Every NFL season there are players that exceed expectations or improve their game and players who have disappointing years. It could be due to injuries, coaching, a slump, the system the players are in or a combination of other factors.
The 2021 Green Bay Packers had their share of players who didn’t meet expectations. The Packers need these players to bounce back and return to form in 2022 if the team is going to remain competitive.
Here is a look at five players the Packers need to perform better in 2022 than they did in 2021:
- K Mason Crosby
Crosby was perfect in 2020, hitting on all 16 of his field goal attempts. In 2021, he missed nine field goals and two extra points during the regular season and had a key field goal blocked in the playoff loss to San Francisco.
The slump wasn’t all Crosby’s fault. He had issues with both of his long snappers and his holder throughout the season. The blocking was also an issue especially early in the season.
It is not certain that Crosby will be back with the Packers in 2022. He may retire and he may be asked to take a pay cut if he does decide to return. He would then have to beat out J.J. Molson in training camp. Molson spent last season on the practice squad and would be a cheaper alternative to Crosby.
If Crosby returns to the Packers, they will need him to regain his consistency and be the type of player that made him the franchise’s all-time leading scorer.
- TE Robert Tonyan
Like Crosby, Tonyan’s return is not assured. The former Indiana State star is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent this offseason but his season-ending knee injury may limit his market value. There is also a chance he won’t be healthy enough to start the season on time.
In 2020, Tonyan had a career season, catching 52 passes for 586 yards and 11 touchdowns. Tonyan’s 2021 season was limited to eight games before his injury but he had only 18 catches for 204 yards and two scores during the first half of the season.
Injuries to the offensive line forced the Packers to keep tight ends in to block more often and changed the pass patterns they were able to run in at least three games that Tonyan played in this season.
If he returns, the Packers need Tonyan to recover from his injury and provide the team with a tight end who can get downfield and force defenses to account for him on most plays. Tonyan provided that consistently in 2020 but less so in 2021.
- OL Elgton Jenkins
While there is no issue with Jenkins’ play during the 2021 season, injuries limited the former Mississippi State star to eight games last season. The Packers need Jenkins to be healthy and return to Pro Bowl form whether he plays offensive tackle where he played this season or returns to guard where he played in 2020.
Jenkins provides the Packers with a high level of offensive line play and versatility. His absence was clearly felt in the playoff loss to the 49ers where the Packers struggled to protect Aaron Rodgers.
Getting Jenkins healthy and playing well will be a major key to the offense’s success in 2022.
- S Darnell Savage
In the second half of the 2020 campaign, Darnell Savage was on top of his game. He was making plays in coverage and near the line of scrimmage and always seemed to be in the right place at the right time.
Savage intercepted four passes in the final six games of the season and broke up seven passes while making two tackles for loss. The Packers coaching staff was hoping this would be the start of a big step forward for Savage.
Unfortunately, the Maryland alum regressed in 2021. He was not as consistent in coverage and made fewer plays at or near the line of scrimmage.
In 2020, opposing quarterbacks completed just 56.4 percent of their passes when targeting receivers covered by Savage according to pro-football-reference.com. In 2021, that number increased to 64.9 percent. Their quarterback rating increased from just 67.3 in 2020 to 117.4 in 2021.
The Packers need Savage to return to his earlier form in 2022 and to play more consistent football.
- OT David Bakhtiari
The Packers All Pro left tackle missed nearly the entire 2021 season due to a serious knee injury he suffered late in the 2020 campaign. He was on the field for the first half of the regular-season finale in Detroit and played only 27 snaps. He was unable to play in the home playoff game against San Francisco.
When he’s healthy, Bakhtiari has been one of the best left tackles in the game. He is a good run blocker but an elite pass blocker and he has been protecting Aaron Rodgers’ blind side since 2013.
The Packers felt the absence of Bakhtiari throughout the season and had to adjust their game plan especially when both Bakhtiari and Jenkins were both out of the lineup. The offense particularly missed Bakhtiari in the playoffs and the 49ers were able to get pressure on Rodgers throughout the game.
A return to form by a healthy Bakhtiari would make a big difference for the Green Bay offense in 2022.
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