The Green Bay Packers offense is off to an inconsistent start this season. That was expected as the team adjusts to life without Davante Adams and integrates young and inexperienced receivers into the offense. The Packers are also getting their two best offensive linemen, David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins, back into top form as they return from serious season-ending knee injuries. These things take time.
The inconsistency was clearly visible against the New York Giants in London last Sunday. In the first half, the Packers scored 20 points and scored on four of their first five drives of the game. In the second half, however, the Packers punted twice and lost the ball on downs on their third drive of the half. They scored no points on offense and lost the game.
The offense is not maximizing the talent they have and not playing to their strengths. There is a sense of frustration growing as the team continues to struggle.
After the game, running back Aaron Jones, who does not have a reputation for speaking out about wanting the ball more often, spoke critically about the team’s play calling.
“I’d put my money on giving me or A.J. Dillon two downs to get two yards, I’d put my money on it,” Jones said after the loss to the Giants. “At the same time, I’m not the quarterback, so I don’t know what A-Rod’s seeing, and they made a good defensive play to bat it down. So, we just go back to the drawing board, put our heads down and keep working.”
Creating a successful offense is a combination of what the coach’s philosophy is and the strengths and skill set of the players on the roster. You find the sweet spot between those things and you can maximize your productivity.
There are three things the offense needs to do to simplify things and play to their strengths right now. If the offense does these things, they should move the ball more consistently and score more points. Later in the season, there should be more chances to open things up and expand the playbook.
- Keep Running the Ball
The Packers two most talented and reliable offensive weapons outside of Aaron Rodgers are the team’s running backs, Jones and Dillon. This duo can run the ball effectively and they are both good receivers out of the backfield.
The offense does its best work when the team runs the ball often enough to keep the chains moving. When they get away from running the ball, the offense tends to stall.
As a team, the Packers are averaging 5.0-yards per carry. Jones leads the team with 390 yards gained on the ground in 61 carries. Dillon has gained 245 yards on 63 rushing attempts.
The Packers need to stick with the run, even when they aren’t having immediate success and gaining big chunks of yardage on every play.
Running the ball consistently keeps the defense off balance and delays the pass rush even if it’s for a fraction of a second per play. That gives Rodgers more time to throw and if the running game is going well, it prevents the Packers from being in second and third and long situations which also helps keep the pass rushers from teeing off on Rodgers.
It also gives the Green Bay defense a chance to rest more and not be on the field so much. That keeps them fresher for the third and fourth quarters of games unlike what we saw in the second half against the Giants when after a long scoring drive, the Packers threw two long passes and a medium pass and had to punt, taking just 26 seconds off the clock. The Giants scored again the next time they touched the ball against a tired Green Bay defense.
More importantly, running the ball consistently maximizes the contributions of the Packers best and most reliable offensive weapons.
- Emphasize the Short Passing Game
With both Bakhtiari and Jenkins still not back to their pre-injury selves and a receiving corps that lacks an elite player, it makes sense for the Packers to incorporate more short passes into their offense. When they’ve done this, the offense has been more productive like it was in the first half of the game in London.
Short passes require Aaron Rodgers to release the ball quickly which minimizes the threat of the pass rush and keeps the receivers focused on a gaining a quick advantage.
The short passing game keeps the Packers out of third and long situations and helps keep the ball moving down the field when combined with a steady diet of running the football.
It also makes the Packers do what their defense is trying to force opposing teams to do: make long, time consuming drives that gradually move the ball downfield without making mistakes.
Of course, this means the Packers are betting on making fewer mistakes then their opponent, something they should be confident in given their advantage at quarterback over most teams.
- Limit Long Pass Plays to Favorable Situations
Rodgers continues to like taking shots downfield. Unfortunately, he has not been successful throwing the ball deep this season. This is due to the lack of chemistry and familiarity with his new receiving corps and the fact that neither the trusted Davante Adams nor speedster Marquez Valdes-Scantling is available. The young receivers also need to learn the offense better and make the proper reads so they are in the right place at the right time.
With the offensive line also not functioning at full capacity as Jenkins and Bakhtiari play their way back from injury, Rodgers has less time to make deep throws without being harassed.
While emphasizing the running game and the short passing game, Rodgers should still get a few chances to make splash plays down field, but they should be timed on second or third and short situations or when the team is ahead in games, at least initially.
As the offensive line play improves and the chemistry with his new receivers gets better, Rodgers can take more chances. But until then, he should be judicious with his downfield shots and stick with more short passes and runs as the situation calls for it. That would maximize the talent and ability of the offense as it exists right now.
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