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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Zach Kruse, Brandon Carwile, Brennen Rupp and

Biggest reason for worry for 2023 Packers entering training camp

All 90 players for the Green Bay Packers will report to training camp by Tuesday, and Matt LaFleur’s team is scheduled to be on the field for the first practice on Wednesday.

The Packers are getting a fresh start in the post-Aaron Rodgers era, but a team in transition has a lot of hurdles to clear as a new season approaches.

What’s the biggest worry for the Packers entering training camp in 2023? Our writers at Packers Wire made their picks:

Young pass catchers

(AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)

There is speed, versatility, and loads up upside, but these are very young wide receiver and tight end rooms, as well, which often means inconsistency. Tight ends rarely produce significantly in their first seasons because of how difficult the transition is from college to the NFL. Matt LaFleur even called it the second-most difficult jump after quarterback, in large part due to all of the responsibilities that come with the role. As promising as Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs are, they both have fewer than 550 career snaps and 45 receptions and are working with a new quarterback—there are likely still more ups and downs to come. Jayden Reed is a rookie, and from a playing time standpoint, Samori Toure is essentially a rookie. The highs and lows that Watson and Doubs experienced in 2022 are not all that uncommon for first year players as we look towards what the potential impact Reed and Toure could have. For Love in his first year at the helm, stability around him will be important for him to find early success, and it remains to be seen how much of that he will get from these skill position players. — Paul Bretl

Has to be the defense

(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Even when the Packers finished 5-3 over the final eight games last season, the Packers ranked 17th in defensive DVOA and were among the worst teams stopping the run. Overall, Joe Barry’s group gave up 27 or more points six times. This two-year stretch under Barry has been marked by unrealized potential and across-the-board disappointment, but he’ll get a third season as Matt LaFleur’s defensive coordinator to see if he can turn it around. Despite the talent and investment, especially through the draft, it’s difficult to find real confidence in the group overall entering 2023. Maybe this is the year all the first-round talent comes together and Barry sheds his now well-established history as a coordinator? Seems like wishful thinking. The Packers are young on offense and will need the defense to provide the team’s backbone. I’m skeptical. Jordan Love is the biggest question mark for the Packers, but the consistently underperforming defense has the most to prove. — Zach Kruse

Run defense

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

I don’t see how you can look at this team and not be concerned about the run defense. In terms of DVOA, the Packers ranked 31st in stopping the run a season ago and lost two starters along the defensive line and their best run-stopping safety in Adrian Amos. Where is the improvement going to come from? The team is optimistic Kenny Clark can rebound after arguably his worst season as a run defender. They didn’t sign a veteran to help Clark and offset the loss of Jarran Reed and Dean Lowry and instead are banking on internal strides from TJ Slaton and Devonte Wyatt. Behind a D-line full of question marks, you hope Quay Walker will make a second-year jump and De’Vondre Campbell will play better now that he is healthy. It’s a lot of wishful thinking. Making changes to the scheme would help, but Joe Barry prefers lighter boxes to prevent big plays through the air. As far as I’m concerned, from the top down, there are plenty of reasons to be worried about the run defense. — Brandon Carwile

Safety room

Detroit Lions wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown (14) makes a catch against Green Bay Packers safety Darnell Savage (26)

This is a team that’s coming off a disappointing 8-9 season and just traded away the face of the franchise. There could be a lot of reasons to worry about the Packers as they embark on the next era of football post-Aaron Rodgers. The biggest concern might be what ailed them the most last season and that’s the safety position. The Packers have an unproven wide receiver and tight end room, but you can see the potential building blocks in both those rooms. Who are the potential building blocks in the safety room? Darnell Savage was benched last season. Rudy Ford shows no fear in run support and finished last season with three interceptions. As it stands right now he’s the projected starter alongside Savage. Behind those two, Gutekunst went bargain bin shopping in free agency by signing Tarvarius Moore and Jonathan Owens. Moore could push Ford for playing time and if nothing else will provide an impact on special teams. Owens started all 17 games last season for the Houston Texans and racked up 125 tackles while missing tackles per PFF. Then there is Anthony Johnson Jr, a seventh-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. The former Iowa State Cyclone is a highly instinctive player that brings a lot of versatility to the secondary. If Savage and the other veterans struggle in camp, Johnson could vie for playing time early in his career. It’s a question of where are the potential difference makers? In four seasons Savage has shown flashes but has yet to put it all together. Is this the season things click for the former first-round pick? Can Ford build off what he did last season? Gutekunst has a strong track record of turning bargain deals into boomers. Maybe he found another gem in Owens or Moore. — Brennen Rupp

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