GREEN BAY — Aaron Rodgers had been back at work for, oh, about three hours last week, and already he was downright giddy.
The Green Bay Packers quarterback has been blessed with some pretty remarkable squadrons of skill-position players — 2011, anyone? — but as the team reconvened for the start of the offseason program last Tuesday, Rodgers set down his medicine ball during a workout inside the Don Hutson Center and allowed his mind to wander.
He looked one way, he saw his returning wide receivers —reigning comeback player of the year Jordy Nelson, returning-to-form Randall Cobb, rising star Davante Adams and emerging youngster Geronimo Allison. He looked the other, he saw the makings of his three-headed tight end monster — new additions Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks, along with holdover Richard Rodgers.
And he got excited about the possibilities.
“It’s going to be a fun offseason,” Rodgers said with a smile. “I’m excited about our team and about our guys and to see who we add here in the next month.”
As next week’s NFL draft approaches, the Packers have their share of holes on their roster. They need a new right guard. They are thin on cornerbacks and edge rushers. Even if they believe in converted wide receiver Ty Montgomery as a featured halfback, they need to add depth there.
But they’re steeped in talent at wide receiver and tight end, which already has coach Mike McCarthy’s creative offensive juices flowing.
“Oh, definitely,” McCarthy gushed at the annual NFL meetings last month. “We have three very good tight ends now. I mean, three veteran tight ends that all three of them have played a lot of football in the NFL and are obviously very productive. Regardless of the personnel group, I’ve always viewed offense as (either) a two-back offense or a one-back offense. Conceptually, we travel through those two situations, and we’ll do the same with these tight ends. But definitely giving us more flexibility.”
Last week, Rodgers spoke about how the Packers had relied on what he called “11” personnel in recent years — three wide receivers, one tight end, one running back. With Bennett and Kendricks in the mix, look for them to utilize more “12” personnel — two tight ends, two receivers, one back. Given McCarthy’s philosophical shift early last season back to utilizing multiple personnel groupings after a few years of a no-huddle, same-personnel approach, the possibilities are expansive.
That said, Rodgers acknowledged it will take time to get Bennett and Kendricks comfortable within the Packers’ offensive system — and the holdovers at receiver will need to get acclimated to the new wrinkles the offensive playbook will incorporate because of the new additions.
“I think we saw a shift last year as we shifted away from really (a lot of) ‘11’ personnel to really mixing things up, and Mike did a great job of that, of really evolving the offense and trying to get more people involved,” Rodgers said. “We’re going to be evolving in that manner (again).
“I think we’re going to have a lot more flexibility in that (two tight end) package — ‘12’ personnel is more of a run-pass balance personnel and it has been throughout the league and for us the past few years. The opportunity to put two guys on the line of scrimmage and have an opportunity to run right, run left and then run all of our vertical passing game is going to be something that could definitely change and be more difficult to stop.”
The depth at receiver and tight end won’t necessarily stop general manager Ted Thompson from adding another receiver or another tight end if there’s a too-good-to-pass-up talent staring him in the face, but it seems unlikely he’d invest too high a pick in a pass-catcher.
Then again, he took Cobb from Kentucky in the second round of the 2011 draft, he took Montgomery from Stanford in the third round of the 2015 draft and he took Trevor Davis from Cal in the fifth round last year — all picks made when the team was deep at receiver.
With Adams and Jeff Janis entering the final year of their respective contracts, the Packers’ faith in Allison could be a deciding factor in whether Thompson adds someone else.
“It will be fun to see how it all shakes out once (Bennett and Kendricks) know our system and what we’re trying to do,” Rodgers said. “We haven’t had a group like that in a long time with the versatility and the athleticism and ability to make plays.
“But also, the thing that’s probably going to be maybe the biggest jump for us is the football IQ. Just talking with Lance over the last couple years and Marty on some texts, and obviously Richard, it’s a highly intelligent group football IQ-wise.
“I’m looking forward to working with those guys and getting on the same page.”