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Packers Offense Has Started Slowly, But Is Tracking Upward

Maybe that exhilarating win over a talented and expertly-coached 49er club will be the catalyst the Green Bay offense needs going forward. As things now stand, the offense is a mere shadow of what it was a year ago.

Admittedly we only have a small sampling, but offense-minded Matt LaFleur and his staff have a lot of improvement to accomplish if this team is to make the playoffs, and especially if it is to get a high seeding.

Sep 26, 2021; Santa Clara, California, USA; Green Bay Packers wide receiver Allen Lazard (13) celebrates after wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling (not pictured) caught a touchdown pass against the San Francisco 49ers in the fourth quarter at Levi’s Stadium. Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Since the run game is supposed to set up the passing assault, let’s begin there. Three games in, the Packers are averaging fewer than 80 yards on the ground, which ranks them ahead of only two (pass-heavy) teams, the Steelers and the Bucs. Last season the Pack averaged 132.4 rushing yards per game, good for tenth most in the league, so that’s a drop off of over 50 yards per outing.

Aaron Jones looks as determined and elusive as ever, but he’s seldom been given any open space in which to work his magic. At 3.9 yards per carry, he’s well under his career average of 5.1. Perhaps more screen passes and end-arounds will give him more open space in which to work, rather than a steady diet of rushes between the tackles. As of now, Jones has caught all ten of the balls targeted for him, for an ok production of 75 yards. By comparison, the Lions’ D’Andre Smith has 19 catches for 166 yards (4 for 41 yards against GB), and the great Christian McCaffrey has 163 yards (despite missing over half a game last Thursday). On Sunday, we’ll see another RB who has shown his value as a receiver: the Steelers’ Najee Harris has 20 catches for 149 yards. Harris was the 24th overall draft pick this year.

Jones currently ranks a disappointing 21st in rushing yardage, with 158 yards. The yardage of the top four (Derrick Henry, Joe Mixon, Nick Chubb, and Lamar Jackson) ranges from 353 to 251. Second-year man A.J. Dillon has been lightly used and has yet to break a run for a substantial gain. The same can be said of rookie Amari Rodgers, who has yet to have any impressive rushes, pass catches, or punt returns, though I believe that will change for both players as the year goes on.

Despite Aaron Rodgers hitting his stride in the last two games, the passing game is statistically lagging. Rodgers ranks 18th in completion percentage, and 24th in passing yards per game, at 216.3. Last season, Aaron ranked seventh in yards per game (268.7), and he led the league in completion percentage (70.7%). So far this season, the Packers are averaging just 222 passing yards per game (21st place); by contrast, the Raiders are at 379.7, the Bucs are at 349.7, and the Cardinals, Chargers, Cowboys, Chiefs, and Rams are all averaging over 300.

Yes, though Rodgers and the Packers have been opportunistic in the past two games, Aaron’s overall numbers are in the bottom third of the league. That’s a disparity that’s got to be fixed.

Unless the running game and/or the defense does a complete turnaround, the Packers will need to increase their passing yardage by at least 50 yards per game or they will be outgained through the air by the majority of their regular season opponents.

Want more proof? After three games in 2020, the Pack had gained 864 yards through the air and 515 yards rushing, for a total of 1,379 yards of offense. To date this season, the team is at 666 yards passing and 239 yards rushing, for a total of 905 yards. That’s a whopping 474 fewer yards of offense over the same period. The inescapable conclusion is that, compared to last year, and certainly compared to expectations for this season, the Packers are struggling to get either their ground game or their air game going. The ground game has been well less than half as productive as it was at this point last season.

Some good news, though: the offense has improved from 229 total yards (against a mediocre team) to 323, to 353 (against a fine team in a tough away-from-home venue). Let’s keep that arrow pointing up!

Causes and Cures

Some of the blame might lie with the offensive line, which has undergone a youth movement, but which has also lost its three best players of 2020, two to injuries and one was a salary cap casualty. The trouble with this explanation is that the young players – Josh Myers, Royce Newman, Jon Runyon, and Yosh Nijman – have stepped in and played well.

