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Green Bay’s Passing Attack Heading Toward a Repeat of 2015

Though the Green Bay Packers were still undefeated after four games last year, the team was averaging only 237 passing yards per game. By game seven the win streak was over. Opponents had become aware of the fatal flaws in the Packers’ offense, the passing attack got worse and worse, and the Packers proceeded to lose six of their final 10 games. Is this a glimpse into the future for this year’s team?

Many think the fatal flaw in 2015 was the loss of Jordy Nelson, but that’s not the whole explanation. What opposing defenses came to recognize and exploit was an across-the-board lack of speed — and field-stretching capability — in the Packers’ receiver group.

To be more precise, what the Packers lacked was “on-field” speed. The Packers had sufficiently speedy, quick, and talented receivers on the roster, but coach Mike McCarthy would not put those players on the field.

Well fans, nothing has changed. After four games in 2016, the situation is not only similar – it has in fact gotten worse. Now the Packers are averaging only 210 passing yards per game, and Aaron Rodgers’ numbers are spiraling even lower than last year’s.

Jordy Nelson is back, but he is not yet back to his old form. He’s a step slower than when he was last in a regular season game 20 months ago. It’s unknown whether he’ll ever regain his former speed, but the truth is that Nelson’s speed (4.51 40-yard dash, 62nd percentile) has never been anything special.

Davante Adams just had a rare strong game, but his lack of speed is apparent via testing (4.56 40) and to the eye. He tries hard, but he simply doesn’t possess the speed to consistently churn out significant receiving yardage in the NFL. Also, because Adams can’t gain much separation from defenders, almost every pass thrown his way has interception potential — this has already proven to be the case twice this year.

Randall Cobb’s quickness and grit saved the day for the Packers against the Giants, but we now expect a return to the defensive scheming and double-teaming that limited his effectiveness in the latter half of 2015.

The situation at tight end is desperate. With Jerad Cook sidelined indefinitely with an ankle injury, the Packers are left with Richard Rodgers, one of the slowest (is anyone slower?) tight ends in the league. Rodgers has five catches for 40 yards through one-quarter of the season. He will likely never match the 58 receptions for 510 yards that he managed in 2015.

When he recovers, Cook’s speed must be put to use. We have to wonder why the team’s offensive strategists failed to meaningfully involve this splendidly fast athlete in the passing game when he was healthy?

And let’s not forget sure-handed Justin Perillo, whose 40-yard dash speed of 4.76 seconds (pro-day) vs. Rodgers’ 4.87 (NFL combine) could not fail to be an improvement. However, he’s barely been allowed on the field.

The running back receiving situation is also headed downhill. In 2015, James Starks and Eddie Lacy combined for 13 catches and 98 yards through the first four games. This year the duo has caught only nine passes for 72 yards. Starks, who has dropped a number of promising screen passes already, is unlikely to come close to matching his fine 2015 regular season productivity of 43 catches for 392 yards.

With the 2015 lessons fresh in mind, how can the Packers’ coaches not see that it is happening all over again?

The Packers have two downright fast wide receivers — Jeff Janis and Trevor Davis. Quite simply, if they are not made a significant part of the offensive game plan, don’t expect more than an occasional temporary resurgence in the play of Aaron Rodgers.

The Packers also have the quick-separating receivers Rodgers needs if he is to ever get his completion percentage and consistency back to anywhere near its former level – but they are taking up four spots on the bench. Janis, Davis, Jared Abbrederis, and Ty Montgomery all have burst and agility metrics that indicate they can achieve open space in a way that Davante Adams and Richard Rodgers are incapable of doing.

The clip of Vince Lombardi that we are often shown has him wailing on the sidelines, “What the hell’s going on out there?” That’s exactly how I feel week after week as I see the team’s slowest receivers take the field while all of its young, exciting, fast, and agile receivers sit and watch.

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Rob Born

Due to Aaron Rodgers’ reckless ways, I’m officially launching the Campaign for GM Gutekunst to Acquire the Best Available (Veteran) Backup Quarterback – NOW.

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5 Comments

  1. MJ October 14, 2016

    Everything backed up with numbers. Nice work, Rob. Keep it up.

  2. PackAttack October 14, 2016

    Rob,

    Nothing is going to get better with the Packers offense anytime soon — there’s arguably a problem in every level of the infrastructure with this team, starting with…..

    #1) Aaron Rodgers – It’s not a secret anymore, Rodgers is regressing (significantly) if his numbers and metrics aren’t substantial enough evidence then watch his mediocre play and deteriorating accuracy on Sundays. Call it coachability, lack of motivation, lack of focus, work ethic, bad timing, poor reads, horrendous ability to get rid of the ball quick — take your pick. Rodgers is as big of a problem as anyone and has been for awhile.

