Matt LaFleur

Packers’ Eric Stokes Addresses Injury Trouble; Zach Tom, Tucker Kraft Rehabbing Pec Tears

Injuries have largely defined Eric Stokes‘ NFL career thus far. The Packers have seen their 2021 first-round pick miss 21 games over the past two seasons; the Lisfranc injury the cornerback sustained in 2022 is at the root of the availability issues.

Once Stokes recovered from his foot issue, hamstring trouble hindered him for most of last season. Stokes began the season late thanks to multiple hamstring setbacks during the summer. The Packers ended up placing the three-year veteran on IR twice — both times due to hamstring trouble. The team predictably declined the former No. 29 overall pick’s fifth-year option earlier this month.

Now in a contract year, the oft-injured starter will aim to shake the lingering injury trouble and attempt to boost his value ahead of free agency — or a potential Packers extension. Stokes, who underwent knee and foot surgeries following his midseason 2022 setback, views the 2022 foot setback as the catalyst for his ensuing health issues.

It was dealing with everything from the foot injury that I had,” Stokes said, via the Green Bay Press-Gazette’s Ryan Wood. “It was bouncing back from that. It’s crazy how everything is connected in your body to where if one area is weak, the other parts of your body will try to take control, or put more workload on it. So that’s what pretty much was going on. My hamstring was taking on so much workload that it pretty much kept messing up.”

Stokes, who blazed to a 4.25-second 40-yard dash clocking as a prospect in 2021, displaying starter-level form would certainly boost the Packers’ cause. Matt LaFleur said Stokes looks in his best form as a Packer. The team traded Rasul Douglas to the Bills at last year’s deadline and turned to former seventh-rounder Carrington Valentine opposite Jaire Alexander. Of course, Alexander also missed much of last season due to injury. Former Giants sixth-rounder Corey Ballentine ended up starting six games. Both former Day 3 picks are still on Green Bay’s roster.

The Packers re-signed slot corner Keisean Nixon in March but did not make a notable addition on the outside (beyond seventh-rounder Kalen King), keeping the door ajar for Stokes, who started 23 games over his first two seasons. Stokes’ health figures to be a key variable for the Packers, who have Alexander signed to the current top cornerback deal (four years, $84MM).

Elsewhere on the injury front in Green Bay, right tackle Zach Tom and tight end Tucker Kraft are rehabbing pectoral tears. Neither regular is participating in the team’s OTA sessions, but training camp returns are in play.

Tom has a better chance of being available, having suffered his tear in April. Kraft, however, sustained his pec injury less than three weeks ago. That would put the second-year pass catcher as a clear candidate to start camp on the active/PUP list. Adding to an interesting spring of chest injuries, LaFleur — per’s Bill Huber — is also rehabbing a pec tear sustained while lifting weights.

It might still be optimistic for either player to be ready in time for camp. Tom said his surgery calls for an eight- to 12-week recovery timetable. Undergoing the operation in late April, the third-year tackle said he hopes to return by “at least” mid-August. Tom showed promise last season, starting 19 games at right tackle and grading as Pro Football Focus’ No. 15 overall tackle.

The Packers moved Stokes from the active/PUP list to the reserve/PUP, which sidelines players for at least four games, last year. Tom has a clear path to keeping his RT job, even with the team’s additions of Andre Dillard and first-rounder Jordan Morgan. Kraft operated as a complementary option to Luke Musgrave during the duo’s rookie season.

The NFL’s Longest-Tenured Head Coaches

After the 2022 offseason produced 10 new head coaches, this one brought a step back in terms of turnover. Five teams changed HCs, though each conducted thorough searches — four of them lasting until at least January 31.

The Colts and Cardinals hired their HCs after Super Bowl LVII, plucking the Eagles’ offensive and defensive coordinators (Shane Steichen, Jonathan Gannon). The Cardinals were hit with a tampering penalty regarding their Gannon search. Conducting their second HC search in two years, the Broncos saw multiple candidates drop out of the running. But Denver’s new ownership group convinced Sean Payton to step out of the FOX studio and back onto the sidelines after just one season away. The Panthers made this year’s first hire (Frank Reich), while the Texans — running their third HC search in three years — finalized an agreement with DeMeco Ryans minutes after the Payton news broke.

