We all expected that the 2023 Green Bay Packers would be a young team going through growing pains. The Packers opened the season with a quarterback who had started one game in his NFL career, two rookie tight ends expected to play major roles and a receiving corps that had no player with more than one year of NFL experience on the roster. Through five games, the Packers offense has yet to form an identity and has no go-to strategy to move the football effectively in a pinch.
In the past, the Packers had players and plays they could turn to when they needed to pick up key yards and keep drives alive. For example, looking to throw to Davante Adams on a back shoulder fade. They knew what they did well and what they did best. So far this season, the team lacks this identity.
The Packers Lack of Identity: The Offense Really Misses Aaron Jones
Injuries have played a role in the offense’s lack of identity. Running back Aaron Jones is the team’s most consistent and proven offensive weapon. The former UTEP star possesses elite speed and is a threat to score any time he touches the football.
Last season, Jones gained more than 1,100 yards rushing and was second on the Packers with 59 catches. As a dual threat, Jones opens a lot of possibilities for Matt LaFleur’s offense.
Unfortunately, Jones has been hampered by a hamstring injury he suffered in Week 1. Since then, he missed three games and was limited to just six touches in Week 4.
Without Jones, the Packers have struggled to run the football and are missing a vital weapon in their passing game as well. The Packers rushing offense currently ranks 28th in the league in rushing yards gained and 26th in yards per rush with 3.5.
When Jones is healthy, he is a large part of the offense’s identity, but without him, the rushing offense has struggled.
The Packers Lack of Identity: The Passing Game Is Inconsistent
Under Aaron Rodgers, the Packers offense often emphasized long passes. Rodgers would often ignore receivers who were open on short and intermediate routes to force long passes. Sometimes this worked, sometimes it didn’t.
In the early part of the season, LaFleur tried to continue this strategy and threw the ball deep downfield several times in each game. The long passes have not connected often although they did result in several pass interference calls that helped put points on the board.
Against the Raiders, when Maxx Crosby got consistent pressure on Jordan Love, the passing game went in the opposite direction. According to ESPN, of the 30 passes attempted by the Packers Monday night, only five of them were more than five yards down the field. One of those was a 77-yard pass to Christian Watson when the Raiders had a blown coverage.
Even with the emphasis on short passes, the offense was not connecting. Love completed only 16-of-30 passes for the game for 182 yards.
For the season, Love has completed only 55.6 percent of his passes through the first five games.
In short, the Packers have struggled to move the ball using short passes and long passes.
The Packers Have Struggled Early in Games
Because of the lack of an offensive identity, the Packers have struggled to put points on the board early in games. In the first five games this season, the Packers scored only 26 points in the first half. In the last two games, they’ve only scored six points, which came on two Anders Carlson field goals.
LaFleur scripts the first 15 plays of every game but it’s tough to script your plays when you don’t know what works well for your offense.
In the third quarter, the offense has done better but by then, the Packers are often playing from behind and need to get points in a hurry to attempt to get back into games. By falling behind, the Packers effectively also limit their playbook. They are forced to pass often and downfield which makes things easier on opposing defenses.
“We’ve got to find something to get us going, to jump-start us,” LaFleur told reporters after the Monday night loss to the Raiders.
Figuring Out the Future of the Packers Offense
The Packers coaching staff needs to use the bye week to self-scout and figure out what this team does best and how it can be most effective for the rest of the season. LaFleur needs to figure out what Love does best and design plays that fit his strengths.
The young receivers need to get more comfortable in the offense and to adjust to the challenge of playing in the NFL and the offensive line needs to do a better job blocking for the run and protecting Love.
The coaching staff needs to figure out the identity of this offense and what they do best. They also need to create some plays that the offense can turn to when they need a key first down or play.
We knew this year would be a year of adjustments and for inexperienced players to grow into their roles in the NFL. The key for the rest of the season is to see progress and for these young players to start to realize their potential.
Follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers
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