They are not only quite athletic, but they big bruisers: Nijman tops the scales at 314 pounds, Myers and Newman are at 310, and Runyon is at 307. They all have lengthy and bright NFL futures ahead of them, as they are 26, 23, 24, and 24 years old respectively. I’d say the offensive line has been a thrilling surprise, rather than a major reason why the offense has sputtered. With each succeeding game they should get better – and that’s regardless of when Elgton Jenkins and David Bakhtiari return.

The receiving corps has suffered from a failure to spread the ball around. Adams has been brilliant, catching 25 of 34 throws for 309 yards. The rest of the group, however, has been sporadic, with their targets and catches so far being: Marquez Valdes-Scantling, 16 and 6; Aaron Jones 10 and 10; Robert Tonyan, 8 and 6, A.J. Dillon 5 and 4, Randall Cobb 5 and 4, and Allen Lazard 5 and 3. Given the team’s low number of passes (95), one should not expect big numbers.

It appears that Aaron Rodgers and WR2 and WR3, MVS and Lazard, need to get more in synch with each other. In the meantime, feeding Adams, Jones, and Tonyan has been a good and productive strategy. There’s also no denying that Amari Rodgers has yet to find his footing in the pros. In his only chance, he has one 19-yard reception, so I’m expecting him to get more playing time and have a breakout game soon. The slot position has so far failed to live up to the hype since LaFleur came to town.

After watching several other NFL teams over the last two weekends, it appears to me that Green Bay receivers have been gaining less separation from their defenders than most other teams – and yes, I’m including Adams, though that’s due to being extensively double-teamed. I’m not sure what to make of this random observation.

Sep 26, 2021; Santa Clara, California, USA; Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones (33) is congratulated by quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) after scoring a touchdown during the second quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium. Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

As for Rodgers, I see only two areas for improvement. he and MVS need to hook up on more deep balls, and the primary fault there is obvious: Rodgers has been inaccurate at these throws for more than a year now. I have a feeling that Rodgers is putting too much loft into his bombs to MVS. This causes him to launch the throw before it is clear exactly which path the receiver will take as he completes his breakaway.

As for the second area, quarterbacks breaking out of the pocket and running are one of the hardest things for a defense to control or stop, and one of the easiest ways to convert third downs. In the loss to the Saints, Jameis Winston ran six times for 32 yards, and either three or four of those moved the chains.

There’s a perception that only swift and agile QBs can be useful at running the ball. Leaving aside gifted runners like Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen, and Kyler Murray, we still see guys like Ryan Tannehill helping out the Titans, with 100 yards in 11 carries. Others who have proved to be double threats include the Eagles’ Jalen Hurts (179 yards), the Giants’ Daniel Jones (161), and even 44-year old Tom Brady (4 runs for 20 yards) – all are on NFC teams.

I’m not asking for Rodgers to match these numbers, but I’d like to see a couple of opportunistic runs per game – and of course employing the quarterback’s best friend, the slide. It also serves to keep pass rushers honest – if they don’t maintain their pocket and spacing, quarterbacks should punish them by running through those gaps. I still think the main reason Aaron didn’t run for the first down late in the playoff loss to the Bucs was that he was so unaccustomed to view the run as an option or a weapon that it caused him to hesitate when the field opened up in front of him.

We now should accept as a reality that the Packers aren’t going to dominate most of their opponents this season. Offensively they’ll need to employ all the savvy, fakery, creativity, and cleverness they can muster. That responsibility falls on the architect of the offense, as well as on the play caller: Matt LaFleur and Matt LaFleur.

The way Matt went wild following Mason Crosby’s game winning kick tells me he’s now fully engaged in the pursuit of success in 2021. I fully expect that these initial three games will prove to be a valuable learning experience for a young coach who soaks things up like a sponge.

Tags:
Rob Born

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

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28 Comments

  1. Deepsky September 29, 2021

    Good article. There’s very few holes for the runners to do anything. This Mike Shanahan zone blocking scheme takes a while to learn and while these guys are young , big and athletic, I think they just aren’t comfortable with it yet. Others who know more about football probably can explain better than I can. Not looking absolutely terrible against the 49ers was probably a good sign. The fact that Yosh Nijman (isn’t he a video game character?) wasn’t completely lost against Bosa is a good sign.