Only one of last year’s top 10 longest-tenured HCs lost his job. A turbulent Colts year led to Reich being fired barely a year after he signed an extension. During a rather eventful stretch, Jim Irsay said he reluctantly extended Reich in 2021. The Colts passed on giving interim HC Jeff Saturday the full-time position, despite Irsay previously indicating he hoped the former center would transition to that role. Reich landed on his feet, and after losing Andrew Luck to a shocking retirement just before his second Colts season, the well-regarded play-caller now has another No. 1 pick (Bryce Young) to mentor.

After considering a Rams exit, Sean McVay recommitted to the team and is overseeing a reshaped roster. Andy Reid also sidestepped retirement rumors, staying on with the Chiefs after his second Super Bowl win. This will be Reid’s 25th season as an NFL head coach.

Here is how the 32 HC jobs look for the 2023 season:

  1. Bill Belichick (New England Patriots): January 27, 2000
  2. Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh Steelers): January 27, 2007; extended through 2024
  3. John Harbaugh (Baltimore Ravens): January 19, 2008; extended through 2025
  4. Pete Carroll (Seattle Seahawks): January 9, 2010; extended through 2025
  5. Andy Reid (Kansas City Chiefs): January 4, 2013; extended through 2025
  6. Sean McDermott (Buffalo Bills): January 11, 2017; extended through 2027
  7. Sean McVay (Los Angeles Rams): January 12, 2017; extended through 2023
  8. Kyle Shanahan (San Francisco 49ers): February 6, 2017; extended through 2025
  9. Mike Vrabel (Tennessee Titans): January 20, 2018; signed extension in February 2022
  10. Matt LaFleur (Green Bay Packers): January 8, 2019: signed extension in July 2022
  11. Zac Taylor (Cincinnati Bengals): February 4, 2019; extended through 2026
  12. Ron Rivera (Washington Commanders): January 1, 2020
  13. Mike McCarthy (Dallas Cowboys): January 7, 2020
  14. Kevin Stefanski (Cleveland Browns): January 13, 2020
  15. Robert Saleh (New York Jets): January 15, 2021
  16. Arthur Smith (Atlanta Falcons): January 15, 2021
  17. Brandon Staley (Los Angeles Chargers): January 17, 2021
  18. Dan Campbell (Detroit Lions): January 20, 2021
  19. Nick Sirianni (Philadelphia Eagles): January 21, 2021
  20. Matt Eberflus (Chicago Bears): January 27, 2022
  21. Brian Daboll (New York Giants): January 28, 2022
  22. Josh McDaniels (Las Vegas Raiders): January 30, 2022
  23. Kevin O’Connell (Minnesota Vikings): February 2, 2022
  24. Doug Pederson (Jacksonville Jaguars): February 3, 2022
  25. Mike McDaniel (Miami Dolphins): February 6, 2022
  26. Dennis Allen (New Orleans Saints): February 7, 2022
  27. Todd Bowles (Tampa Bay Buccaneers): March 30, 2022
  28. Frank Reich (Carolina Panthers): January 26, 2023
  29. Sean Payton (Denver Broncos): January 31, 2023
  30. DeMeco Ryans (Houston Texans): January 31, 2023
  31. Shane Steichen (Indianapolis Colts): February 14, 2023
  32. Jonathan Gannon (Arizona Cardinals): February 14, 2023

Packers Content With WR Room?

As they prepared to transition to Jordan Love at quarterback, the Packers were often named as a team interested in adding one or more veteran receivers this year. With another draft filled with pass-catching additions having come and gone, however, that no longer appears to be the case.

With Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb both having signed with the Jets to continue their time with Aaron Rodgers, the Packers have once again seen signficant experience depart their receiving corps. Last offseason, Davante Adams was traded to the Raiders and Marquez Valdes-Scantling joined the Chiefs, leading Green Bay to select three WRs in the draft (Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs and Samori Toure).

Head coach Matt LaFleur confirmed that more additions would be made in 2023, with preference seemingly being given to veterans – an understandable approach, given the question marks surrounding Love’s readiness for an NFL starting gig. No signings were made during the initial waves of free agency, though, and the Packers again leaned heavily on the draft to add depth at the position. The team ended up selecting another three receivers (headlined by second-rounder Jayden Reed), along with a pair of tight ends. As a result, they may be willing to press pause on their search for veterans.

