'Preparing for the worst' shapes up as a prudent policy for new Packers offensive coordinator Adam Stenavich
GREEN BAY - Adam Stenavich isn’t a pessimist per se; he’s a realist. And the past two years have made every possible problem all too real.
“It’s kind of worst-case scenario, preparing for the worst,” said Stenavich, the newly appointed Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator.
After three seasons as the offensive line coach under head coach Matt LaFleur, Stenavich comes into his role as coordinator with that hard-learned lesson thanks to back-to-back years maligned by injuries.
“(In) 2019 we really didn't have to dig into depth that much,” said Stenavich of the line. “We pretty much had a starting five that played the entire season. And then 2020 and 2021 is a little bit different story.”
That “different story” went something like this: Left tackle David Bakhtiari tore his ACL before the final game of the 2020 regular season. He returned briefly in the 2021 season finale but missed the playoff game. His replacement, Elgton Jenkins, tore his ACL eight games into the 2021 season. Both injuries caused musical chairs across the offensive line.
Now Stenavich and new offensive line coach Luke Butkus are using offseason workouts to “prepare for the worst” and plan for the best by cross training each lineman to the best of his ability.
“It's just kind of making sure you're getting the guys ready for the worst," Stenavich said. "And you know, once you get the right kind of guys in the room, every single guy prepares to be a starter. And then once their number's called, it's not that big of a transition.”
This began during rookie minicamp, the first weekend of May. The Packers drafted three offensive linemen during the 2022 NFL draft: Sean Ryhan, Zach Tom and Rasheed Walker. Four more were brought in as undrafted free agents. Over the course of the two days spent with rookies, Stenavich and the Packers took initial litmus tests on which linemen could be cross trained.
“You kind of start it slow, ‘This is where you were familiar in college,’ or anything like that, where you can just get them going,” Stenavich said. “And then if they show that they can handle more than that, you kind of build that up. So that's kind of how I've always done it, is just introducing in a spot and then assess as you go along if they can handle multiple positions.”
While rookie minicamp doesn’t feature players in pads and the actual football is kept to a minimum, coaches can begin to get a sense at least of how much depth their unit might have.
“You can kind of tell if they can handle the assignments, if they're on top of who they need to block and what their pass-protection assignments are and just the overall scheme,” Stenavich said. “But then once you get the pads on, that's when you can really see if they're physically ready to play. So you got to assess the mental side and then you can assess the physical side once you get rolling into real football.”
The rookies have returned to Green Bay and OTA’s will begin next week, the voluntary workouts giving Packers coaches more opportunities to prepare for the worst yet again.
“It's just basically trying to be prepared for things that can happen,” Stenavich said. “Just the importance of depth across the entire team. We have to make sure we can uphold that standard. Every guy on this team knows that so they take responsibility for it and they do a great job of handling that.”
Game planning for two running backs
As the Packers begin to shape their 2022 roster and identity, Stenavich isn’t afraid to prepare for a two-running-back set more often than not.
Green Bay averaged 111.8 yards per game on the ground last season, middle of the pack across the league, and was in the bottom half of the league in rushing attempts (446 for the season). Granted, this offense features a back-to-back MVP at quarterback. The need to run the ball is diminished behind Aaron Rodgers.
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Still, as the Packers have seen more and more what they have under Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon, the offense’s identity is shifting to accommodate the two backs.
“We’ve had packages with those guys on the field at the same time and you have to,” Stenavich said. “Anytime you have two playmakers like that, you have to get them on the field and you got to get them the ball. Once you do that, you really can threaten defenses in a lot of different ways. So we're always excited to put those two guys on the field and do a bunch of different stuff.”
Packers create competition at long snapper
The Packers announced the signing of undrafted free-agent long snapper Jack Coco, who will compete with incumbent Steven Wirtel. Coco participated in Packers' rookie camp this month as a tryout player.
Green Bay made room for Coco on the 90-man roster by releasing tackle Jahmir Johnson.
Coco was the long snapper for three seasons at Georgia Tech (2018-20) and also played tight end.