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One year later, Packers' offensive preparations in very different place

Coordinator Adam Stenavich: “We know how good we can be”

Offensive coordinator Adam Stenavich
Offensive coordinator Adam Stenavich

GREEN BAY – A year ago at this time, the Packers' offensive coaches had just met the three receivers and two tight ends Green Bay chose in the draft, most of whom would be expected to play major roles in an offense transitioning to a brand-new starting quarterback.

In other words, significant portions of the offensive playbook hadn't even been put together yet – or were roughly mapped out at best – because the coaching staff didn't even know all the pieces it would have at its disposal.

Fast forward to now and, well, let's just say the 2024 playbook is in a very different place. The coaches got to work on building this season's offense a couple of months ago, aware of what it would have and the experience all the new faces gained last season.

Sure, a free agent in Josh Jacobs is taking over the No. 1 running back role, and there is some uncertainty as to how some positional battles could sort themselves out on the offensive line.

But in terms of preparing for the upcoming season, versus last year?

"Oh, it's night and day," offensive coordinator Adam Stenavich said Monday. "Night and day because last year … you didn't really know what direction you could go yet because you didn't really know … how much can you put on these guys' plates and allow them to go out and execute?

"Now, everyone has a year under their belt, so to speak. It's been great to just know what these guys are good at."

That was an ongoing process throughout 2023, both with QB Jordan Love and the young perimeter weapons around him such as receivers Jayden Reed and Dontayvion Wicks, along with tight ends Luke Musgrave and Tucker Kraft, all rookies. Even receivers Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs were in just their second NFL seasons.

Injuries at various spots, including along the offensive line, exacerbated some of the growing pains, but the opportunities they provided for all the young talent – additional receivers like Malik Heath and Bo Melton got thrown into the mix, too – paid dividends down the line. After a 3-6 start and several frustrating offensive performances, the Packers became one of the league's most explosive teams down the stretch and into the playoffs.

Love came of age, individual and collective strengths emerged, and the offense grew catered toward everything being learned by players and coaches alike.

So what does that mean for 2024? For the players, their preparations during offseason workouts can be conducted at a higher, more detailed level before OTAs and training camp roll around. For the coaches, they can explore new ideas, potentially getting creative with concepts that weren't even on the radar last year.

"We can go out there right now and just run plays and it's not like we're installing everything for the first time," Stenavich said. "We can start experimenting faster and taking the next steps with the offense.

"You're always looking to take the next step. You have to keep evolving, so it's just a matter of what's our best next step, or next two things that we want to do … where you can see, all right, is this the direction we want to go?"

Stenavich was thrilled to see everyone in great shape when they returned for the start of the offseason program last month. He felt that showed a level of maturity and professionalism from the younger players who understand what's at stake, which they learned in part by playing so much as rookies and improving as much as they did.

Over the Packers' last eight regular-season games and two playoff contests last year, they were held under 21 points just twice, compared to seven times in the season's first nine games.

Third-down efficiency was 50% or better in 10 of the last 12 games compared to one of the first seven. Love posted triple-digit passer ratings just twice in September in October, then nine times from November through January.

The stark statistical contrasts are practically endless.

It's all produced plenty of enthusiasm and anticipation for the coming year with so much to build upon. Rightly so. The caveat is absolutely nothing can be taken for granted, and the mentality employed to get a young offense to this point can't be forgotten.

"We know how good we can be, but we need to understand that no one's going to hand anything to us in this league," Stenavich said. "Everything must be earned.

"Going out there every single day and working hard and working at your craft and just being the best player you can be, that's what's going to take us back to the playoffs and get us as far as we can go."

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