    Reply
  2. PF4L September 29, 2021

    It seems to me that when Aaron Rodgers speaks, or doesn’t even speak….some people are obsessed with trying to decipher what he said, or what his silence “says”. Or what they portray him to have “meant” to fit their narrative.
    I’m talking about a number of people, not just one or two.
    People question….
    .
    “Well, what did he mean by that?”
    “Is he saying that………?”
    “Do you think he meant….?”
    Etc.
    .
    Part of that is mentally, Rodgers is on a different level than most.
    Sometimes he’ll leave things under self interpretation as his means of saying something, without blatantly saying it.
    If that makes any sense.
    .
    One thing we do know….when he has something to say, he’s not just talking out of his ass.
    Like his press conference when he got back to Green Bay for camp.
    .
    Nothing i’ve heard seemed so raw, honest, forthright with no pretense.
    I said the same at the time, and plenty of people have echoed that opinion.
    You may not agree with his every line of thought, but ….
    you can’t deny it didn’t come from his heart and soul.
    .
    What happened other times Aaron Rodgers spoke….?
    .
    Remember the R-E-L-A-X statement after starting 1-2 in 2014 when Packer fans were losing their shit??
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qPEcDg6mUsM
    The team then peeled off 11 wins and only 2 losses to rest of the season..
    .
    Then in 2016…after losing 4 games while Packer fans were losing their shit….What did Rodgers say….?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ESYBTuu7o-c
    .
    And what happened?
    They ran the table, pulling out 6 wins to close the season, plus 2 more playoff games for a total of 8 straight wins.
    .
    Then…Week one – 2021, after losing to the Saints….Packers fans lose their fucking minds.
    What does Rodgers say? “It’s just one game”
    ****************************
    .
    37 seconds left, no time outs, ball on the Packers 25 yard line, who ya gonna call?
    .
    Not Brady, he lost to Stafford
    Not Mahomes, he lost to Herbert.
    .
    These guys can tell you who to call….
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G1qk4vl8EWc
    .
    Warning to young QB’s..do NOT watch Aaron Rodgers film – Carson Palmer
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p97io6U7q0I

    Reply
  3. PF4L September 29, 2021

    What’s with all the stats Rob?
    .
    You looking for a stalker?

    Reply
  4. Ferris September 29, 2021

    I say we drop the yards from the first game out of the equation. Like dropping your lowest test score in College. Also I am not sure the 49ers are “expertly” coached. I think nepotism boy gets waaaaayyyyy too much credit. He is under .500 for his career. 33-37 including playoffs. He’s closer to Kliff Kingsbury who is 16-18-1 in his NFL career, than he is to an “expert”. Mike Vrabel is 33-22, I’d take him over nepotism boy in a hot minute. LaFleur is 30-9. He’d need to go 3-28 to catch the “expert”. Kevin Stefanski is 14-7…see where Kyle stacks up. https://www.footballdb.com/coaches/index.html

    Reply
    1. rebelgb September 30, 2021

      Excellent post.

      Reply
  5. Ferris September 29, 2021

    Why are posts not posting?

    Reply
    1. PF4L September 30, 2021

      Because apparently….it’s not worth fixing….i guess.
      .
      Picture….someone giving you the bird.
      .
      Ok, now you got it.

      Reply
      1. Ferris October 2, 2021

        Thanks I’m a visual learner.

        Reply
  6. Dean September 29, 2021

    Maybe defenses have studied the GB 2020 offense and made adjustments — like more 2 high safeties? This only works if the running game is held in check as Rob noted.
    .
    I have a hunch that the lack of preseason games and no crowd noise last year gave a huge advantage to teams with savvy QBs (like Rodgers). This year GB rested the starters while other teams did not and it seems to have taken a couple of games for GB to match the intensity…

    Reply
    1. PF4L September 30, 2021

      Great point Dean, as usual…..
      .
      If a team, like the Packers, with Rodgers and a new young head coach, posses the most potent offense in the league, there is no maybe about it.
      .
      Defensive coordinators have looked at it, studied it, looked for ways to neutralize it, especially upcoming opponents and players.
      Matter of fact, Teams Off. coordinators look at it also, finding ways to copy it or, parts of it.
      .
      That’s why a lot of rookie standouts (see Justin Jefferson) fall off a bit in production their sophomore year. It’s not new to the league in the 2nd year.

