Cory's Corner: The Gold Standard Of Depth

It takes a special general manager to not only find talent but couple it with a team-focused mentality. 

What’s the one thing about the Packers that keeps getting brought up?

(And if you say wide receiver, I’m turning this car around.)

Without a doubt, it’s the depth. 

The Packers have one of the best quarterbacks in the league and maybe the best cornerback in the league, but the strength of this team lies in its numbers. 

And that’s a huge kudos to Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst. Would the Packers have been able to win 13 games three straight seasons without amazing depth? The answer is a hard no. Guys like left tackle David Bakhtiari, tight end Robert Tonyan, outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith, nose tackle Kenny Clark, outside linebacker Preston Smith, wide receiver Davante Adams and running back Aaron Jones have all missed time in the last three years. 

All NFL teams struggle with injuries. It’s a violent and demanding sport. The key for every team is being able to find pieces that can still be productive while also knowing and understanding their role.

Take AJ Dillon for example. The self-described “Mayor of Door County” could’ve demanded that he get the lion’s share of carries after running around, over and through the Titans defense on Dec. 27, 2020 to the tune of 124 rushing yards and two scores. But he didn’t because he knew his role and he also knew that kind of chatter wouldn’t help the team. 

It’s one thing to add guys that are supremely talented. That’s not always easy to do. Look at how many swings and misses litter the first round each year. I mean, Josh Rosen was the No. 10 pick in 2018, Leonard Fournett was the No. 4 pick in 2017, Corey Coleman was the No. 16 pick in 2016 and as if we could ever forget, Johnny Manziel was the No. 22 pick in 2014.

NFL teams get it wrong every single spring. They think they have the next big thing, but it turns out to be a massive flop. But the thing that really impresses me about Gutekunst is that he can find the talent embedded with team and unselfish traits.

Finding talent on its own merit is tough enough. But Gutekunst has stepped his game up to massive levels. 

Did anyone really think that Yosh Nijman could step up and start eight games at left tackle last year? He was an undrafted free agent and played a major role in helping the Packers win 13 games and with the uncertainty surrounding Bakhtiari’s health, he may be called upon again. 

Depth is a big plus at inside linebacker where Krys Barnes will likely come off the bench this year and defensive line where T.J. Slaton offers a needed boost for the rest of the run stuffers. 

Fine, if you want to bring up wide receiver, we can do it. I absolutely loved the Sammy Watkins signing. He’s a sneaky veteran with his back to the wall. That wide receiver room may look thin right now to the national media, but it has a lot of pieces that are not only talented but know their roles. 

With teams playing 17 games, depth is going to be an even bigger focus moving forward. I am willing to bet that the days of a team feeding one running back 25 carries a game consistently are over. Teams will have an eye on usage as it relates to keeping players healthy in January. 

Gutekunst was already a solid general manager because he has done a great job in not only mining talent but building a team-focused culture. 

That’s the gold standard of depth. 

 

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Cory Jennerjohn is a graduate from UW-Oshkosh and has been in sports media for over 15 years. He was a co-host on "Clubhouse Live" and has also done various radio and TV work as well. He has written for newspapers, magazines and websites. He currently is a columnist for CHTV and also does various podcasts. He recently earned his Masters degree from the University of Iowa. He can be found on Twitter: @Coryjennerjohn

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13 points

Comments (29)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
NickPerry's picture

June 28, 2022 at 07:01 am

Personally, I agree with much of what Cory has said. People here that have been here a while know I'm a huge Brian Gutekunst fan. He's taken a team who had basically run thing's into the ground and had a losing record for the first time since 2005 and turned them into one of the DEEPEST and BEST rosters in the NFL. AND, he's done it through the draft for the most part.

People forget how poorly Ted Thompson was performing his last few years. His drafts weren't the same and neither was his football team. That's NOT a knock on Thompson, it wasn't his fault he was ill. THAT was all on Mark Murphy.

I would love for the Packers to be one of the LEAST injured teams in the NFL for once this year but if that doesn't happen the Packers are well set up with depth to deal with it. Just look at the O-Line, hell I'm not so sure the Packers 2nd string offensive linemen couldn't form their own O-Line that is better than some in the NFL right now. The same thing goes for the D-Line. Now this one took a minute to build up but now look at it. Not only did Kenny Clark get Devonte Wyatt but he got Jarran Reed too. Reed could have a real positive impact on this D-Line.

