Detroit Lions, NFC North positional previews: Quarterbacks

Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

Green Bay Packers

Key returning players: Aaron Rodgers, DeShone Kizer

New additions: None

Key losses: None

Have we seen the best of Aaron Rodgers? The Green Bay Packers certainly hope not, and they are pinning much of their hopes for 2019 on the relationship between him and new, first -year head coach, Matt LaFleur.

Rodgers is just three years removed from winning the league’s Most Valuable Player award, his second, and plays behind an excellent offensive line. He still has one of the most powerful and accurate arms in the NFL, and has the lowest pass interception percentage among active players.

It hasn’t been been smooth in Wisconsin in recent years though; Rodgers is just .500 (24-24-1) in his last 49 starts, and the Packers have missed the playoffs in each of the last two seasons. In 2018, he threw his fewest touchdowns ever for a season in which he played in all 16 games.

Part of this dip is due to his supporting cast; Rodgers’ receiving corps has evolved (or devolved depending how one looks at it) significantly over the past several seasons. Long gone are veterans Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and James Jones, some of his longtime favorite targets.

In their place alongside Pro Bowler Davante Adams are younger receivers such as Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown and rookie tight end Jace Sternberger. Rodgers is notoriously hard on young pass catchers, and this young corps will need to get up to speed quickly for the Packers to have a shot against the tougher defenses on their schedule.

Rodgers turns 36 in December, and while many of this generation’s best quarterbacks have shown the ability to maintain elite status late into their 30s, nothing is guaranteed, and Rodgers has dealt with several injuries recently. A healthy Aaron Rodgers is the envy of many NFL teams, so keeping him upright and in sync with the entire offense will be a major priority for LaFleur.

Like most teams, the Packers would be in trouble if Rodgers misses any significant time. Backup Deshone Kizer enters his third season, and it’s been a rough ride for him so far. He has yet to register a win as an NFL quarterback –  he went 0-15 as a rookie with the Cleveland Browns in 2017 – and his career quarterback rating of 58.9 is alarming. Still, the Packers haven’t brought in any competition of note to challenge Kizer, but that could change closer to the season.