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Midfield Has Become Dead Zone for Packers’ Receivers

“Let’s be honest, the middle of the field is open now. League rules. Big people running down the middle of the field, I’ll make no secret about it. I think that’s a key to offensive success, whether that’s a big receiver or big tight end or s big man running down the middle of the field, making those safeties cover you. It’s an important part of playing in today’s NFL.”
Mike McCarthy, March, 2016

“I’ve talked about it since I got here, the fastest way to the end zone is through the middle of the field, so the bigger target you have going down the field the better it is for your quarterback.”
Mike McCarthy, as reported this week by the AP

Okay fans, when was the last time you saw Aaron Rodgers throw to someone in, or heading toward, the middle of the gridiron? If we count the deep ball to Jordy Nelson that won the Bears’ game, that’s all the more reason to use more midfield crossing patterns.

Over the Green Bay Packers’ current four-game win streak, I can find only four passes, all to tight ends, over the middle – three short passes to Richard Rodgers for 10, eight, and seven yards, and one mid-range slant pass against the Texans to Jared Cook for 15 yards. K.J. Wright almost decapitated Rodgers on that 8-yarder, for which he drew a 3-yard penalty and was fined $48,620.

That’s 10 yards of midfield production per game. Didn’t the Packers acquire Jared Cook for the very purpose of exploiting the middle of the field?

Does McCarthy not listen to his own words or is Aaron Rodgers the problem?

The Chicago Bears demonstrated how the middle of the field can be exploited against the Packers. Leading to the Bears’ second quarter field goal, QB Matt Barkley threw over the middle three times, for 15, 11, and eight yards. In the three fourth quarter scoring drives, Barkley had five completions, for 62 yards, to receivers crossing to the middle of the field.

The Packers have two games to go. Now is not the time to hold back, become even more predictable, or allow one-third of the field to remain unused on pass plays.

Jordy Nelson has made hay (and not just at his Kansas farm) going over the middle for his entire career – until this year. Davante Adams’ best play used to be the quick slant over the middle – I haven’t seen it all year. Jeff Janis and Geronimo Allison both have the size to exploit this part of the field.

A final reason for passing down the middle: when opponents look at recent Packers’ game film, they’ll see almost nothing in the way of passes over the middle.

Rodgers Shares the Blame

So what is the problem here? McCarthy sounds as if he wants to utilize the middle of the field. Is he not running plays that feature a receiver running a route through that part of the field?


As well as he is playing, Rodgers is the issue here. He simply doesn’t want to throw the ball to the middle of the field.

Rodgers is loathe to throw the ball there. The simple reason is that that pass is more dangerous than throwing to the outside. You’ve got a safety that can break on the ball, more bodies, more traffic, thus, higher potential for a pick.

When Rodgers threw the ball to Jordy against Chicago, the Bears had made the obvious mistake of either not having a safety deep or employing a safety who doesn’t do his job. It was essentially exactly like the outside matchup Rodgers loves — one-on-one, no help over the top.

He’s comfortable making that throw. He feels his accuracy can beat one man. He’s frightened to drop it into a potential hornet’s nest, which is something he did so well down the stretch of the Packers’ last Super Bowl season.

So c’mon Aaron, Fat Mike is begging you!

Rob Born

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



  1. gort December 23, 2016

    No quick passes to receivers on a slant route. That used to be one of the Packers most effective plays. It was almost always good for at least 3 to 5 yards. A broken or missed tackle and it could go for a lot more. Those 3 to 5 yards on 1st down make for better options on the next play and on 3rd down could lead to another set of downs. I seem to recall a recent article where someone (maybe Rodgers) said that all that is needed is more downs and time. Elimination of the the dreaded “3 and out” is the key.

  2. Kato December 23, 2016

    Some of it is certainly Rodgers, fear of a turnover is certainly in play. I think the death of Randall Cobb has also played a role as well.

    1. PF4L December 23, 2016

      That’s what i was thinking when i was reading the article Kato. Then i’m thinking, when writing an article about the lack of passes in the middle, Randall Cobb’s name isn’t even mentioned.

      But of course, the blame is squarely put on Rodgers. Funny thing is, Rodgers never had a problem throwing to the middle of the field before. So…..is he just all of a sudden, scared now, as the writer insinuates? Doubtful.

      Here’s a thought for a story…..how come 2nd and 3rd rate QB’s are always hitting wide open receivers in the middle of the Packers defense. Hmmm.

