The Green Bay Packers are excited to have Jordy Nelson back for the 2016 season, but they can’t be happy about potentially losing Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers to suspension. Indeed, both linebackers are linked to an Al Jazeera drug report, which the NFL is taking seriously.
The players have until Aug. 25 to answer the league’s questions on this matter, or they’ll be suspended.
Green Bay’s response? Move along. Nothing to see here.
“What they say publicly is once the story comes out, they’ll be proven innocent and there’s nothing to worry about,” Bill Michaels, host of The Bill Michaels Show, said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “That’s what they’ve said publicly. The fact that the NFLPA has said it’s up to each individual player at this point – because remember, Clay Matthews wanted to talk to the NFL, and it was the NFLPA that said, ‘No, no no. You’re not going to. Don’t cross the line.’ So right now, my assumption is going to be that Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers are eventually going to talk because they don’t want to be suspended. They don’t want that to happen. This is a team that believes they’re on their way to a championship this year and all the pieces are in the right place. So I get a sense that they’re going to talk, but what I would probably say may change their minds is if there’s a strong feeling inside that locker room that they shouldn’t. . . . But my assumption is that they’re going to talk and I think this is all going to blow over in the next week or so.”
Regardless of what happens with Matthews and Peppers, Green Bay’s offense must return to form in 2016. The Packers looked out of sync for much of 2015, but Nelson’s return should take pressure off of Randall Cobb, Davante Adams and Jared Cook.
“You have four legitimate weapons there for Aaron Rodgers now to throw to, so who is the defense going to double?” Michaels asked. “Who is the defense going to concentrate on? That’s going to open up other guys in the field. That’s what you’re hoping for realistically.”
Cobb, who had 91 catches for 1,287 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns in 2014, was expected to perform like a No. 1 receiver in Nelson’s absence, but that didn’t happen. Cobb finished with 79 catches for 829 yards and six TDs. Granted, he sprained the AC joint in his shoulder before the season, but he didn’t step up when his team needed to – not enough, anyway.
“To say that he was expected to be the No. 1 and wasn’t, that’s a very fair assessment,” Michaels said. “James Jones became your No. 1, and that’s a guy that was looking for a job at (that) point, so what does that tell you about your wide receiving corps? Davante Adams was supposed to step up, but he had a lot of drops and lost the trust of Aaron Rodgers. And just as he started to emerge, Ty Montgomery ended up coming up with a severe ankle injury that required surgery in the offseason and he wasn’t able to perform. You were looking for guys like Jeff Janis and Jared Abbrederis, who had concussion issues, to come off the bench and really be viable, and you didn’t have a tight end that was going to stretch the field. They really struggled.”
Plus, Eddie Lacy was fat.
“He clearly lost a step,” Michaels said. “He was way too heavy. All they had to do was double team Randall Cobb in the slot. Everything else fell into place for any opponent they faced.”
Ultimately, it’ll be up to Rodgers to find his footing and put his squabbles with Mike McCarthy’s play-calling and his teammates’ production behind him.
“Last year, there were times when he extended drives and extended plays because he’s just that darn good,” Michaels said, “and then there were problems when he kind of got in his own way. He didn’t trust the guys around him, and the guys got frustrated with him. I think this year what you’re counting on is just kind of hitting the reset button, getting everything right, getting in a feel again. Where it’s really going to come to pass is when things start to go wrong. (That’s) when you start to find out the character of players and the leadership of guys around you. When things go wrong, how do they handle that this year? If things go south on them like they did last year, well then you can say, ‘Okay, it’s not just an aberration, and it’s not just as easy as hitting the reset button.’ But if they fight through it and they stay and they continue to have a winning season, then I think last year is just kind of an aberration, it goes in the past and it’s no big deal.”