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5 Things That Could Make the Green Bay Packers Better

It’s tough to be too critical of the Green Bay Packers in 2019. Fresh off the firing of longtime head coach Mike McCarthy, the Packers started over with the hiring of Matt LaFleur.

By all accounts, LaFleur looked like a solid hire, and with Aaron Rodgers directing a hopefully improved offense, there was optimism again in Green Bay. Nobody really expected the meteoric rise the Packers have enjoyed in 2019, though, with an NFC North title and a championship run within the team’s grasp.

Yet, here they are, sitting pretty as the third favorites to win the Super Bowl odds at most of the best football betting sites online.

The crazy thing is that, despite their amazing success, the Packers seem like they’re not remotely close to where they could be. Green Bay has had an offense that has run hot and cold, a defense that routinely gets gashed by the run and general decision-making and execution that has kept the team from pulling away late in games.

They’re in the playoffs of course and are hypothetically capable of going on a deep playoff run. But so many issues have plagued them that they could use a quick look in the mirror.

Fortunately, a lot of their issues are correctable if they take action immediately. Here are the things the Packers could change right now to give them a serious shot at a Super Bowl run:

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers hands off to RB Aaron Jones

Dec 29, 2019; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) looks to hand off to running back Aaron Jones (33) during the second quarter against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Feed Aaron Jones the Ball

It seems simple, but the Packers have had a weirdly difficult time committing to the ground game. That isn’t to say they aren’t running the ball, but it’s arguable they’re not getting their most dynamic weapon – running back Aaron Jones – the ball enough.

Jones is a far cry from his crazy 5.5 yards per carry average from his first two NFL seasons, but at 4.4 on the year, he’s visibly demanding the rock. Despite being the real deal – not to mention his tendency to create mismatches as a receiver – Jones has exceeded 19 carries just once all year.

In fact, Jones has topped 20 touches just four times on the season. He’s seen 16+ carries in just three games.

Part of that has to do with matchups and game flow, but it also has a lot to do with the Packers odd infatuation with splitting reps and getting Jamaal Williams field time.

That isn’t to say Williams is useless. He’s a better pass protector than Jones and he’s been plenty capable both as a runner and receiver. His ceiling is curbed, however.

Williams is of the plodding variety. He lacks any real explosion and when he’s on the field, the Packers feel less dynamic.

Jones is too talented to be taken off the field as much as he has been. Hopefully the Packers have been just keeping him fresh and are preparing for a long playoff run fueled by their best back. If they really want to go anywhere, that probably needs to be the truth.

TE Jimmy Graham

Oct 20, 2019; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers tight end Jimmy Graham (80) stiff arms Oakland Raiders linebacker Nicholas Morrow (50) after catching a pass during the third quarter at Lambeau Field. Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Give Up on Jimmy Graham

The Packers invested some cash into the tight end position before last season, but the Jimmy Graham experiment was a failure. Keeping him in 2019 felt like a move to save face, but the results haven’t been much better.

Graham isn’t nearly as explosive as he once was, while his would-be elite red-zone chops have resulted in a lot of dispiriting failures and just three touchdowns.

It would be nice to suggest Graham isn’t utterly useless, but he isn’t bringing much to the table and certainly isn’t a difference-maker anymore at the age of 33.

Green Bay would be better off keeping Marcedes Lewis on the field for his superior blocking and/or allowing more athletic options like Robert Tonyan Jr. and Jace Sternberger more opportunities.

To their credit, the Packers have done that to some degree as the season has worn on. They need to just rip the band-aid off completely, though. The Jimmy Graham of old is no more and the middling waste of space they have on their roster is holding their passing game back.

Geronimo Allison injury against Buffalo

Geronimo Allison (81) is hit by Buffalo Bills cornerback Taron Johnson (24) and had to leave the game after an injury during this play in the second half at Lambeau Field. Dan Powers/Wisconsin via USA TODAY NETWORK

Bench Geronimo Allison into Oblivion

You can argue Jamaal Williams getting meaningful snaps has value. Fine, I’ll slightly concede. Maybe you note that Green Bay is already slowly phasing the rapidly declining Graham out of the offense. It’s better, but not where it needs to be.

But you can’t tell me Geronimo Allison spending the majority of games on the field is a good thing.

The only encouraging thing about Allison’s 54% snap count rate in week 15 is that it was far less than Davante Adams and Allen Lazard. It needs to keep shrinking, however.

Green Bay has weirdly shown an affinity for the terrible slot receiver, who isn’t especially good at any one thing and is truly bad at the basic concepts of football. Allison defies all logic when he hauls in the rare impressive catch or even gets himself open, but he routinely bungles any perceived progress with atrocious drops or fumbles.

Lazard has climbed in front of him on the depth chart and needs to be a permanent fixture of two-receiver sets. Jake Kumerow is slowly eating away as Allison’s field time and that needs to be a faster progression moving forward.

