The Green Bay Packers start the 2023 NFL regular season on Sunday in Chicago against the Bears. This will be a season of change for the Packers who start the year with a younger and more athletic roster and, for the first time since 2008, a new starting quarterback. Here is a look at five keys to Green Bay Packers success in 2023. For purposes of this article, a successful season will be deemed either a winning record and/or a playoff berth.
Packers Key to Success Number 5: Keeping David Bakhtiari Healthy
Starting left tackle David Bakhtiari missed nearly all of 2021 with a knee injury. Last season, the complications from the same injury caused him to miss the first few games of the season and limited his ability to practice throughout 2022.
This season, the coaching staff has withheld Bakhtiari from practice to limit wear and tear on the knee.
When healthy, Bakhtiari remains one of the best pass blocking tackles in the league. Although the Packers have depth at tackle on the roster, none of these players can match Bakhtiari’s ability to protect the quarterback.
Giving the inexperienced Jordan Love time to throw will be critical for the Packers offense this season. Keeping Bakhtiari in the lineup will certainly help the team do that and it is an important factor for the team’s success this season.
Key to Success Number 4: The Play of Young Wide Receivers and Tight Ends
The Packers have a group of athletic players at wide receiver and tight end. While many of these players have a lot of potential, they lack experience.
None of the team’s wide receivers have more than one year of NFL experience. Christian Watson has elite size and deep speed while Romeo Doubs has developed good chemistry with Love. Rookie Jayden Reed picked up the offense quickly and should get plenty of opportunities as the slot receiver.
The talent is undeniably there but how quickly will these young players pick up the offense and make the adjustment to playing in the NFL? Will the offense improve in the second half as Love and his pass catchers gain experience and improve their rapport?
The passing game could struggle unless at least some of the young receivers and Love get on the same page and learn the offense. This will be a key to the offense playing well this season.
Packers Key to Success Number 3: The Play of the Safeties
Entering training camp, the Packers had a lot of uncertainty at the safety position. Former first round pick Darnell Savage established himself as one starter almost by default. The Maryland alum struggled last season and was benched for poor play midway through the season.
Rudy Ford won the other starting safety spot, but he’s never started more than six games in any NFL season in his career. Ford needs to prove he’s good enough to start.
Pass defense tends to be an issue of the weakest link. The safety play must be good enough to not be a significant problem or the overall pass defense could suffer.
Key to Success Number Two: An Improved Run Defense
The Packers run defense struggled badly last year and must improve for the team to be more successful. While Joe Barry emphasizes stopping the pass, the run defense cannot be so bad that it hurts the pass rush. If teams are in third and long, the defense can concentrate on getting pressure on the quarterback. If it’s third and short, offenses can run the ball or use quick passes and neutralize the pass rush. Stopping the run consistently sets up a lot more third and long situations.
The defense seems to be emphasizing disrupting running plays by getting penetration at the line of scrimmage and causing tackles for loss.
Packers Key to Success Number One: Jordan Love Is at Least Average
Love takes over as the starting quarterback after sitting behind Aaron Rodgers for the last three seasons. There will inevitably be growing pains for Love during the season just like Rodgers had in 2008 and Brett Favre had in 1992. But the Packers are optimistic that Love will show he has the potential to be the next long-term starting quarterback for this team by the end of this season.
Last year, Rodgers struggled and had a very average season. He tied for 15th in the NFL among qualified passers with a 91.1 rating. There are 32 teams in the league, so Rodgers was right in the middle of the pack.
If Love can be average this season and plays enough to show he can be the guy going forward, the Packers should be fighting for a playoff berth at the end of the season in the wide-open NFC.
Follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers
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