    #2) Play calling – This could be a tie for #1 on the list. The numbers: When someone says the Packers play calling is predictable, here’s what they’re talking about. On 1st and 10 Green Bay calls a running play 87.5% of the time (NFL leader by a WIDE margin, next closest team is Cleveland at 74.6% ). For the second season in a row, Green Bay is top 10 in most 3 and outs, top 10 in most 3rd and long situations and top 5 in worst 3rd down conversion %. Why? Predictability. McCarthy’s continued infatuation to split the run-to-pass 50/50 kills this offense (as well as all rhythm and tempo), no team in the NFL (including Pittsburgh and Arizona) run this close of a split in today’s game. You can’t “win the battle in the trenches” with Eddie Lacey and James Starks, I’m sorry that’s ancient age thinking that Eddie Lacey’s 15 carries (most of them all coming on 1st down) is going to “keep the defense on their toes”. McCarthy very rarely runs (or effectively executes) the screen pass, and when he does — he rarely goes back to it, there’s limited usage of the back-side slant, the crossing routes or formations with no tightends or fullbacks. This is a straight laced, boring offense with very little creativity. Rodgers should be throwing AT LEAST 40 times per/game in this offense (especially with this offensive line), there should be screens, slants, crossing patterns and NON-ISO routes (which I’ll get to later). This is a predictable and boring offense that is statistically stagnant and slow.

    #3 – Personnel – Whomever thought Jordy Nelson was the cure-all to last years offensive fiasco were in for a rude awakening. No one player has that type of affect on an offense unless your Randy Moss. Jordy Nelson is, and always has been, a slightly above average NFL WR. He’s a caliber tier 2 player — nothing more. The rest of the personnel on this offense is either poor or below average in NFL standards. Randall Cobb is an average NFL player (at best) all this talk about him getting doubled-teamed is laughable. Was he doubled-team last year at times? Sure, but it wasn’t often enough to make him as unproductive as he was. Cobb runs most of his routes out of the slot (as do other great NFL WR like Odell Beckham, Antonio Brown, Larry Fitzgerald, TY Hilton, Jarvis Landry, Eric Decker, Emmanuel Sanders, I can go on and on) and non produced as little as Cobb did last year (and now this year). So what is it? Blame it on his shoulder, play calling, ability to catch balls, Rodgers, whatever —- bottom line is this: good players find ways to make plays and consistently execute — Cobb doesn’t. He’s not overly fast, he’s not overly quick, he doesn’t have great hands, he doesn’t run great routes — and his numbers reflect those statements. Davante Adams is arguably one of the worst receivers in Green Bay Packers and NFL history. He’s on an epic run of absolute horribleness. Another “average skill-set player” with no real tools. Richard Rodgers — who I think we all know what he can and can’t do but then let’s look at the backfield. Eddie Lacey is overweight, he’s not fast and when he’s going good he needs 20+ carries to be effective in (what appears to be) a West Coast offense? He looks more and more like a fit in New York/San Francisco type offense. He’s not an up-tempo type player — the same can be said for James Starks. Another below average skill-set player who started his decline three years yet still gets significant work in this offense regardless of how well he’s able to field and drop 2yd screen passes. How CJ Spiller was blown off for Starks is nothing short of astonishing. So in short — who’s a playmaker in this offense? Who’s dangerous? Who’s the guy who’s going to beat you deep? Who’s going to beat you across the middle? Who’s going to beat you outta the backfield? Looking at this objectively you’ll see that it’s no big mystery why Green Bay is as mediocre as they’ve been. We are mistaking Lacey, Starks, Cobb, Richard Rodgers and Davante Adams as being “good” NFL players and they simply are not. Factor in the poor play of Rodgers and they circus play calling act and you have an offense that ranks dead last in almost every category.

    1. Savage57 October 15, 2016

      No one should ever use the terms ‘creative’ and ‘Mike McCarthy’ in the same sentence.

      In Aaron Rodgers case, the statement ‘one of the best QB’s in the game’ should now be prefaced with ‘was’, as in past tense.

    2. Deepsky October 15, 2016

      That 87.5% run on first down figure is shocking.

  3. Searay October 15, 2016

    You hate to see them lose,but if that’s what it takes to get a new regime..so be it. Thompson and Mcarthy have been living on Favre and Rodgers. It’s really no shock why Favre got pissed and maybe that’s Rodgers problem too. Of course Rodgers can’t bitch because he has an O line now…I am ready for a change..I really would love for them to prove me wrong and turn this train wreck around and start blowing people away…but..it’s Mcarthy and Thompson..their arrogance and stubbornness along with all the other shit going on in the NFL has completely turned me off.