They went from NEVER having an ILB to now having 3. Campbell is an All-Pro and will play at the same level this year and now they have Walker. Joe Barry's strength is the ILB position. He's already helped turn Campbell into an All-Pro. I'm friggen giddy with excitement about what Walker will do in this Defense and as Cory mentioned they also have Chris Barnes.

Too damn many want to point out what Gute hasn't done. They forget the state of this team the day he took them over in January of 2018. Okay so he drafted Jordan Love, but he did it AFTER Rodgers had two pretty below-average seasons. GET OVER IT! He's more than made up for it before and since. This team is young and deep. Thank you Gute!

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PewAuKeeFan's picture

June 28, 2022 at 07:16 am

In Gute we trust! 🙏

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murf7777's picture

June 28, 2022 at 08:48 am

NP….I understand your feelings about Murphy keeping Thompson too long. Did he really, yes IMO, but I would’ve done the same. I’d still rather be a fan of a team with compassion and loyalty than a ruthless, cut throat, win at all cost team. The Packers are a class act organization, one I’m proud to be a fan of and these type of actions are some of the reasons why they are so classy and easy to be a fan of. As a comparison, I wouldn’t like being a fan of the Patriots with all the shenanigans with their owner and GM.

TT gave the Packers many great years of putting his heart and soul into the team. When healthy he was one of the best in the business. He earned and deserved the respect Murphy and the Packers gave him during his illness. What we also don’t know, or at least I don’t, is how much management support TT received in the decision making process over the last two years. I doubt they left all football decisions to TT in the last year or so.

IMO, Murphy has shown great vision and stewardship while keeping the Packers a top Franchise in the NFL, one that other fans are jealous about.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

June 29, 2022 at 04:15 am

I get what you are saying. I just can't quite go there. Yes to loyalty over a cut throat, cheating front office. And perhaps Elliot Wolf or someone else had a lot of input towards the end of TT's tenure. IDK.

These are difficult conversations to have, but they are necessary. I had to have such conversations with my father and mother-in-law, about both driving and finances. It is a conversation Murphy was duty-bound to have with TT.

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WestCoastPackerBacker's picture

June 29, 2022 at 12:34 pm

It is also worth pointing out that whatever issues Ted was having, it might not have been obvious that it affected his ability to do his job for some period (until it did). GB under Ted chose to let go of players a little early, in order to not keep them too long as they aged past their prime. But they didn't do the same with Ted. It is a sad situation, given that Rodgers was still in his prime and GB could have made moves to be much more competitive. But Ted wasn't the only issue then; it was the apparent staleness of McCarthy's offense and his somewhat declining relationship with the quarterback during the era.

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NickPerry's picture

June 29, 2022 at 06:19 am

murf7777...I agree Thompson deserved Murphys and the Packers respect but it was pretty damn obvious at the end of Ted tenure something wasn't right with Ted. I guess we'll never know, but IMO it was obvious Ted was ill and the buck STOPS with Murphy.

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Gee's picture

June 28, 2022 at 10:56 am

Well said sir. On the TT point, he brought a ring and managed the Rodgers-Favre transition, which cannot be understated. Which brings him a lot of respect and its deserved, but he was stubborn one.
His last few drafts he missed too many times in the top 4 rounds, to keep the shelves stocked. I still shake my head when I think of the Marshawn Lynch deal and refusing to part with A.J Hawk. I get TT was ilb in his time, but he loved the position so much, why did he completely ignore the position in ever other time? Yes I get the draft pick was higher, but TT was could have easily matched it.
Either way Gute has done a great job, in providing depth, especially, when considering how much cap, is in the hands of a few players.

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WestCoastPackerBacker's picture

June 29, 2022 at 12:35 pm

What about Marshawn Lynch? I thought he didn't want to come to GB and they made him an offer.

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Roadrunner23's picture

June 28, 2022 at 07:11 am

Good point Cory depth in today’s NFL is extremely underrated. And with salary cap restrictions it is really hard to have great players at every position. With 17 games it’s more important to have great depth at every position and a hell of a lot more affordable.

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stockholder's picture

June 28, 2022 at 07:35 am

Gutey Opened the Communication Channels. He learned to Trust people. And if you want to point to the gold standard. Look right at Rodgers. They wouldn't be here if it wasn't for him.
Gutey was on a cliff ready to go over. If it wasn't for his Free Agent class: of the Smiths, Amos and Turner. The Vision would be negative.
Lefluer deserves a lot of Credit too. For the skill sets and type of players needed.
The Revolving door is still turning. The weak division gave Gutey Time. But as long as Rodgers was the QB. Gutey figured it out.

