Three Moves Will Define the 2016 Packers

The 2016 Green Bay Packers are not a complicated team.

This year’s team has plenty of veterans in the right spots, plenty of talented rookies behind them, and plenty of experience on the coaching staff to get the most out of every part of the roster.

This is a Super Bowl or bust squad.

And with that said, it’s easy to identify the moves that will define this year’s team. Here are the three most important.

Josh Sitton says goodbye

I’ve said before that I’m not sure Josh Sitton’s release hurts the Packers much in the short term… but it could. If Lane Taylor is at least serviceable, the Packers’ offense should hum along just fine. But if he’s not, and the Packers have an injury just about anywhere else on the offensive line, this could get really bad in a hurry.

Imagine, if you will, a world in which T.J. Lang finds himself shelved for a significant period of time. What’s the lineup then? What happens if Bryan Bulaga is injured and Jason Spriggs can’t carry the load in his absence?

Or, further down the line, what happens with T.J. Lang next off-season? Would you feel comfortable negotiating in good faith with a team that just sent your best friend packing? Especially if that best friend happened to be just a few months older than you at the time of his release?

How the Packers navigate the first season and off-season in the post-Sitton era will be a defining storyline.

Clay Matthews heads back outside

Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel regularly describes Clay Matthews as a “good soldier” for sucking it up and playing inside linebacker for the past year and a half. It’s hard to disagree with that assessment. Matthews did not want to be an inside linebacker. He wasn’t comfortable there, it didn’t play to his strengths, and it’s a much more physically demanding job.

Now, Matthews is back outside where he belongs, but whether he’ll be able to stay there is anyone’s guess.

Moving Matthews permanently (we hope) to outside linebacker means the Packers must rely entirely on the services of Jake Ryan, Blake Martinez, and Joe Thomas. If that trio falters, Matthews may once again be pressed into duty inside. The relationship between outside and inside linebackers has never been more intertwined than this year.

Mike McCarthy picks up play calling

With much fanfare, Mike McCarthy turned over play calling duties to Tom Clements at the start of the season, only to reclaim them in Week 14. The Packers weren’t much better with Mike McCarthy calling the plays, though, averaging just 22.4 points per game over the final four weeks of the regular season and two playoff games.

McCarthy has declared he will never give up play calling duties again, but if the Packers falter this year, what is the solution? If the Packers can’t produce points with Mike McCarthy calling his own shots, it will get harder and harder to justify McCarthy’s continued role as coach. What other innovations could there be?

AnalysisJon Meerdink