“I think time will tell,” LaFleur said, via Ryan Wood of the Green Bay Press-Gazette“but it’s certainly a very talented room. It’s going to be a hell of a competition in terms of who’s getting the snaps, because just at first glimpse at some of these young guys who were in here, there are some talented guys… if need be, I know [GM Brian Gutekunst] is going to do whatever we can to help us field the best possible team. If need be, I think we would turn [towards a veteran signing], but right now I think we’re just going to let those guys compete.”

Plenty of attention will be on Love and the new offense, given his extension which secures his future for the next two years. The passer whom the Packers are tapping as Rodgers’ successor will have a number of options available to him in the pass-catching corps for his first season as the starter, and it appears at least each of the key ones for 2023 in that regard are already on the roster despite the question marks surrounding their readiness.

Packers HC Matt LaFleur On DC Joe Barry, Secondary Plans

When Packers head coach Matt LaFleur endorsed defensive coordinator Joe Barry in January, it was clear that he would allow Barry to lead Green Bay’s defense for a third season in 2023, despite the opportunity to pursue candidates like Vic Fangio, Ejiro Evero, and Steve Wilks.

In his first public comments since making that decision, LaFleur explained that in addition to continuity and staff chemistry — which he had previously cited as reasons for retaining Barry — the defense’s improved performance down the stretch of the 2022 season also played a key role.

“Our defense was getting better, it was progressing,” LaFleur said at last month’s owners meetings (via Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette). “I thought Joe was doing a good job of communicating with our players. I thought our staff was doing a great job together, putting our guys in a better situation, having just more clarity on what it is we wanted to be and our play style, and I thought it got better. I felt like that was in the best interest of us to bring all those (coaches) back.”

The Packers finished the 2022 campaign ranked 17th in both points (21.8) and yards (337) allowed per game, and for a defense that was expected to be among the league’s best, that qualified as a major disappointment. During Green Bay’s five-game losing streak in October and early November, it was reported that players were becoming frustrated with Barry’s scheme and play-calling, and LaFleur acknowledged that adjustments were not made as quickly as they should have been.

Still, after Barry simplified his play-calling, and after other tactical changes — like playing more press coverage and benching underperforming safety Darnell Savage — were made, the defense got better, and the Packers nearly snuck into the postseason. With Jordan Love set to become the club’s starting quarterback, it will be imperative for Barry & Co. to carry their momentum into 2023, and if that does not happen, then Barry could be out of a job and LaFleur will be subjected to plenty of second-guessing.

Another productive adjustment that was made in the second half of the 2022 season was moving Rasul Douglas from nickel corner to the boundaries (although that move was only made due to Eric Stokes‘ season-ending knee and ankle injuries). Per LaFleur, the team will utilize a rotation of Jaire Alexander, Stokes, and Douglas outside the numbers, and Keisean Nixon will get a chance to claim the slot corner position. Nixon has never been a full-time defensive player — his 28% defensive snap share last year was a career-high — but the coaching staff is clearly high on his ability and prefers to have one player predominantly occupying the nickel role.

Nixon did earn a First Team All-Pro nod for his work as a return man in 2022, and he was retained for the 2023 season on a one-year pact that can max out at $6MM. LaFleur said that the team will create an offensive package for Nixon in an effort to get the ball in his hands more often (Twitter link via ESPN’s Rob Demovsky).

The team’s plan for Nixon means that Savage is not, as had been suggested previously, presently under consideration to man the slot. Instead, Savage will get the chance to reclaim his job as a starting safety and to work alongside free agent acquisition Tarvarius Moore on the back end of the defense. Savage is entering a platform year, so his 2023 performance will have a major impact on his financial future.

Packers HC Matt LaFleur Addresses Desire For WR Additions

The most notable departure for the Packers this offseason is, of course, the Aaron Rodgers trade which is expected to take place at some point in the coming weeks. The team has also lost a key receiver for the second straight year, however, leaving a vacancy for a veteran addition or two.