      Reply
  7. Tom M September 30, 2021

    Davante Adams was targeted 18 times against the 49ers. Rodgers got away with it because the 49er secondary was god-awful. Your not going to get away with that when you play good defenses. My biggest fear coming into the season was that Rodgers would throw the ball too much to Adams and ignore everyone else. A savvy DC with good personnel can greatly reduce Adams effectiveness thereby frustrating Rodgers. And when Rodgers is frustrated he sulks. Regardless of Aaron Jones stats compared to last year. You ignore Aaron Jones at your own risk. He’s still capable of burning a defense at anytime. If we’re to beat the Bucs or the Rams come playoff time, we’ll have to be much more balanced on offense. Rodgers has to be willing to run the ball and spread the ball around in the passing game. If not, look for an early exit once again.

    Reply
    1. PF4L September 30, 2021

      No…if we beat the Bucs …..Rodgers needs to get the ball out in 2.05 seconds like he (they) did against the 49ers.
      .
      Whether he’s throwing it to Adams, Cobb, Dillon, Jones, Lazard, Tonyan or the beer guy…none of that matters.
      .
      What matters is getting that ball out quickly, moving the chains. and negating the strength of their front 7.
      *********************
      I don’t know if anyone remembers the Rams game last season in the playoffs….
      .
      But the Rams had the #1 Defense in the league in both yards allowed, and defensive scoring.
      But yet….the Rams had 0 sacks, and only 1 QB hit against the Packers.
      The Packers put up 32 points in a victory.
      The Packers had it much tougher against a so called, weaker defense in the Bucs.
      Rodgers picked the Rams apart, and the backs rushed for 188 yards (484 total yards).
      .
      A team stat like that is fine, and it was earned by the Rams defense, no doubt….BUT…
      Sometimes stats only give you a map… the real treasure is found in….how the teams match up.
      .
      Different teams all “match up” differently with each other. That’s why sometimes there is no rhyme or reason to a game, or it’s conclusion..
      .
      Example: Let’s say the Packers crush team C, and team C beat team B, does that mean the Packers will beat team B?
      That’s not how it works.
      It’s about matchups.
      .
      As always….no charge.

      Reply
      1. Dean October 1, 2021

        What PF4L stated about getting the ball out fast is key. If defenses focus on taking away Adams, GB has others like Tonyan, Jones, Cobb that Rodgers is very comfortable getting the ball to. As mentioned above, GB took it to the Ram’s and the GB O. even had success against TB in the playoffs (missed two shots to MVS that could have sent GB to the Superbowl).
        .
        I know GB learned something from the game last Sunday night against SF. Get the ball out fast AND PLAY HURRY up once in awhile. Rodgers mentioned something to that effect this week — in the past they relied on Bak and the other 4 OL to handle the front 4 and drop back deep or something like that. Not having Bak and Jenkins is forcing GB to figure how to play fast — kinda like when Adams missed 6 games GB had to adjust offense…
        .
        GB has started off slower this year; however, if they can learn the lessons from TB, NO, & SF, they will be in a good place to finish strong this season.

        Reply
  8. rebelgb September 30, 2021

    I like Davante, but I have to be honest: I dont think he is even close to the best receiver in football, and the idea that wants to be paid like one is a joke to me. The guy is a workaholic, tough, and a good locker room guy, but he has never been a “separation” receiver and if you look at 75% of the passes he gets from Aaron, I dont know he gets those completions without Aaron as his QB. I think the Packers know this and its why he wont be a Packer next season.

    I guess we can just be happy he’s here this year, and hopefully is part of helping us win a title.

