Who would have thought Aaron Rodgers would be rated the 15th best passer in the NFL after week 3? Who would have thought the Green Bay Packers would look this bad? Surely not fans in Titletown, USA.
Facts: The Packers are 1-2, they are sitting in the cellar of the NFC North and they just don’t look very good.
Why is it that the Packers find themselves in this situation? Let’s examine.
A week 1 matchup against the World Champion Seattle Seahawks wasn’t exactly the easiest way to start the season, but the Packers had months to prepare for it and they still looked awful out there.
Then, in week 2 the Packers got off to an awful start and trailed 21-3 to the New York Jets. Fortunately Rodgers and Jordy Nelson showed up for the game and carried the team to a 31-24 win. 1-1 and on a roll right?
With Nelson’s historic 209 yards of receiving and Rodgers looking far more accurate, Packer faithfuls had to be confident going into Detroit, but there’s more to this team than just Rodgers and Nelson.
1-D Team: The Packers are missing a big pass-catcher over the middle. In past years, the Packers had Greg Jennings, Donald Driver and Jermichael Finley to sacrifice their bodies running crossing routes and quick slants. Now, the Packers passing attack is limited to outside threat Nelson and the 2014 version of Randall Cobb.
The 2014 version of Randall Cobb is definitely not the one the Packers want. He just can’t get open for plays more than 10 yards and Rodgers (6.8 yards average per pass) and Co. are suffering because of this. Teams will start shutting Nelson down and Cobb will get frustrated quickly.
So, what can be changed? Well, not much. The Packers have to play with what they have. The offensive line cannot give Rodgers much time due to inexperience and lack of talent. The Packers are going to need to roll Rodgers out more on designed sprint out or waggle plays. Motion by Nelson as well as creative formations may help too.
The run game needs to improve and the Packers cannot abandon it. Eddie Lacy was the 2013 Offensive Rookie of the Year because the Packers stayed relatively balanced in 2013. In 2014, Lacy has only 36 attempts and 113 yards (3.1 avg.) By contrast, the Cowboys’ DeMarco Murray has 75 attempts and 385 yards (5.1 avg.). Backup RB James Starks has actually looked better (15 attempts, 75 yards, 5.0 avg) this season and could start to get more reps. Clearly, Lacy is Green Bay’s guy, but he could see some of his touches reduced as the season goes on.
Not the D You Thought it Would Be: The Packers drafted safety Ha-Ha Clinton Dix in the first round hoping he would make an immediate impact in the Packers’ secondary. He has made a splash (one interception, one fumble recovery), but only has made eight tackles.
To add insult to injury, the Packers gave CB Sam Shields a huge paycheck hoping he would continue his success from past seasons. This season, he is giving up big plays and touchdowns. In the week 3 loss to the Lions, Shields gave up two big plays totaling 78 yards. The week before, Jets’ receiver Eric Decker made Shields look silly on a 29-yard slant-and-go for a touchdown. He looked awful trying to tackle the Seahawks’ runners and receivers in week 1 too.
Let’s wait and see if Clay Matthews’ groin injury is going to cause him pain. If he misses snaps and games because of this, rookies Jayrone Elliott and Carl Bradford would get significant time and that’s not something the Packers want.
Ideal Situation for Pack: Ideally, the Packers will create a new offensive philosophy. With weaknesses in the offensive line, lack of a pass-catching tight end and really only Nelson being the only threat to score, the team has to find a new way to exploit defensive weaknesses. Rookie Davante Adams looks better than WR3 Jarrett Boykin, so play Adams and keep Boykin at WR4 or on the bench.
Running the ball has get better. Lacy cannot find holes and the Packers’ offensive strategy is not helping. With shotgun runs and outside running plays that require pulling guards and proper blocking, Lacy is not finding any openings. The Packers need to get back to the power run game. This means more split-I formations, single back sets (with Rodgers under center) and bringing the tight ends into the backfield to help block. When teams see FB John Kuhn in the game they know a pass is coming because Kuhn rarely runs and he just isn’t the lead blocker he was in past seasons.