[RELATED: Packers Eyeing Veteran QB]

Allen Lazard signed with the Jets last month, allowing him to (presumably) continue playing with Rodgers while also cashing in on his career-best production in 2022. Lazard’s ascension to the role of No. 1 wideout came after the trade sending Davante Adams to the Raiders and the free agent loss of Marquez Valdes-Scantling the previous offseason; fellow veteran Randall Cobb is a free agent with little to no prospect of remaining in Green Bay if Rodgers departs.

That leaves the Packers with only five receivers currently under contract, including the three members of the team’s draft class at the position (Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs and Samori Toure). To no surprise, head coach Matt LaFleur recently spoke about the need for Green Bay to make a few moves at the position, including the signing of an experienced pass-catcher.

“I think some veteran leadership would be nice,” LaFleur said, via ESPN’s Rob Demovsky“Although I think guys like Allen and Randall did such a great job last year kind of taking those guys under their wing and showing them the ropes and the expectations and the practice habits that you need to have to go out there and play at a high level. But there’s going to be a lot of growth with those two guys, certainly Romeo and Christian.”

Watson and Doubs each showed flashes of the potential which garnered them interest in the draft last year, but the pair were rarely available at the same time. Watson ranked second on the team behind only Lazard with 611 yards, while Doubs’ production (425 yards) ranked fourth on the team and third amongst receivers. The pair will therefore be counted on to take a significant step forward while handling sizeable workloads in Green Bay’s Jordan Love-led offense in 2023.

The Packers took a flier on Sammy Watkins last year, but the former first-rounder made only 13 catches in Green Bay before being waived and finishing the season in Baltimore. The team will obviously be aiming higher with their next signing, which could target a number of veterans who make up the secondary waves of a weak free agent class. While a major splash at the position is thus unlikely, an addition of some kind should be expected in the near future.

Packers HC Matt LaFleur Open To Nathaniel Hackett Return, Endorses DC Joe Barry

Plenty of changes have already taken place on the sidelines in the NFL with the regular season now complete, but it does not appear that Green Bay will be the site of much turnover in that regard. One exception could be a reunion with a familiar face.

When speaking to the media, head coach Matt LaFleur said he is open to the possibility of former offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett coming back to his staff. The latter left last offseason to become the Broncos’ head coach, a move which did not end well, to say the least. Hackett was fired before the season – his first as a bench boss – had come to an end with the Broncos falling well short of expectations, particularly on offense.

The 43-year-old had previously spent three seasons in Green Bay as the team’s OC, albeit one who did not call plays. The same is now true of Adam Stenavich, who, as ESPN’s Rob Demovsky notes, is expected to remain in his current post regardless of whether or not Hackett is brought back. A reunion is something which LaFleur said he has “definitely entertained” though he admitted that his evaluation process of the staff has only just begun.

One other noteworthy change which could come about as a result of that process is LaFleur ceding play-calling duties. Such a move is one he has considered in the past, but, in light of the team’s middling defensive performance and discipline issues, one which would allow him to address other areas of the team.

“As far as the playcalling’s concerned, yeah that’s crossed my mind in terms of I want to do whatever’s best for us to have success,” LaFleur said. “If we feel like that is the best way for us to win games, then I would 100% hand that over.”

As for defensive coordinator Joe Barry, LaFleur gave an endorsement in favor of his return in 2023. The Packers were expected to lean on the strength of their defense more so this season than previous ones in no small part due to the team’s continued investment on that side of the ball. The unit finished the campaign ranked 17th in both points (21.8) and yards (337) allowed per game, though their secondary fared better than those overall statistics suggest. Despite Barry’s performance coming under fire during Green Bay’s five-game losing streak in particular, LaFleur reiterated that he expects Barry to be retained.

“I don’t really anticipate a whole lot, if any staff changes at all,” LaFleur said. “I do believe in the people, not only in the locker room, but our coaching staff… It’s my intention to try and have everybody back. I think continuity is a big part of having success in this league.”

After an 8-9 season which ended without a playoff berth, many questions will be asked this offseason in Green Bay. If LaFleur has his way, however, significant alterations to his staff will not be forthcoming.