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RCPackerFan's picture

June 28, 2022 at 07:36 am

Gutey has done a tremendous job of building up the depth on the roster. And its not just depth made up of undrafted players like how Thompson used to go about it.

The combination of Gutey and LaFleur's staff has done a tremendous of creating depth and utilizing the depth. One of the best positions where depth has been the key is the OL. The combination of Gutey bringing in the talent and LaFleur and staff getting them ready to play where they need them has been absolutely great.

The depth to winning a championship is key. No team will make it to the end with all starters playing every game. The depth is key!

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murf7777's picture

June 28, 2022 at 08:58 am

TT, I agree Gutey’s has a more aggressive approach than TT, but at what cost? One thing TT did was keep the team competitive while not putting the franchise into salary cap hell. Right or wrong, Gutey has managed to do just that very quickly in his tenure and continues to move salaries into the future. I think the story on Gutey is still being written and what happens over the next 5 years will be very telling about how successful of a GM he is.

Gutey has mostly done a very good job but not without concern with some of his moves and how they will affect the future.

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dobber's picture

June 28, 2022 at 09:51 am

Let's be fair: the contraction of the cap in 2021 was completely unforseen when BG took over and it forced the Packers to either choose to cut bait on players/contracts and start over or try to win it all with the players/contracts they had on hand. They chose to try to extend the window--which required they swallow hard on some salary decisions and put them behind the 8-ball on some negotiations. The bottom line is that the team is in business to try to win titles and they felt they (rightly) were a contender and needed to maximize that opportunity.

Yes, going back 2-3 years, it was clear that the 2021 and 2022 caps were going to require some tough calls on some players. But the scrambling that had to happen these last two off-seasons were something they couldn't have planned for and required some massive shifting in priorities and planning. It's a part of everyday life for us that very profitable NFL franchises haven't had to deal with.

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murf7777's picture

June 28, 2022 at 10:26 am

Dobber, I agree Covid had a factor, but even if the reduction of SC didn’t happen we would still have more SC issues than when under TT’s stewardship.

I’m just playing devils advocate and stating the whole story hasn’t been written and that I have some concerns with how he has managed something’s so far. The Arod/Love issue as an example. He’s also made some great moves as well, especially finding fill in FA’s that have become stars.

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dobber's picture

June 28, 2022 at 04:22 pm

True, but TT was so cap-conscious that it all but paralyzed him from making moves that could've helped put some of his teams over the top. What did Vic Ketchman always say, "take care of the cap and it will take care of you?" TT kept his distance. Still, the league and the rules surrounding the cap have evolved. If you're using cap management strategies from two CBAs ago, you're not likely to last for long as a GM.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

June 29, 2022 at 04:22 am

I'd estimate that teams would have had $36M in additional salary cap space if Covid had not happened, and I think that was not foreseeable when Gute made the 4 large free agency signings in 2019.

Of course, every team would have had that much additional space, so the new deals and free agent acquisitions would likely have been more expensive than they were. However, a lot of the void year restructuring would have been unnecessary. GB still would have had some issues, but not nearly to the same extent.

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RCPackerFan's picture

June 28, 2022 at 12:30 pm

I'm purely talking about the players Gutey has brought in vs the players that TT brought in. Not the big offseason additions. The ones during the season or just before. The ones that don't cost much money. Think about some of the guys that Gutey has brought in. Veterans that could fill a role. Guys like Tyler Ervin, Rasul Douglas, Ricky Wagner, Dennis Kelly, Billy Winn, and others. They weren't top tier types of players, but they came in and filled roles.
The guys Thompson was bringing in were guys who never saw the field before. Mostly undrafted free agents. I am ok giving guys shots. But Gutey brought in players that were able to come in and play a role.

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WestCoastPackerBacker's picture

June 29, 2022 at 12:51 pm

Ted had some memorable additions to the roster as well, particularly in the year they brought the Lombardi home. Frank Zombo, Erik Walden, Howard Green all played a role in getting to the title game and winning it. He brought in Tramon Williams in 2006 and that was every bit as impactful as Rasul Douglas, at least over time. He traded for Ryan Grant giving up only a 6th round pick. Grant was incredibly productive in GB. HIs trade for Ryan Pickett was a big part of the run to the Title as well.

I think those players are as much or more impactful than what Gutey has done, though Ted didn't do as well at this in later years.

