In this Nov.
22, 2015, file photo, Green Bay Packers wide receiver James
Jones (89) makes a catch for a touchdown against the Minnesota
Vikings during the second half of an NFL football game, in
Minneapolis. After a 6-0 start, a once potent offense limped
through the final 10 games of the regular season with a 4-6
record. Still, by the end of the year, the injury-riddled
Packers (11-7) had forged a grind-it-out mentality that relied
just as much on defense as on quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ right
arm. The formula worked up until the very last minute of their
GREEN BAY — The player the Green Bay
Packers may have missed most this season darted in and out of the
locker room Monday as his teammates packed up their belongings.
Receiver Jordy Nelson figures to be
back in the fall after missing the 2015 season with a right knee
After a 6-0 start, the Packers limped
through the final 10 games of the regular season with a 4-6 record.
The offense struggled for long stretches, and Green Bay's four-year
reign atop the NFC North was snapped by Minnesota.
Still, by the end of this season, the
injury-riddled Packers (11-7) had forged a grind-it-out mentality that
relied just as much on defense as on quarterback Aaron Rodgers' right
"The goal is not always to come
out here and score 100 points every game and a million yards,"
receiver James Jones said Monday. "The only goal is to win the
game. And we did that pretty often this year. Came up short."
The 26-20 loss in overtime Saturday
night at Arizona in the NFC divisional playoffs left Green Bay stunned
after having stormed back with Rodgers' two long completions to backup
Jeff Janis to tie the game at the end of regulation.
In this Dec.
27, 2015, file photo, Green Bay Packers nose tackle B.J. Raji
(90) lines up against Arizona Cardinals center Lyle Sendlein
(63) during an NFL football game, in Glendale, Ariz. After a 6-0
start, a once potent offense limped through the final 10 games
of the regular season with a 4-6 record. Still, by the end of
the year, the injury-riddled Packers (11-7) had forged a
grind-it-out mentality that relied just as much on defense as on
quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ right arm. The formula worked up
until the very last minute of their last game
Janis finished with seven catches for
145 yards and two scores, including the 41-yard touchdown on a
desperation pass from Rodgers. It was remarkable production given
Janis had just two receptions in the regular season.
Then the defense gave up two big plays
to Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald, including the 5-yard touchdown
off a shovel pass that gave Arizona the win and ended Green Bay's
Up to that point, coordinator Dom
Capers' defense held the high-scoring Cardinals to 20 points, 10 below
their season average. The defense helped keep the Packers in games all
season long while the offense searched for consistency.
Tackle B.J. Raji said he thought the
team had a "great nucleus in place," which includes an
effective line; a young but promising secondary; and Clay Matthews
back to lead the linebacker group.
"But I think this place always
does a great job of bringing in talent, bringing in guys that can
play, guys that are smart and tough, and I don't think that'll
change," Raji said.
Other key takeaways from the 2015
season and things to watch in the offseason for the Packers:
Packers head coach Mike McCarthy leaves the podium after
speaking to the media after an NFL divisional playoff football
game against the Arizona Cardinals, Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016, in
Glendale, Ariz. The Cardinals won 26-20 in overtime.
RODGERS' TARGETS: By the second quarter
of the Cardinals game, the Packers were without their top four
projected receivers at the start of training camp because of injuries,
with Randall Cobb joining the already sidelined Davante Adams, Ty
Montgomery and Nelson.
Jones' veteran presence helped settle
the receiving group after he signed the week of the season opener. But
the offense really started having issues after a blowout loss in
Denver in Week 8, and defenses started playing more press coverage.
Rodgers didn't play up to his two-time NFL MVP standards, while the
running game moved in fits and starts.
Jones signed a one-year deal, so it's
unclear if he will return. Second-year players Jared Abbrederis and
Janis had confidence-building outings late in the season.
If Nelson comes back at 100 percent and
Janis takes another step forward in his development, the Packers would
have two receivers to open up the field. Adams and Montgomery would
give Rodgers two more options when healthy.
An offensive line maligned by injuries
showed it could protect Rodgers when intact, allowing just two sacks
in two postseason games.
WHERE'S CLAY?: Matthews made his first
Pro Bowl playing primarily inside linebacker. He finished with eight
sacks, including the postseason. But his strength remains rushing the
passer, and how the Packers view Matthews moving forward might affect
what moves they make in the offseason.
"We're obviously a lot better with
him playing the outside position," coach Mike McCarthy said
Monday night. "That's the goal, we'll see what the offseason
brings and how our personnel shakes out."
PRESSURE ON LACY: Running back Eddie
Lacy failed to go over 1,000 yards in his three-year career, and his
struggles played a key part in the Packers' offensive problems. In a
blunt exit interview with his top back, McCarthy said Lacy had a lot
of work to do after not having a "good enough" offseason
"I had a chance to talk to Eddie
today and that was pretty much the majority of our whole
conversation," McCarthy said. "So he has to get it done
because he cannot play at the weight that he played at this
Lacy was listed at 5-foot-11, 234
pounds this season, 4 pounds heavier than his listed weight in his
rookie year in 2013.
JUST JULIUS: Julius Peppers' future
might also impact what the Packers do with Matthews. Peppers turned 36
on Monday, though he told reporters after the Arizona game that he
wasn't sure whether he would return for a 15th season. Counting the
postseason, Peppers had 11 1/2 sacks. Peppers had his best season
since 2012 as part of a deep rotation at outside linebacker.
GOING FREE: Other potential key free
agents: OLBs Nick Perry and Mike Neal; CB Casey Hayward; RB James
Starks; backup QB Scott Tolzien; K Mason Crosby, and Raji. The
respected DT had a bounce-back year and said he would love to remain
part of the core, "but it's a part of the business, and something
you have to deal with it. You just have to see how it goes."