Packers HC Matt LaFleur Wants Aaron Rodgers To Return In 2023

Things have not gone according to plan for the Packers in 2022, leading to serious speculation about their future at a number of positions. One of those is quarterback, but if head coach Matt LaFleur has his way, the top of the depth chart will remain the same next year.

Aaron Rodgers entered the year with significant expectations given not only his personal accolades, but the lucrative new deal he signed in the offseason. That contract is believed to allow the reigning MVP to operate on a year-to-year basis with respect to his retirement decision, though it would not be until 2025 that the Packers would see any cap relief with a trade or release given its structure.

The 39-year-old’s performance has – like Green Bay’s offense as a whole – been underwhelming to date, with Rodgers dealing with multiple injuries. That led to speculation that a quarterback change would be in order, but an extended look for backup Jordan Love is not expected to take place in at least the near future. To little surprise, then, LaFleur’s has stated a continued commitment to the four-time All-Pro moving forward.

When asked about his desire to have Rodgers back in 2023, he said, via Pro Football Talk’s Myles Simmons“Yeah, absolutely. Of course.” He added, on the subject of Love’s presence and his relative lack of playing time given his draft pedigree, “I think we’ve got a great problem in terms of when you have confidence in multiple people.

“I do think, just thinking about expectations, and certainly people expect – we all expect – a certain level from [Rodgers] every time and especially when you’re coming off back-to-back MVP seasons. I think you’ve got to be realistic about the situation, too, in terms of, you’re losing almost your entire receiving corps and there’s a lot of new pieces around [him].”

With Green Bay sitting at 5-8 on the campaign and unlikely to make a playoff push, the idea of shutting Rodgers down for the rest of the year has been floated. The team’s bye week represented a logical time to do hand the reins over to Love, but the veteran is expected to play at least until a postseason berth is no longer attainable. The closing stages of their season begin tomorrow night against the Rams.

Packers Not Planning To Shake Up Defensive Coaching Staff

Packers defensive coordinator Joe Barry got a vote of confidence from head coach Matt LaFleur last night, but it sounds like frustration may be mounting among players. LaFleur said the team is “absolutely not” going to make a coaching change following their loss to the Bills last night.

However, sources told ESPN’s Rob Demovsky that members of Green Bay’s defense are frustrated with the defensive scheme and playcalling. Specifically, a source said that there was “a declining confidence in the defensive scheme and what’s being called, and it’s led to overall frustration with the defense.”

“Well, first of all, it’s impossible to please everybody,” LaFleur said when asked about growing frustrations. “Everybody has their own opinions, their own ideas. It’s like anything else in life. You have to get the staff on the same page, first and foremost, in making sure that everybody is confident in the plan and then you teach it to the players.”

Barry joined the Packers in 2021 after having served as a defensive coordinator for only two years. The Packers finished top-10 in yards allowed in 2021 and they’re similarly ranked in 2022, but the team ranks towards the bottom of the NFL in many run-stopping statistics. As Demovsky notes, the latest breakdown came last night when Green Bay allowed Buffalo to score on five straight possessions. Speaking after the contest, LaFleur wouldn’t reveal whether players have expressed frustration with the defense.

“I think we’d be foolish not to listen to our players at certain times,” LaFleur said. “Ultimately, we have to make the best decision for our football team in terms of how do you go about winning the game? You know, there were some great moments and then there were some not-so-great moments. It was great that we were able to get a couple turnovers.

“I think from a consistency standpoint, way too many explosive gains, some poor tackling. I think we need to be more physical. I think you look at the teams that are toughest to deal with in this league, especially from a defensive standpoint and physicality, it jumps out to you. There were moments where we’re not always getting that.”

The defense currently consists of seven former first-round picks and a handful of high-priced acquisitions, as Demovsky points out, and the unit was expected to help keep the team afloat while Aaron Rodgers and the offense figured things out on the other side of the ball. Instead, Green Bay’s defensive struggles have contributed to the team’s 3-5 start, and despite LaFleur’s assertion, a change could be coming if things aren’t turned around.

