The Joe “Interim” Philbin era in Green Bay started with somewhat of a disconcerting bang when after only 90 seconds of game time, Green Bay was out of challenges with essentially the entire game left to play.
Thankfully that didn’t matter too much as the Packers offense proved too much for the Falcons to handle, ultimately outscoring the Dirty Birds by 14, and more impressively holding them scoreless for the 2nd and 3rd quarters.
Now there are rumblings of making the playoffs, and thanks to the Vikings dismal showing on Monday Night Football, that’s a genuine possibility. Of course, any playoff berth begins and ends with the game against Chicago this Sunday. The question though, is it worth it? Is it worth risking the health of Aaron Rodgers and obvious stud running back Aaron Jones for the longest of shots at making the playoffs? Personally, I say no.
The Packers have a serviceable crop of young players, a crop that would be well served over these last 3 weeks with more playing time, while the veterans get 3 extra weeks to rest and recuperate; moreover, the reward is almost certainly a higher draft pick. A pick I believe should be used on the defensive side of the ball.
Anyone who knows me has in recent weeks heard me say drafting a wide receiver should be a top priority. However, after watching the performances of Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown I’m fairly convinced that with the additional game time the need to target a WR early in the first round is less of a priority.
With Clay Matthews turning 33 next year he’s still got some gas left in the tank, but to say this has been one of his slower years would be understating it a little. To give you some perspective, over 13 games Matthews has registered 39 combined tackles, and 3.5 sacks, and appears to be on pace to play every game of the season. The last time Matthews played all 16 was 2015 where he registered 66 combined tackles and 6.5 sacks.
I’m not saying Matthews is done, but the decline is starting to happen; as it does to anyone at that position, which is why the Packers would be prudent to draft the heir apparent now and let him learn from the tutelage of the So-Cal master.
Personally, I’m a big fan of Devin White out of LSU, listed at 240lbs and 6”1 with a mind-blowing 115 tackles for the season, 12 of which were for a loss. White is also the first LSU player to take home the Dick Butkus Award; which is awarded to the top college linebacker. Seemingly having all the tools to translate at the pro level, including glowing reports from Tigers coach and resident catfish impersonator Ed Orgeron about his leadership, White is gathering buzz as the draft approaches and I doubt that he’s available when the Packers come to pick in April.
More likely to be available is Josh Allen out of Kentucky, despite unfortunately sharing a name with the Buffalo Bills “quarterback”, this Josh Allen can play. On tape, he seems to have all the things you would look for in a linebacker, speed, awareness, not awful playing in space and has shown the ability to come off the edge and get after the ball. While not as productive as his LSU counterpart, Allen didn’t have a quiet year by any stretch of the imagination registering 84 combined tackles, including 14 sacks.
It’s possible that the front office trades up to secure Devin White, it’s more likely that they let things play out knowing that they also hold another 1st rounder courtesy of the Saints; which should totally be used on a wideout with Randal Cobb looking less likely to make a return to Green Bay than Olivia Munn. However, they opt to play it, it’s my opinion that general manager Brian Gutekunst and team president Mark Murphy should seriously consider getting a premier young talent at the linebacker spot.
That is of course after they sort out the head coaching vacancy. For which, I am available, you know, just in case the only other option is Hue Jackson.