    Reply
    1. PF4L October 1, 2021

      I’ll be brutally honest also…..
      .
      Davante’s 2020 season put him in the conversation as one the best receivers.
      .
      Personally….i think Adams is more a me guy, than a team guy.
      He’s given us a few examples of that over the years.
      .
      With that said….Adams production over the years has been a blessing, without him, what have we had?
      It’s a good thing that Fat Mike and Rodgers believed in him early on, when some Packer fans wanted him gone, or benched.
      .
      To ME…he isn’t worth a long term commitment of 20 plus million.
      To the Packers, as of right now, he’s worth 20 plus million.
      Only because of their negligence of bringing in new talent over the years.
      .
      Amari Rodgers has to prove he’s worthy of being a #1, or 2, or 3 receiver.
      .
      After 3 seasons….MVS is still trying to prove it.
      .
      The dilemma of…should the Packers pay Adams or not….is a problem the team created.
      They don’t have much leverage unless they want to go into rebuild mode.
      Which could happen…to a degree.
      .
      V. O. R.

      Reply
      1. rebelgb October 1, 2021

        Well i agree that he IS worth that to the Packers (20 Million) but I think you missed my point. I think a lot of Adams brilliance comes from playing with Arod, and to some degree Mcfatty and Lefleurs system. Take away those 2 things and I dont see Adams being a top guy like Stefon Diggs, or DeAndre Hopkins. He just doesnt have the speed or the size. Aaron intentionally targets Adams even when Adams is not, or barely open. His ability to make throws that only Adams can catch is an ability few QB’s have in the league, or the confidence to actually throw those passes.

        Personally I think Adams leaves Green Bay next year if Arodge leaves, and some unfortunate team is going to get a 20 Million dollar Morgan Freeman.

        Reply
        1. PF4L October 1, 2021

          I get your point.
          .
          Most (not all) productive receivers fall off a bit after going to a new team, with a new QB.
          Unless they go to better situations like with Moss in New England, or Diggs in Buffalo.
          .
          But we’ve seen time and time again players go to other teams and get paid, then drop off.
          And yes i agree, i see that happening to Adams (depending where he goes).
          But a drop off most likely regardless
          .
          Here’s the thing…..Even Rodger haters (no offense) can see the special relationship and rapport that Rodgers has had with various receivers.
          .
          Rodgers has had 3 different receivers that have led the league in TD catches.
          That doesn’t happen by accident.
          It’s not a coincidence.
          .
          One day…maybe someday…. certain spoiled Packer fans will realize (appreciate) how good they had it with Rodgers at QB.
          .
          Again….V.O.R.

          Reply
  9. Tom M September 30, 2021

    First off, the Rams are a completely different team with Stafford at QB. Golden Tate WR who played with both Russell Wilson and Matthew Stafford said, “if Stafford had played for the Packers instead of Rodgers, Stafford would have won more championships.” That’s a bold statement. And if Stafford beats Rodgers in the playoffs, there may be some validity to that. Just because the Rams beat the Bucs doesn’t mean we will. Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes have won the last two SB. I wouldn’t take too much out of a September loss for either QB. While Rodgers is 0-4 with 8 INT’s in his last 4 NFCC games. It’s great we beat the 49ers but I’d temper the enthusiasm just a bit. Winning regular season games has never been the issue for Rodgers. It’s the playoffs.

    Reply
  10. PF4L October 1, 2021

    “That’s a bold statement.” – Princess
    .
    No, that’s an idiotic statement.
    .
    How well does Tate know the Packers?
    Did he play there?
    Ever wore the green and gold?
    Or is he sticking up for his boy?
    .
    First off…….
    Maybe if Stafford was the Packers QB, none of that embarrassment happens against Seattle at the end of the NFCCG.
    .
    Maybe if Stafford was the Packers QB against the Bucs in the NFCCG, he would have never been sacked or pressured.
    .
    Maybe if Stafford was the Packers QB against the Falcons in the NFCCG, the Packers defense wouldn’t have given up 30 1st downs, 500 yards and 44 points.
    .
    Maybe if Stafford was the Packers QB against the 49ers in the NFCCG, they wouldn’t have run the ball for 285 yards.
    *************************
    Yes…Tate’s statement is pathetic.
    .
    The only thing more pathetic, is you bringing it up, as if there was any legitimacy in the claim.
    But…that’s just you, being you, a moron….isn’t that right cupcake?
    *********************
    And what’s this……..?
    .
    “While Rodgers is 0-4 with 8 INT’s in his last 4 NFCC games.” – Princess
    .
    You talkin bout stats Tommi? Stats? Tommi bringing up stats?
    .
    I thought real men don’t bring up stats?
    .
    What say you? ……Nancy
    *****************
    Yes, Rodgers had 8 interceptions his last 4 NFCCG
    .
    Brady had 7 interceptions in his last 4 NFCCG.
    .
    I guess Brady is a loser just like Rodgers in your mind.
    .
    What say you?….Little man
    .

