance to touch base with Jason B. Hirschhorn of Acme Packing Company to ask five questions.
1). Martellus Bennett was once a Bear, and he could be a real difference maker when he wanted to be. However, while in Chicago he had a notable tendency to lose focus and to take plays off, something other fanbases had warned us about. After picking up a Super Bowl ring in New England, how is he settling in up in Green Bay?
In terms of the locker room, Martellus Bennett seems to have fit in well. Many Packers have sung his praises as a teammate and a friend, including Aaron Rodgers. Bennett has also grown a following among the fans, who seem to appreciate his honesty and wit.
However, at least thus far, Bennett has not made a positive impact on the field. He unofficially leads the team in drops and has committed three penalties in as many games. The quality of his blocking has also fluctuated more than expected. The Packers will continue to work him into the game plan as a dominant pass-catching tight end opens up the entire offense, but it could take some time before Bennett delivers the type of performances the team anticipated.
2). I have to admit (as much as it pains me to do so) that I called Green Bay's safety group the strongest in the NFC North when I did my off-season roster comparison series. Part of that was on the strength of rookie Josh Jones, who I felt had the potential to turn into a real play-maker. Was I wrong, or is that kid turning out to be as special as he seemed coming out of college?
No one on the Packers defense had a better performance this past week than Josh Jones, who made multiple drive-killing plays on his way to leading the team in tackles (12) and sacks (two). Jones' athleticism -- 4.41 40-yard dash, 86th percentile by SPARQ -- stands out in the middle of the defense whether in coverage or blitzing the quarterback.
That said, it's far too early to declare Jones a special player. He made plenty of mistakes during his exposure during the preseason and could just as easily commit a bevy of errors Thursday against the Bears. As for most rookies, Jones will require considerable time before stabilizing and revealing his true value as a player.
3). From the outside looking in, it really seems like Packers' management is letting some of the most productive years of a once-in-a-generation talent (Rodgers) go to waste because of an obsession with avoiding free agents. Still, there are exceptions to this like bringing in Marty B. How do fans feel about the roster put around #12, excluding for the moment the home-grown talent?
This narrative crops up every now and then. While the Packers' front office has made mistakes, it also has put Aaron Rodgers and the team in position to compete for a Super Bowl nearly every season.
The Packers prioritize keeping their best assets from leaving, generally doing so before the players reach unrestricted free agency. Field-tilters like Mike Daniels, Jordy Nelson, and David Bakhtiari signed extensions well before they reached the open market. Furthermore, as mentioned in the prompt, the Packers do make occasional splashes in free agency as well, signing starters Bennett and Jahri Evans this offseason and impact players like Julius Peppers and Charles Woodson in the past.
And it's hard to argue with the Packers' on-field results. Over the previous 10 seasons, they've reached the playoffs nine times (including an active eight-year streak tied for best in the NFL), reached four conference championships, and won a Super Bowl. Other than the New England Patriots, no franchise has done better over that stretch. Rodgers continues to have opportunities to win another title, including this season.
4). Speaking of home-grown talent, is there a lower-round draft pick for UDFA who might do something special this year? Is there anyone standing out as a real steal or true find so far?
While he didn't come out of this year's rookie class, undrafted wide receiver Geronimo Allison appears on the verge of a breakout season. Last week with Randall Cobb sidelined and Jordy Nelson playing through a quad injury, Allison led the Packers with six catches for 122 yards. Those numbers don't paint the full picture, as Allison made two difficult third-down receptions to sustain drives as well as the game-breaking 72-yard catch and run to set up the game winner. Even if the Packers have their full arsenal of pass-catchers available, he should get plenty of opportunities from Rodgers.
5). Thursday night football has not always been kind to the Packers when they face the Bears, but this Thursday gives them the chance to claim the all-time lead in the rivalry. Does it happen, and what would it take for the Bears to stave off a loss?
As it stands, it seems the Packers will play without at least one of their starting tackles and neither of their primary backups. And while both teams come off of three days rest, Green Bay just played the hottest game in the history of Lambeau Field. Meanwhile, the Bears look legitimately improved on defense and the tandem of Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen provide the type of firepower the Packers have struggled to contain in recent years.
While I believe the Packers win on Thursday, I expect a relatively low-scoring affair with the Bears getting a few chances to pull the upset.
That’s it. Thanks to Jason for giving us some insight on the 2017 Packers.