Green Bay made the right call to virtually bench the far more naturally talented Marquez Valdes-Scantling, but he at least offers deep speed and jump ball ability. Allison needs to be next.

Aaron Rodgers at Arrowhead Stadium 2019

Oct 27, 2019; Kansas City, MO, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) throws a pass against the Kansas City Chiefs during the second half at Arrowhead Stadium. Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Tell Aaron Rodgers to Throw the Ball

This has been an issue for the entirety of Aaron Rodgers’ incredible career, but the guy really does hold onto the ball way too long. It led to an insane amount of throw aways in 2018 and when it goes bad, it leads to bad sacks, missed plays and even turnovers.

I get it, part of Rodgers’ weakness is actually his strength. But Rodgers can still tap into his arm strength, improvisation skills and deep ball infatuation; he just needs to pick his spots better.

Rodgers is exceptional at taking care of the football and seeking out the big play. However, his trademark playing style can be a hindrance when it operates outside the confines of LaFleur’s very specific system.

Not only is this offense built to run the ball, eat up easy yards on quick passes and set up the play action, but it simply doesn’t have the capable bodies Rodgers’ hero ball mentality lusts for.

Allison shouldn’t be on an NFL roster. Adams is not a deep ball maestro. MVS should be, but apparently he can’t catch. Graham is straight up washed.

Rodgers doesn’t have the tools to get the job done the way he prefers. That’s unfortunate, but the sooner he just accepts that and fully embraces this system, the better off this offense will be.

What needs to happen is Rodgers needs to take what the defense gives him, avoid bad sacks and get the ball out faster than he has been.

There is no denying that his guys don’t always get open and that chasing a bigger play is tempting. But for the Packers to get better and more consistent, Rodgers needs to be a lightning rod for that identity.

Jaire Alexander

Nov 3, 2019; Carson, CA, USA; Green Bay Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander (23) cannot make a play on a pass intended for Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen (13) during the second quarter at Dignity Health Sports Park. Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Stop Dropping Interceptions

There are several things wrong with Green Bay on the defensive side of the ball. Rodgers probably spoke a bit too soon when he said “we have a defense” after a week one win in Chicago.

He wasn’t completely wrong, though. Jaire Alexander is one of the better young corners in the league, the Smith brothers lead a solid pass rush and Adrian Amos has balanced out an improved safety tandem.

Green Bay’s run defense hasn’t been great, and they can offer up big plays at the wrong times, but overall this unit is better than it was last year. The main thing that set it apart early in the year was its aggressiveness and innate ability to force turnovers, though.

That hasn’t been happening quite as much lately, with the Packers routinely failing to fall on fumbles or dropping easy interceptions. Green Bay is still 5th in interceptions, but they could be first if their safeties and corners would stop blowing amazing opportunities.

Missing out on picks and fumbles hasn’t burned the Packers too badly yet. They did need a couple in that horrible loss to the 49ers, though, and come playoff time, these mental miscues simply won’t be survivable.

Summary

Some of these adjustments are small. Some are even obvious. Some, while surely correct, aren’t all that feasible.

The Packers’ roster is what it is at this point. Their schemes are their schemes. They really need to just do the best they can with what they have.

That’s fine, but there are adjustments, narratives or philosophies that can be avoided or tapped into to greatly enhance what the Packers have to offer. Rodgers gives this team a chance no matter what. He has a stud number one receiver, a running game and an opportunistic defense.

I just don’t think the Packers can get very far with the status quo.

Jones needs to be their bread and butter offensively. The offense needs to give Rodgers help by limiting negative producers like Graham and Allison. Rodgers needs to help himself by trusting the system. And the defense needs to catch/fall on the dang ball.

As Green Bay stands, they’re pretty good and perhaps slightly better than anyone wants to admit. I know they’re not blowing everyone away and they’ve been pretty inconsistent, but they’ve been getting the job done more often than not.

That makes the Packers a mild threat just by getting into the playoffs. If they do any of these things in an effort to play cleaner, more reliable football, however, the ending to this season could still be very special.

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Ed Rooney

Just a guy with too much free time trying to help out.

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17 Comments

  1. Stiggy January 6, 2020

    One of your best pieces of work ed. Keep em coming.

    1. PF4L January 7, 2020

      Yea it is.

  2. Kato January 6, 2020

    I have seen some recent developments in recent weeks. Lazard has gotten some looks as the first option in Rodgers progressions. Rodgers is going to need to take some chances with the ball and trust receivers not named Lazard. This offense averaged 32.5 points without Adams and 21 with. I am still not convinced that the receiving options are THAT bad.
    ******
    I have been saying for weeks that Graham offers next to nothing. Sternberger needs to be on the field, he provides mismatches. Two weeks in a row he beat his guy deep for what would have been TDs had he even gotten a look. I don’t think that is a fluke, he was drafted in the 3rd round for a reason.

