Stars, studs and duds from Packers’ 2022 season

The Green Bay Packers fell well short of expectations in 2022, finishing 8-9 with no playoff appearance after winning 13 games each of the first three seasons under Matt LaFleur.

A big reason for the decline: a few of the team’s most important or valuable players didn’t perform up to expectations.

Here are the stars, studs and duds from the Packers’ 2022 season:

Stars

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KR Keisean Nixon: Not only did the former Raider fill in admirably as the primary slot corner in six games, but he exploded onto the scene as a game-breaking kickoff returner over the season’s final two months. Using a perfect blend of speed, vision and confidence, Nixon led the NFL in kickoff returns, kickoff return yards and kickoff returns of at least 50 yards. As a reward, he was named a first-team All-Pro kickoff returner.

RB Aaron Jones: 2022 was another terrific season for Jones, who rushed for a career-high 1,125 yards, forced 63 missed tackles, created 31 runs of 10 or more yards, finished with 59 catches and was the team’s nominee for both the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award and the Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award. He averaged over 5.0 yards per carry for the fourth time in six seasons.

OLB Rashan Gary: A monster season was brewing for Gary before his Week 9 knee injury in Detroit. He produced at least three pressures in all nine games and was – with 25 total stops – on pace to crush his previous career-high of 28. While not always consistent in terms of setting the edge against the run, Gary was consistently disruptive as a rusher and run defender. The Packers missed him greatly down the stretch.

WR Christian Watson: His final eight games were special. The rookie created eight total touchdowns, three 100-yard receiving games and 584 total yards on just 35 touches. Watson averaged 10.6 yards per target and 2.58 yards per route run – both elite numbers at the position – between Weeks 10-18. He could emerge as one of the league’s next true stars as soon as 2023.

Studs

Green Bay Packers offensive tackle David Bakhtiari (69)

CB Jaire Alexander: Did he replicate his truly special shut-down season of 2020? No, and Alexander gave up some key plays late in games, but he also intercepted a career-high five passes, forced 11 incompletions and gave up only two touchdown passes.  Like 2020, Alexander was named a second-team All-Pro.

LT David Bakhtiari: The five-time All-Pro played 11 games and once again looked like an elite player, especially as a pass-blocker. He gave up just 10 total pressures, including zero sacks. If his knee issues are a thing of the past, Bakhtiari could enjoy several more seasons of being one of the NFL’s best left tackles.

CB Rasul Douglas: He intercepted four passes, including three over the final seven games, and his 32 stops (including 21 against the pass) ranked third among cornerbacks. His ball skills, instincts and physicality are valuable traits. He wasn’t perfect in coverage, but he also bounced around between the slot and the perimeter.

LB Eric Wilson: General manager Brian Gutekunst found a special teams stud in Wilson, who was signed off the Saints practice squad in October. He finished the season with the team’s most special teams tackles (10) and best special teams grade at PFF. Over the last six games, Wilson produced seven tackles covering kicks or punts.

Duds

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S Adrian Amos: While still a solid tackler who can play the run, Amos regressed sharply in coverage. He gave up six touchdown passes and broke up just two passes over 531 snaps against the pass. Once one of the NFL’s most reliable players on the back end, Amos took a step back in 2022 and now has an uncertain future in Green Bay.

CB Eric Stokes: The 2021 first-round pick labored through some sophomore struggles before knee and ankle injuries ended his season after nine games. Stokes gave up 21 catches on 25 targets into his coverage and allowed a passer rating of 125.8. He was beaten for completions of 20 or more yards in five of his nine games played.

S Darnell Savage: By November, the Packers benched Savage for career special teamer Rudy Ford at safety. He missed too many tackles and gave up too many big plays, especially for a player with his speed. And he showed no interest in defending the run from the backend. His benching – along with more snaps at nickel – provided a late-season jolt.

DL Dean Lowry: After producing 42 pressures, 5.0 sacks, five tackles for losses, nine quarterback hits and four batted passes in 2021, Lowry’s production plummeted to 17 pressures, 0.5 sacks, one tackle for loss, five quarterback hits and one batted pass in 2022. His presence blocked first-round pick Devonte Wyatt from seeing the field during the first three quarters of the season.

WR Amari Rodgers: Five fumbles as a returner sent him packing in Year 2. The Packers never trusted him to handle a role on offense, and he lacked the consistency and basic abilities required of a full-time returner. Rodgers finished the season in Houston.

Story originally appeared on Packers Wire