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Ways to Make the Packers Offense Creative Again

Here’s a memory test for you: before last Sunday, when was the last time you saw the Green Bay Packers’ offense run a creative play?

Of all the comments made on Total Packers, I think the most often-repeated gripe is that the offensive play calling is predictable and uncreative. So what kind of plays might be added to the playbook?

Men in motion/end-around

The Packers will put receivers in motion to keep a receiver from getting jammed at the line of scrimmage, or sometimes to load a formation to one side of the field, but they don’t utilize all the possibilities. When taking a snap, many quarterbacks routinely have a wide receiver sprinting by for an immediate handoff or fake – some teams do this a dozen or more times per game. The motion causes the defense to pause and try to see who’s got the ball. These plays call for a speedy (or shifty) wide receiver – the Packers have six of them (sorry Davante), with Trevor Davis and Jeff Janis being perfect fits.

Reverse or double reverse

When’s the last time you saw the Packers execute one of these? The quarterback sprints to one side of the field while a speedy receiver on that side crisscrosses behind the quarterback and receives the handoff or lateral. This little trick almost always gets 10 or more yards when used against the Packers. During this year’s training camp, Green Bay practiced this at least twice, utilizing Jeff Janis. Maybe it’s being saved for a rainy day.

Shovel pass

The Cardinals saved this play for a special occasion, and Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald ran it to perfection at the end of the Packers’ 2015 postseason. The Packers have used the shovel pass in the McCarthy era, though mostly when Brett Favre was quarterback. So obviously not for a long time.

Bootleg

This features the quarterback faking a handoff to a running back and looping around in the opposite direction toward the sideline. If no blockers go with him, it’s a naked bootleg. Aaron Rodgers has done this a time or two in the past, but not much recently. It can be either a designed run or have a passing option. It’s particularly effective near the goal line, when the defense is stacked in the box. Rodgers did a bootleg maneuver in the first offensive drive against the Giants, sold the fake nicely, and completed a 17-yard pass to a wide-open Randall Cobb. Rodgers also used a bootleg maneuver for a 2-yard touchdown pass to Richard Rodgers in the Detroit game. Maybe these successes will lead to more such usage.

Halfback (or wide receiver) option

Seldom used, in Green Bay or elsewhere, since the days of Paul Hornung. I still love the play. The ball is handed off or lateraled to the back (or receiver), who starts to run a sweep, then stops and throws to a hopefully wide-open receiver. Randall Cobb, who started out at Kentucky as a quarterback, could execute this play. The Giants actually attempted one on Sunday, but the Packers had great coverage, resulting in Odell Beckham Jr. being tackled for a big loss.

Moving the pocket

Aaron Rodgers in years past would quite often sprint outside the numbers to the right or left to set up to throw. This play variation can provide additional time to throw, offer better vision of the passing routes, and help out blockers defending against a strong pass rush. Rodgers moved the pocket at least once to the left and once to the right last Sunday, with good results.

In almost every case, the above plays call for good timing, but require only short and easy handoffs or throws. An element of surprise doesn’t hurt either. Many offer big gain potential. These plays tend to take pressure off a quarterback, counter a team that blitzes a lot, and provide misdirection to defenses that are over-pursuing the ball.

On Sunday, did we see Mike McCarthy beginning to add some new pages, or at least variations, to the play book? Even the longest journey starts with a first step.

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Rob Born

Smart drafters don’t select the best available players, they fill a team’s positions of greatest need.

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8 Comments

  1. Empacador October 13, 2016

    You missed one. Fire McCarthy.

  2. MJ October 13, 2016

    Nice compendium. I also notice that you have toned it down with the ads on top of ads on top of adds that used to pop new windows open at every attempt to close them. Especially for the latter, thank you.

  3. Chad Lundberg October 13, 2016

    I honestly think the Packers refuse to change things up in their offense is for two main reasons. One, they want to keep Eddie Lacy fresh to the latter part of the season. This is smart, but it’s incredibly stupid to refuse to run Eddie when the team really needs on offensive boost, or when Lacy his having a huge day. And two, the Packers honestly think that anything different from what they try to do is nothing more than a cave-man level of thinking, and stubbornly refuse to try it. They would rather lose the game than ever try to do something that they feel makes them look like primates. In other words, in their attempt to not look like idiots, they become the biggest idiots in the NFL.

  4. Vijay Swearingen October 13, 2016

    Yeah, these plays could work for occasional big gains but it’s risk vs reward. Also, this is a tempo offense which probably explains why they perform best in a no huddle 2 minute drill type of situation. I agree they should simply run the damn ball more (like the Patriots) to set up the short to intermediate throws off play action. However, it would be nice to see more power formations or even the old U-71 formation (Kevin Barry and Ahman Green) where an extra tackle lines up as the blocking TE on one side and the runner follows the blocks to that side simply overwhelming defensive lines with more blockers than they can handle.

  5. Mike October 14, 2016

    Empacador hit nail on head. FIRE the Peanut M & M. Removing that slob is where you start

  6. G October 14, 2016

    What about crossing routes and pick plays? Our WRs struggle to get any real separation in man to man coverage, but I think that’s largely due to the fact that McCarthy basically has them run the same routes over and over….all individual outside routes, 50% of the time back shoulder stops, 50% a mix of either slants or quick hitches or outs. DBs can basically run the routes for them.
    Watch the Patriots play, it doesn’t matter who plays WR for them. They use a combination of motion and quick crossing routes and pick plays routinely and it frees their guys up plus it keeps the LBs and safeties off balance which allows them to exploit the middle of the field. Plus, maybe Rodgers would then get back to his fundamentals and actually go through his progressions the way he’s supposed to and throw the ball on time the way the plays are designed to be run. I think some of the reason he holds the ball so long is because he has no faith in his receivers ability to win in man coverage. I acknowledge that part of his recent regression is also his own fault for letting his fundamentals slip (poor footwork, throwing off balance when he doesn’t need to, happy feet, watching the pass rush, etc), there’s also a large part that I attribute to the lack of creativity in helping our receivers get separation. Our passing game lacks ingenuity and creativity in a big way. Unfortunately, I don’t see Fat Head figuring it out though. He’s too arrogant, stubborn, and idiotic. But, management should have realized this long ago and hired a real offensive coordinator to not only call the plays but also to implement these simple schemes into the passing game.

  7. Deepsky October 14, 2016

    How about the Statue of Liberty, the Flea Flicker, or the Fumlerooksi?

  8. Howard October 14, 2016

    As I have wrote before I would like to see the Packers try to use the fly/jet option with Davis and/or Janis. Like anything it has to work first then you can start running other options off of it. Not saying Davis or Janis is as fast as Harvin but remember how much problem that action caused our D in multiple ways when Harvin was with Seattle? When TT drafted Davis the fly/jet option series was the first thing I thought Davis was drafted for.

    The bottom line is this offense will produce when receivers catch balls that hit them in the hands, Rodgers quits missing throws to open receivers, and running backs quit dancing around in the back field rather than go forward and get what they can. This offensive line is the strength of the offense use it.