    Reply
  11. PF4L October 1, 2021

    “if Stafford had played for the Packers instead of Rodgers, Stafford would have won more championships.” Golden Tate via “Packer Fan” Tommi.
    .
    Let me rephrase Tate’s statement (so it makes sense and resembles reality)
    .
    ” if Stafford had played for the Packers instead of Rodgers, Stafford might have Won a Championship….One more than he has now.
    .
    SKOL

    Reply
    1. Mick October 2, 2021

      The last thing I want is to decipher any thing that comes out of Tates’, or S.Diggs’ mouth. I always liked Stafford, he’s tough, smart, and too bad he was drafted by the clueless Lions franchise. Detroit can’t seem to put a competitive roster together. By that I mean, their winningest head coach; in their history, is Wayne Fontes. (66-67-0). Kind of says a lot since the Lions have been in the league since 1930! Back to Stafford, no doubt he is an upgrade over Goff, for the Rams.

      Reply
      1. PF4L October 2, 2021

        What it says is that Lions ownership has been historically horrible in putting the right people in charge in upper management.
        .
        What they have done, is gotten complacent with bad personnel. Not only do they hire the wrong people, they stick with them.
        Forget how he was hired….It took them 9 years to get rid of Matt Millen…9 years…lol

        Reply
  12. Tom M October 2, 2021

    Golden Tate played the game. You did not. Golden Tate also played against the Packers twice a year for however many seasons he was with the Detroit Lions. That makes him uniquely qualified to offer an opinion. You’re fanboys, of course you think otherwise. In your mind the sun rises and sets on Aaron Rodgers. Russell Wilson is often in the conversation for one of the greatest QB’s currently playing the game. Along with Rodgers, Brady, and Mahomes. And rightfully so, he’s in the playoffs year after year. But Tate didn’t mention Wilson from his days playing with the Seahawks. He said Matthew Stafford. Stafford has always been a stud playing for the dumpster fire that is the Detroit Lions. He’s never had a coach as good as Sean McVey or a team as good as the Rams. Stafford destroyed the Bucs. Something Rodgers couldn’t do and he had two shots at it last year. The road to the SB will go thru Los Angels. Where Jalen Ramsey will be licking his chops on those 18 targets to Davante Adams. We’ll find out how accurate Golden Tate is soon enough.

    Reply
    1. Ferris October 2, 2021

      Hey! You used the correct form of YOU’RE!!!!! Once

      Reply
      1. Tom M October 3, 2021

        And here’s another, you’re the comma queen Ferris. See what I did there? Just for you babe…..

        Reply
    2. PF4L October 2, 2021

      “if Stafford had played for the Packers instead of Rodgers, Stafford would have won more championships.” Golden Tate via “Packer Fan” Tommi.
      .
      Let me rephrase Tate’s statement (so it makes sense and resembles reality)
      .
      ” if Stafford had played for the Packers instead of Rodgers, Stafford might have Won a Championship….One more than he has now.
      .
      SKOL

      Reply
  13. PF4L October 2, 2021

    ” Stafford destroyed the Bucs.” – Tommi
    .
    All by himself?
    .
    What does destroyed mean?
    When the Bucs beat Detroit 47-7 in 2020, or when the Rams beat the Bucs 34-24 this season?

    Reply
  14. Tom M October 3, 2021

    Stafford beat the Bucs. When Rodgers beats the Bucs or the Rams then you can talk smack. Until that happens we don’t know. You may think you do, but you don’t. One thing is certain. If we lose to either team you ladies will blame everyone under the sun not named Aaron Rodgers. And if we win it will only be because of the grace and goodness of one Aaron Rodgers. To be continued……

    Reply

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