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Jaqu’eau's picture

June 28, 2022 at 08:19 am

Agree, Gutey has done a good job building the depth of this team. The only area with questionable depth appears to be the secondary. But even here, among the starters, there is no real weakness. It is refreshing to know that there is no area where the team is hoping on development from marginal players during camp to fill glaring needs. I know some will point to the receiver group. but the truth is, with Aaron Rodgers, all you need is talent at that position. And I believe there is plenty of both proven and potential talent to work with there which provides the depth we need at the position. If our o-line is as good and deep as we think it could be, this may help any weakness in the receiving core, especially, for those rookies who can win over the top.

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marpag1's picture

June 28, 2022 at 12:55 pm

"The only area with questionable depth appears to be the secondary... It is refreshing to know that there is no area where the team is hoping on development from marginal players during camp to fill glaring needs."

Edge rusher???

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Jaqu’eau's picture

June 28, 2022 at 04:22 pm

Also true!

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PeteK's picture

June 28, 2022 at 08:32 am

It's amazing that the Pack won 13 games after losing 4 pro bowlers and a top TE.

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marpag1's picture

June 28, 2022 at 11:10 am

Remember when everyone was saying that Russ Ball would be the next GM? A lot of pretty respected voices were talking about it as if it were a done deal. I got nothing against Ball - in fact, I think he's a hell of a fine bean-counter - but I was very relieved when they chose Gutey. Football guys vs. money guys.... there is a difference.

4 points
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TarynsEyes's picture

June 28, 2022 at 11:52 am

Every year an article like this one talks about how great ( loosely used word) the Packers' depth is because and primarily based on the play of a couple/few that didn't play great or good elsewhere and were picked up by GB and were turned into the magnificence that seems to fade the second season, for whatever reason.

Yes, 13-3 records will always be used to defend such boasting, while the path to a Division Title, and the replicated win/loss record has been near automatic and in large part to the ineptitude of the division rivals.

I expect there is a tad too much expectation that those who over-played their ability last season will do so again, I may be a tad off here, but how many of those previously vaunted type players played to the expectation the next season or even came close to such? It seems many forget the drop-in play from certain stars/veterans/reclamations that were expected to repeat the most recent prior performances. I will admit that Gutey has done better than the usual basement furniture rotation of late, but they still need to show a second season of the same 'greatness' applied to them so easily or the abyss of depth the writer believes it to be won't be the kind imagined.

I do want this team to win it all, but as the last 11 years have shown us, or me at least, I must now be like the motto of Missouri, SHOW ME, so my belief in this team can be more than Division Title goal-oriented.

I know, I know, it's hard to get to the SB, but other teams seem to get there more than once in 11 years, and the Packers are boasted to be a favorite each year, and yet, the things that are boasted are what fails us on a rotating basis, Offense, Defense SPTs. Although, SPTs seems to be the area easily blamed for the failure while ignoring the performance and lack of the other two as a reason for placing the SPTs unit in the no-win Kobayashi Maru scenario, to begin with, and our Captain Kirk(s) ( Rodgers and MLF) unable to alter such for the WIN.

GOPACKGO

Hopefully further than any of their last seasons since 2010-2011.

Can we at least look and play like the team boasted and not have reason to not be proud even in a loss because that's what hurts most, the losses have had no pride to them, but are marred with bs play and coaching.

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TXCHEESE's picture

June 28, 2022 at 02:53 pm

The big difference between the TT and BG roster building was the veteran depth. TT relied on the young inexperienced players to fill the void when the injury bug hit, and BG has back filled the team with reliable depth, or goes and finds that missing player on the street, or on other practice squads.

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dobber's picture

June 28, 2022 at 04:31 pm

This is primarily how TT attacked the cap: significant numbers of lower-end players. We seem to subscribe to the lore that TT didn't dole out big contracts during his time as GM, but he paid plenty of guys.

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WestCoastPackerBacker's picture

June 29, 2022 at 01:38 pm

He pay top salary to top players like CM3, Rodgers, Ryan Pickett, etc.

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TXCHEESE's picture

June 28, 2022 at 02:53 pm

The big difference between the TT and BG roster building was the veteran depth. TT relied on the young inexperienced players to fill the void when the injury bug hit, and BG has back filled the team with reliable depth, or goes and finds that missing player on the street, or on other practice squads.

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Lphill's picture

June 29, 2022 at 05:25 am

Brian Urlacher said recently the Packers are fine at receiver as long as Rodgers is the QB .

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