Head Coach Matt LaFleur addressed reporters at the NFC coaches availability from the 2022 NFL Annual Meetings at the Breakers Palm Beach on Tuesday morning.
Here are five things we learned:
1. Nobody was more excited about Aaron Rodgers‘ return than LaFleur.
LaFleur was in an offseason meeting with his coaching staff when he received a text message informing him of Rodgers’ intentions of returning for an 18th season with the Packers.
“I actually darted out right away to make sure I read it the correct way before I let anybody know,” said LaFleur with a laugh.
While LaFleur felt “pretty good” about the chances of Rodgers coming back, the head coach and offensive playcaller still wanted to give the four-time MVP quarterback the time and space he needed to make the best decision for his future.
In the end, Rodgers chose to write another chapter in a first-ballot Hall of Fame career. He officially signed an extension with the team on March 15, one day prior to the start of the new league year and unrestricted free agency.
Rodgers is coming off an MVP season in which he completed 366-of-531 passes for 4,115 yards with 37 touchdowns and four interceptions. He also led the league in passer rating (111.9) for the fourth time in his career.
The offense will face some big changes next year. Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett was hired as the new head coach of the Denver Broncos and five-time Pro Bowl receiver Davante Adams was traded to the Las Vegas Raiders.
Hackett played an integral role in the system LaFleur installed three years ago, while Adams established new single-season franchise records with 123 receptions for 1,553 yards in 2021.
“It’s a lot to replace in terms of production and the type of leader that he was for us,” said LaFleur of Adams. “But again, it’s just one of those moves you never want to make but unfortunately sometimes you have to.”
When asked whether the slew of changes make it necessary for Rodgers to participate in the voluntary offseason program, LaFleur said that wasn’t necessarily the case.
As much as LaFleur would love all his players to be there, he pointed out how Rodgers earned his fourth league MVP award after sitting out of last year’s spring session.
What’s more, LaFleur believes there would be “plenty of opportunity” between the start of training camp and the regular season for Rodgers and Co. to get in sync.
LaFleur remains confident Rodgers still has plenty left to give the game, especially with the way the 38-year-old quarterback has taken care of both his body and mind over the years.
“I think he’ll go as long as he wants to go,” LaFleur said. “We’re just going to take advantage of the time that he is with us and continue to try to work and grind to hopefully someday be able to get a Super Bowl (title).”
2. Green Bay admittedly has a need for speed after losing Marquez Valdes-Scantling.
Adams wasn’t the only starting receiver to depart Green Bay this month. Kansas City signed Valdes-Scantling away from Green Bay to help replace the speed it lost by trading its own All-Pro receiver, Tyreek Hill.
Valdes-Scantling emerged as one of the league’s most dangerous deep threats during his four seasons with the Packers, catching 123 passes for 2,153 yards and eight TDs. His 17.5 yards per catch ranks fourth in the NFL since 2018.
With only six receivers currently on the offseason roster, Green Bay likely will be in the market for receivers – and speed – in next month’s NFL Draft.
“If you look at our roster right now, we definitely need to get some speed in that room,” LaFleur said. “We need a legit guy that can take off the top of the coverage. We lost a guy that was pretty good at doing that. It’s like putting a puzzle together. You’ve got to find those pieces that you’re missing and put it all together.”
Once those pieces are acquired, LaFleur, receivers coach/pass game coordinator Jason Vrable and the rest of the offensive coaches will be tasked with bringing those young players up to speed in a short amount of time.
Developing a solid knowledge base is an essential element of the offense given Rodgers’ use of pre-snap signals and checks at the line of scrimmage to keep the defense off-balance.
It’s not an impossible mission, though. Both Adams and Valdes-Scantling made rookie contributions and LaFleur is confident it can be done again.
“We’re going to have to integrate these guys pretty quickly,” LaFleur said. “It’s going to be a lot of work for a guy like Jason Vrable and, really, everybody on our offense to get anybody up to speed, especially when you’re talking about playing with a guy like Aaron Rodgers, who, you better be on high alert at all times because he might give you the most subtle signal and you’ve got to see that.”
3. Rich Bisaccia is the real (energetic) deal.
The Packers’ new special-teams coordinator is scheduled to meet with the Green Bay reporters in the coming weeks and the beat corps is in for a real treat, according to LaFleur.
“Just wait. Buckle up, baby. Buckle up,” LaFleur said. “He is a fiery dude now.”
Known for his high energy and passion, Bisaccia is also regarded as one of the league’s most disciplined special-team coaches who demands the same out of his players.
That appealed to LaFleur during his search for a new leader of the Packers’ special-team unit. The hire received rave reviews from LaFleur’s close friend and former player, Will Compton, who called Bisaccia “the best leader he’s ever been around” from their time together with the Raiders.
“I can’t wait to see how he interacts with our players and that dimension that he’s going to bring, not only to special teams but I think really to our entire team,” said LaFleur of Bisaccia.
“He’s got high standards. He’s going to be demanding. But he cares about not only his players but also cares about people. I just think, from my interactions with him, he’s going to be a real asset for us.”
4. The Packers have big plans for ‘Big Bob.’
From what LaFleur has seen, all signs point towards tight end Robert Tonyan returning to form after a season-ending knee injury prematurely ended his 2021 season after eight games.
With Tonyan now five months into his rehab, LaFleur was happy to re-sign the fifth-year veteran and excited about the reintroducing him back into the offense next season.
Tonyan enjoyed a breakout season in 2020, catching 52 passes for 586 yards and 11 touchdown receptions. According to Pro Football Reference, Tonyan caught 88.1% of his targets that season.
The 6-foot-5, 240-pound tight end’s numbers took a dip last season, something LaFleur chalks up to Tonyan not having as many opportunities as he did in 2020. Once Tonyan is cleared, however, LaFleur believes the table is set for the 28-year-old tight end to make a significant impact.
“Physically, I think he’ll be ready to go,” LaFleur said. “I think there’s still a lot of room for growth in his game. Getting a guy that is the way he works, how intelligent he is, that’s great for us. Certainly, he’s got a rapport with Aaron, which is a big deal, as well. Excited to have him back on our team.”
5. The Packers have only scratched the surface with De’Vondre Campbell.
As someone who’s known Campbell since he was a rookie, LaFleur couldn’t have been happier to see the seventh-year linebacker rewarded with a long-term extension to stay in Green Bay.
The two previously worked together in Atlanta, where LaFleur served as the Falcons’ quarterbacks coach in 2015-16. Campbell later cited LaFleur’s presence in Green Bay as a driving force behind his decision to sign with the Packers.
Campbell was widely regarded as one of the NFL’s top free-agent signings last season, earning first-team All-Pro recognition after recording a career-high 145 tackles.
“For a guy like Dre, who I’ve known since he was rookie in the league in Atlanta, I thought it was awesome,” LaFleur said. “He’s super-consistent in everything he does and just a great team guy. He’s not the most outspoken guy – that’s one thing that we’ve talked about is how can we put him in positions to be more vocal – but I want him to always stay true to himself. I think there’s more room for him take more of a leadership role on our team because I think he is so well-respected.”