The Green Bay Packers have said goodbye to some players who made key contributions during the 2022 season. Starters like Allen Lazard, Robert Tonyan, Dean Lowry and Jarran Reed will all not be Packers in 2023 while Randall Cobb, Marcedes Lewis and Mason Crosby are all unlikely to return and the trade of Aaron Rodgers expected soon.

While the draft will bring in new talent, the Packers are looking for some returning players to take a step forward in their development and help the team improve on their disappointing 8-9 record of a year ago. These are generally young players who the team hopes are ready to assume bigger roles this season as they adjust to life in the NFL and get more comfortable with the pro game.

Veterans like David Bakhtiari and Darnell Savage are not included in this list although their return to form should also help the team improve.

Here is a look at five returning Packers players the team is hoping will take a step forward in 2023 and make a bigger contribution to the team’s success:

  1. DL Devonte Wyatt

The Packers selected Wyatt with their second pick in the first round a year ago. Wyatt had a learning year in 2022 and played only 23 percent of the Packers defensive snaps while not starting any games.

Wyatt did see more action late in the season and showed flashes of the ability that caused the Packers to draft him in the first place. He finished the season with 1.5 sacks and started to make plays both against the run and when pressuring the quarterback.

Wyatt is projected to become a starter this season. The Packers are thin along the defensive line so having Wyatt take a step up is vital for the Packers defense in 2023.

  1. OL Zach Tom

Tom had a solid rookie season filling in whenever injuries struck along the offensive line. Tom is versatile and can play all five positions on the offensive line. Last season, he played four of them during actual games. The only position Tom didn’t play was center which general manager Brian Gutekunst believes may be his best position.

With starting left tackle David Bakhtiari dealing with chronic knee issues and on the wrong side of 30, the development of Tom is critical. He is likely to compete to start at right tackle or right guard and will be the team’s top backup at many positions if he doesn’t start.

Tom is a large part of the teams future and his development is important for the offensive line.

  1. QB Jordan Love

This one should be obvious. Love is expected to take over as the starter for Rodgers once the trade finally takes place.

The former first-round pick out of Utah State has only started one NFL game but has been learning behind Rodgers for three years and the team feels confident he’s ready to start.

Love has already been working with Aaron Jones and some of his young receivers during the offseason and many teammates saw how sharp he looked in limited action in 2022.

Love will almost certainly have some growing pains but his development is essential for the Packers to be competitive in the near future.

  1. WR Romeo Doubs

Doubs had a great training camp and a strong preseason before injuries slowed him a bit midway through his rookie year.

The former Nevada star finished his first season with 42 catches for 425 yards and three touchdowns despite missing several games midseason with assorted injuries.

The Packers project Doubs to be one of their top three receivers in 2023 and will be counting on him to take a big step forward in his second NFL season.

  1. WR Christian Watson

Watson missed most of training camp and all the preseason due to injuries suffered at OTAs and had a frustrating start to the season due to drops and overall inconsistency.

In Week 10 against Dallas, Watson had a coming out party and finished the season strong. In 14 games as a rookie, Watson finished the season with 41 catches for 611 yards and seven touchdowns.

Watson has outstanding size and great speed. If he improves in his second NFL season, he can take over as the top receiver on the team and he has the potential to be an elite big play threat. The Packers are relying on Watson to take a big step forward in 2023.



Follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

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