With just one month remaining until the kickoff of the 2022 season, the Green Bay Packers are looking to avenge their playoff disappointment from a year ago. Qualifying for the playoffs for the third straight season, the team earned the number one seed in the conference for the second consecutive year. This gave them home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. However, the franchise would end up adding another game to their list of playoff heartbreaks after the San Francisco 49ers entered Lambeau Field and came from behind to beat them 13-10.
Once again, one of the odds on favorites to win the Super Bowl, Green Bay will feature new faces on both sides of the football after wholesale changes in the offseason. Without star receiver Davante Adams after he was traded to the Las Vegas Raiders, here are five players who will define the 2022 season for the Packers.
5. Rashan Gary
Gary has been tabbed as a potential breakout star heading into his fourth year in the league. He was finally given a chance to start last season after the Packers lost Za'Darius Smith to a back injury in week 1. Looking like a bonified number one pass rusher, the former 12th overall pick finished second in the NFL with 81 pressures while also racking up 9.5 sacks, 28 QB hits, and two forced fumbles across 16 games. He also got to Jimmy Garoppolo twice in the team's playoff loss to the 49ers.
Offering up a rare combination of size, speed, and athleticism, the two-time first-team all-Big Ten member was reportedly been a nightmare for Green Bay's offense to deal with in training camp. Joined alongside Kenny Clark, Jarran Reed, Devonte Wyatt, and Preston Smith in a revamped defensive line room, the sky is the limit for the 24-year-old this season.
4. Allen Lazard
Faced with the most significant opportunity of his young career, Lazard is set to take over the go-to guy in Adam Stenavich's offense following the departure of Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Putting together the finest season of his NFL tenure a year ago, the Iowa State product set career-highs in receptions (40), yards (513) and touchdowns (8). Possessing all the tools to be a number one receiver at the NFL level, he can win vertically down the sidelines.
He is also a potent option in the red zone with his ability to go up and high point the football. Receiving praise from Aaron Rodgers early on in the offseason, if Lazard can emerge as a premier player on the outside and help mask the loss of Adams, it should help set the Packers up for a fourth straight playoff trip under Lafleur.
3. Eric Stokes
Selected by the Packers with the 29th overall pick in last year's draft, Stokes shined during his rookie season. Forced to occupy the number one role after a shoulder injury to Jaire Alexander in week 4, the University of Georgia alumn allowed just 115 yards during the final six games of the season. He ultimately recorded 55 tackles, 14 pass breakups, and one interception across 14 games while finishing fifth in the NFL in completion rate (51.8) and 19th in passer rating (78.8).
The 23-year-old is set to occupy the number two role, with Alexander back healthy and likely to lock down one side of the field. Paired with the ascension of Rasul Douglas, if Stokes can continue to emerge, Green Bay could have the best trio of cornerbacks in the NFL.
2. Aaron Jones
Once again playing a prominent role for the team in 2021, Jones eclipsed 1,000 scrimmage yards for a third straight season. Continuing to make an impact in the passing game, the one-time pro bowler hauled in a career-high 52 receptions for 391 yards and six touchdowns. However, the 27-year-old saw his rushing yard total fall from the 1,104 he posted in 2020 to just 899. Predominantly due to the development of second-year running back AJ Dillon, the two rushers saw nearly identical touches in Green Bay's running back by committee approach.
Currently undergoing a shift on the offensive side of the ball, look for Matt Lafleur and company to establish a more run-heavy system with a new cast of pass catchers around Rodgers. Still, one of the most dynamic players in the game, if the Packer's offense is going to have success, they will need the six-year veteran to help lead the way.
1. Aaron Rodgers
Fresh off a second straight MVP season in 2021, Rodgers was once again spectacular for the Packers. He led them to 13 wins for the third consecutive season. The 38-year-old quarterback completed 68.9 percent of his passes for 4,115 yards while tossing 37 touchdown passes to just seven interceptions.
Faced with a unique challenge heading into his 18th season in the league in 2022, the 10-time pro bower will be without Adams for the first time in eight seasons. Tasked with trying to lead the franchise back to the Super Bowl for the first time in over a decade, he will be forced to rely on veterans Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb, and Sammy Watkins to go along with rookies Romeo Doubs and Christian Watson. One of the best players in the game and the undisputed leader of the group, this team will go as far as number 12 takes them.