Minor NFL Transactions: 8/28/22

We will keep track of today’s minor moves right here:

Baltimore Ravens

Chicago Bears

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Green Bay Packers

Las Vegas Raiders:

New Orleans Saints

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Washington Commanders

Summers is a 2019 seventh-round pick who has just one career start but who has established himself as a key contributor on Green Bay’s special teams unit over his first three seasons in the league. Ian Rapoport of expects the TCU product to generate interest on the waiver wire (Twitter link). Indeed, Packers HC Matt LaFleur said that the team made the decision to part ways with Summers now in order to give him a chance to hook on with a new club before the wave of impending cuts that will soon flood the market (Twitter link via Rob Demovsky of

The Seahawks’ decision to move Brown to the PUP list means that he will be sidelined for at least the first four games of the season. That marks a disappointing start to his second NFL campaign; the fourth-rounder had two separate IR stints last year. That limited him to just five games (three starts), during which he registered 10 tackles and one pass deflection. Seattle has seen plenty of roster turnover at the CB position this offseason, leaving Brown in line for at least a rotational role. In his absence, the team will rely even more on starters Sidney Jones and Artie Burns, with rookies Coby Bryant likely to play in the slot.

Packers Extend Matt LaFleur, Brian Gutekunst, Russ Ball?

The Packers are happy with the core of leaders they’ve built over the years and they’re determined to keep key pieces in place for years to come. Head coach Matt LaFleur, general manager Brian Gutekunst, and executive vice president Russ Ball all received extensions this offseason, according to ESPN’s Rob Demovsky.

Interestingly, the team’s president and CEO, Mark Murphy, refused to confirm the extensions, saying only, “I’ll just say I’m confident not only Matt and Brian but (Ball) will continue to be Packers’ employees for years to come.” 

LaFleur was hired as head coach in 2019 after two starkly different seasons as an offensive coordinator with the Rams and with the Titans. As offensive coordinator in Los Angeles, LaFleur didn’t call plays, but still gets credit for coordinating the league’s top scoring offense that year. The next year he took over play-calling duties in Tennessee and, after an onslaught of injuries, the team finished with the 27th ranked scoring offense. Still, the Packers saw enough coaching potential to hire him to replace Mike McCarthy.

Since LaFleur took over in 2019, the Packers have been a league best 39-10. Unfortunately, though, LaFleur has struggled to take the league’s best regular season team to the Super Bowl, losing two straight NFC Championship games in his first two seasons and exiting in the Divisional Round of last year’s playoffs. LaFleur’s contract was set to expire at the end of the season, so an extension was expected.

Gutekunst was promoted to his current role one year before the hire of LaFleur. After entering the league as a Chiefs scouting assistant in 1998, Gutekunst quickly made his way to Wisconsin where he rose through the ranks over the following 20 years from area scout to director of college scouting to director of player personnel to his eventual general manager position in 2018. Gutekunst was granted the promotion when former general manager Ted Thompson took a reduced role with the organization after being diagnosed with neurodegenerative disorder. In Gutekunst’s five years of heading the personnel departments, the team has drafted starters like cornerback Jaire Alexander and defensive lineman Rashan Gary while bringing in impact players like Preston Smith, Za’Darius Smith, Christian Kirksey, Jaylon Smith, and Whitney Mercilus. Gutekunst’s contract was also set to expire at the end of the season, so his extension, while not guaranteed, was also expected.

Ball has been with the franchise since 2008, spending ten years as vice president of football administration/player finance and getting promoted to executive vice president/director of football operations in 2018. Ball has held the unenviable responsibility of managing the team’s salary cap, a task that hasn’t been made any easier with the demands of quarterback Aaron Rodgers. His masterful management during the pandemic was something that drew praise from Murphy, according to Matt Schneidman of The Athletic. Ball was promoted the same year Gutekunst was, so his deal was likely also nearing an end.

This isn’t the first time Murphy and the Packers have kept silent about contract moves with the staff. The past scenario was a bit more tense as McCarthy was quietly given a one-year extension for what would eventually be his last season. Regarding the lack of an announcement or confirmation, Murphy said, “I’d prefer to keep (contract extensions) internal, but, obviously, you can see from my comments that I feel like they’re doing an outstanding job.”

With the extension of key pieces to the team’s core leadership, the Packers brass is putting forth a vote of confidence. They are likely also posing two daunting tests: 1) take the next step and win a Super Bowl and 2) keep the boat afloat when Rodgers is finally gone. The three men will apparently have another few years to complete those assignments.