      Screw that…lets keep shitting on Rodgers, that’s more fun. You guys hear about that e-mail catastrophe?

      1. Robster December 23, 2016

        Every team’s QB is the player mostly responsible for his team’s success or failure, agreed? Ergo, they get the lion’s share of the glory and the blame. I heartily congratulate Aaron for digging his way out of about a year of – for him – below average play. I try to rate players according to their own ability and potential, which for Aaron is off the charts, and he’s got the MVP trophies to prove it. He should be held to a high standard. When Aaron starts slipping back into bad habits that he’s only displayed for one stretch of his career as a starter, I worry and I try to identify the problem. The fact is (or if you prefer the statistics show) the game against the lowly Bears was Aaron’s second worst game in the past ten: 87.1 passer rating. His worst rating in the previous four games was 108.9. I believe Rodgers’ failure to throw to the middle of the field was a significant contributor to his below-average (his overall season rating is 100.3) performance last Sunday. I don’t claim that he’s scared, but I think he has become over-cautious. If Olivia hears that I’m shitting on Aaron, then I’m the one who ought to be scared.

        1. PF4L December 23, 2016

          For some reason, i can’t imagine Rodgers seeing someone open in the middle of the field, then pausing, thinking, nah…i better not…..lol

          1. Chad Lundberg December 23, 2016

            I can totally see that. We have seen that as good as Rodgers is, when he is stubborn, he’s incredibly stubborn. He was making overly cautious throws for a year not too long ago, and refusing to throw to the open man right in front of him in exchange for the much greedier long ball. Why do you think his offensive line is always giving him 4-5 seconds of throw time? Because he’s ignoring the open receivers right in front of him.

        2. Chad Lundberg December 23, 2016

          Rob, JUST HOW MUCH MORE RESPECT AM I ABLE TO GIVE TO A SINGLE PERSON??? You may be the only fan writer of any site or blog that is willing to engage with their readers. Just unreal, this is something we need more of throughout the Packers blogosphere.

          You sir not only write top notch stuff, but you explain your point about as clearly and as perfectly as one can, and then you adequately defend it. Keep it up Rob!!

          1. PF4L December 23, 2016

            When everyone was shitting on Rodgers, some saying he’s finished. I said…..he didn’t all of a sudden forget how to play QB.

            So now…i’ll say he didn’t lose his nerve throwing to the middle of the field. There’s other things that go into it. Rodgers can’t just imagine someone being open, or running the right route, or not dropping a pass. And please spare me with the , this guy was open once, and that guy was open once. when you replayed it in slow motion watching from the 22 game video. It’s not like Cobb is standing in the middle of the field wide open waiting for Rodgers to see him.

            I’ll 2nd Chad’s comment about Rob, and Shawn should also be given props for the same thing. It would be nice for other writers to do the same instead of write garbage, then hide. Lets not bullshit anyone here, the other writers read the comments in their articles.

            They think it’s beneath them because it’s not professional. Well, when i see professional journalism from them, maybe i’ll change my view.

  3. gort December 23, 2016

    I didn’t read the “email” article because I thought it probably was a nothing story. Since you guys keep talking about it, I opened it up. My initial thought was confirmed.

    This article was worth my time, like everything from the Robster. Really like your analysis.

    We all understand that there are risks across the middle, but if Rodgers is the MVP that his history says he is, he should be able to assess the risk vs. reward for any particular play. I don’t want to see him forcing throws, but surely the blocking allows him to at least take a peek. Surely almost every designed pass play includes someone running between he hash marks. First downs and time of possession make the Packers dangerous to other teams with a potent offense. Lack of that almost cost the Bears game.

    I don’t send email to Rodgers so hopefully Olivia doesn’t have minions to hack into the TotalPackers data base to find my email address. Now I am scared too.

  4. PF4L December 24, 2016

    Chad, i just read this from you….

    “Why do you think his offensive line is always giving him 4-5 seconds of time? Because he’s ignoring the open receivers right in front of him.”

    Always gives him 4-5 seconds? He doesn’t have to move and buy his own time? Always 4-5 seconds? WOW…that must be the best line in NFL history.

    The 0-line gives him this time according to you because…..Rodgers chooses to “ignore” open receivers in front of him?

    So, in your world Rodgers has so many receivers open, he can just take his time and pick and chose who to throw to, according to you.

    I’m absolutely fucking speechless over that distortion of reality.

  5. Carl M DeLuca December 29, 2016

    Why are you bitching about the offense at s time it’s working?