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Here’s Hoping the Packers Don’t Revert to Small Ball

I worry that we’ll see the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears try to dink-and-dunk each other to death with short passes tonight. There are several reasons to think this might be the case.

As I related previously, the Bears have a really inferior group of receivers this year. The longest pass completion by Bears’ QB Mike Glennon to one of his receivers has been to a tight end for 22 yards. Chicago’s most productive receiver has been Kendall Wright, who possesses 4.61 second 40-yard non-speed – he’s gained 103 yards through the air, tied for 86th in the league.

Trailing Wright in productivity is tight end Zach Miller at 98th, Deonte Thompson at 113th, and Josh Bellamy at 116th. Thompson is gifted with strength and blazing speed, but it hasn’t translated to success after five years.

Glennon is averaging 5.75 yards per pass attempt – the very essence of small ball – ahead of only the Ravens’ Joe Flacco. The Bears simply lack the talent to play it any other way.

The Packers’ pass attack is light years ahead of the Bears at this stage. Aaron Rodgers has a yards per attempt average of 7.22, 10th best in the league. He’s already outgained Glennon through the air by more than 350 yards.

As for the Packers’ receivers, Davante Adams has the league’s 17th most receiving yardage; Geronimo Allison is currently 41st, Randall Cobb is 43rd, and Jordy Nelson is 58th. By the way, Jordy was not listed on Tuesday’s injury report, but I concur with some others who felt he was far from 100 percent against the Bengals. I don’t think that quad injury has fully healed.

Should we be worried that Green Bay will copy the Bears by resorting to a game of short passes? I think so.

First, Green Bay has a tendency to get conservative, to take no chances, in games like this. Against poor teams, the Packers’ mindset is often to avoid losing, not to play loose, confidently, and aggressively.

Second, when a quarterback is getting pressured or sacked play after play, it’s natural and sensible to call plays in which the QB gets rid of the ball quickly. That means running short pass routes. After three games, Rodgers is on pace to be sacked 69 times this year. Until the Packers have a healthy offensive line, I fully understand we’ll be seeing a lot of quick passes – but the team should not give up on trying to stretch the field.

Third, the Packers’ yards per attempt to date is deceiving. Seventy-two of those yards came on the “free play” toss to Allison. Another 41 came on the flea-flicker to Adams. Don’t get me wrong, I love that play, as does Tom Brady. Also, a lot of the team’s over 300 yards in each game has resulted from yards after the catch by the shifty receiving corps.

Even with a makeshift offensive line, can Green Bay have some success with some medium-deep or fly patterns? Sure. Good play-action fakery can buy Aaron Rodgers some extra time. Having him frequently roll out rather than sit in the pocket would also allow more time to throw. Another flea flicker (there are a number of types) should allow a receiver to get open well downfield.

There’s also Martellus Bennett. In his nine previous years in the league, he’s had many receptions of from 30 to over 50 yards. He’s fast (4.68 dash speed) for such a big guy, and at 6’6” he’s six to eight inches taller than many defensive backs. But with Green Bay, he’s seldom gone more than five to 10 yards downfield on his routes.

Finally, you know Rodgers will again try to lure the opponent offside, so he can go deep on a free play.

Green Bay has the upper hand over Chicago, by a wide margin, when it comes to passing and receiving talent. I’ll be watching to see whether they aggressively exploit the advantage, or whether they become overly cautious and play like they are trying not to lose.

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Rob Born

I’m with Matt: “You gotta make those chunk plays!”

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2 Comments

  1. MJ September 28, 2017

    I wouldn’t mind. Our

    1. MJ September 28, 2017

      I wouldn’t mind about that. We often complain that our plays have Rodgers holding on to the ball while receivers hopefully win their one on one matchups. Plays that by design allow them to separate or Rodgers to throw quickly (negating the pass rush) would help, and would even give the offense a chance of going into a rythm. When McCarthy used that approach our offense kicked up into gear. And NE routinely does that to lead eternal drives that tire opposing defenses.