    1. PF4L January 6, 2020

      lol….Weeks?
      Good call my man!!

    2. Stiggy January 6, 2020

      Steinberger didnt earn Rodgers trust on his botched end zone route when Rodgers threw to him that one time.

      In other words… he ain’t getting a look the rest of the season.

      1. PF4L January 6, 2020

        Here, lol…not only that…….But lets get real for a second. Can a guy catch a pass in the NFL, BEFORE we start calling him a mismatch. That one made me smile a lil :)

        I feel the word nightmare coming soon…lol

  3. MMSUCKS January 6, 2020

    It appears that the Packers are getting sick with some sort of bug . . . That NEVER bodes well with stamina and drive. This seems to put them behind the 8 ball right off the bat . . . right now Lazard and Jenkins are down with something.

    1. Deepsky January 8, 2020

      Bakhtiari was on the radio the other day and he said he felt terrible. Now he will go against Clowney, who took out Carson Wentz in the last game. In the past when many of the team have gotten ill, they played terribly.

      Many Packer players had the flu before their 2017 playoff game and got killed by the Falcons 44-21.

  4. Skinny January 7, 2020

    Sterilize that facilty NOW! Send all those fuckers home and have a infectious disease team clean every inch of that place.

    1. MMSUCKS January 7, 2020

      No! The sky is not falling. Lol! Perhaps they should do this! However, have you ever played competitive sports while being sick or just getting over something? You can be half the player that you normally are when this is the case. I was just expressing some legitimate concern over a potentially damaging possibility that NO team needs at this time in their season.

      1. R. Duke January 10, 2020

        A lot of times you feel better after the cleanse. These guys get primo care from the medical people. I agree isolate the players with kids away from the petri dish. 24 hour flu going around from infants to 40 somethings. Most should be ready by Game Time. Kenny Clark is the big concern with his back wrenching up. Hopefully the acupuncturist can free the Chi. Looking for the Pack to lay some lumber on a team that has been pushing max effort since the 49r game. If Brown or Fant doesn’t play Wilson should be on the run and the cold ,windy night doesn’t help his accuracy.

  5. PF4L January 7, 2020

    Here’s one more thing.
    *
    I think it’s been established that top resources have been mostly awarded to the defense over the years. Then a powerball jackpot devoted to defensive free agent signings earlier this year.
    *
    The way to win this game, is getting to Russell Wilson. Particularly, two of our newly acquired outside pass rushers, the Z Man and his counterpart. Well….isn’t this the reason we got them, to be on the big stage? Performing during the season is great….but now it’s the playoffs, now it’s showtime, now is when it matters. (Think Reggie White in the Super Bowl)…(think Clay Mathews in the Super Bowl…it’s time). I believed the Packers can squeak by Seattle at Lambeau from the get go. Time to reap the rewards of these free agent signings.This isn’t the impotent Mike Daniels Packer defense in the playoffs, where no one could make a fucking play.
    *
    IT’S GO TIME.

    1. Kato January 8, 2020

      Yes sir it is. One more added thought. It would be nice to see Adrian Amos step up and make a play too, he got paid too. This defensive front should be able to dominate the offensive line of Seattle. One thing that worries me is Wilson is a bit of a magician, and him running is a threat. The Packers corners play a lot of man to man coverage, with QBs like Wilson defenses are forced to play more zone so their backs aren’t to the LOS as much. Whatever safety they play as a ILB will probably be a spy on Wilson, and they will have to play very well if the Packers want to win.

      1. PF4L January 8, 2020

        Yea…good point…i figured that Lowery and Clark need to get off their blocks and pursue and (try to) stay in front of Wilson. The Smiths also need to be cognizant and take good angles. Clark turned it on the last quarter of the season, he needs to keep it going and show up in the playoffs. Especially Clark because he’s about to get paid.
        *
        They can also spy Wilson (Raven Green?) but that usually opens up the middle a little more. there are a lot of aspects to watch during this game. It should be entertaining, and better NOT be embarrassing (again). We don’t exactly have great Karma against this team.
        *
        Based on past defense’s we’ve had….these boys need to step up and make plays, that’s what i’ll be looking for.

        1. MMSUCKS January 8, 2020

          Clark is out with a back injury DNP today. NOT good, you couple that with an ill-timed flu bug going around the whole Packers locker room and that could spell loss . . .

      2. R.Duke January 10, 2020

        Wilson is now their leading rusher, so expect him to takeoff in designed scrambles and runs. The pack has to contain and hit him often.

  6. Henkster January 10, 2020

    AR needs to play within the scheme to have a chance, quit running around lobbing bombs with very little chance for success. Swallow your pride, it’s not about you.