It was not that long ago that the Green Bay Packers offense was unstoppable.
During the 2011 season, the Packers put up yards (6,482) and points (560) at an unprecedented rate. A ridiculous rate. A rate which resulted in an MVP season for Aaron Rodgers, a 15-1 regular season record, and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.
When the Packers offense took the field that season, it was almost a given that they were going to score.
A big reason for their success that season was the quality of depth at the wide receiver position they were able to trot out week after week after week.
Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson were the “starters”, a term that is loosely used in the Mike McCarthy offense. While they combined for 2,300 yards and 24 touchdowns, the rest of the receiving corp was not too shabby either.
You know things are good when Donald Driver, the Packers all time leading receiver is the team’s number four receiver. You also know things are good when Randall Cobb, a rookie at the time, was the team’s number five receiver.
Things were so good, this receiving group, completed with James Jones and Jermichael Finley, was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated during the Packers’ quest for an undefeated season:
To say things have changed in Green Bay since that memorable 2011 season is an understatement.
Donald Driver retired after the 2012 season. Greg Jennings took the money and ran to Minnesota. James Jones finally has a chance to start in Oakland, departing as a free agent after 2013. Jermichael Finley’s status remains in limbo as he continues to try and restart his career following a spinal injury sustained last year.
The defection of talent from the skill positions on offense has left Green Bay searching for answers offensively in 2014. Seeing the Packers offense ranked 28th through Week 3 is something nobody would have expected.
More importantly, it has also left Aaron Rodgers looking very mortal, something the coaching staff, fans, and Rodgers himself are not used to seeing. A Packers passing game ranked 21st in the league with Aaron Rodgers at the helm is surprising to say the least.
But maybe we should not be that surprised.
Jordy Nelson has more than made people forget about Greg Jennings, fully embracing the role of primary target for Rodgers. After that, things have been far from ideal.
Randall Cobb is a unique talent, but so far this season, his stat line (14 receptions, 126 yards, 9 YPC) has been less than impressive. Even more unimpressive is his inability to get open. This is hurting the offense, and may ultimately hurt him in the wallet as he plays out the final year of his rookie deal before entering free agency.
Jarrett Boykin opened eyes last season while filling in for Cobb when he was injured (49 receptions, 681 yards). The Packers were so confident in his ability they let James Jones walk in free agency. How has Boykin responded so far in 2014? A stellar stat line of 2 receptions for 17 yards, and a severe case of the dropsies.
Davante Adams was drafted in the second round to add depth to this inexperienced group. So far, only his inexperience has stood out.
The Packers have tried to replace Finley and his ability to stretch the field at anytime with the likes of Andrew Quarless, Richard Rodgers, and Brandon Bostick. While Quarless has been fair (8 receptions, 77 yards, 1 TD), the rest of the TEs have contributed exactly zero receptions and zero yards thus far in 2014.
The common theme in all of these examples is the lack of experience in the players the Packers have employed to take the place of those who used to be there.
The Packers offense, in particular its passing game, relies on rhythm and timing. That was the key in 2011, 2012, and 2013. When there are players on the field who have this rhythm with the QB, it is unstoppable. When there are players on the field who are still learning this, you get what the 2014 Packers have displayed so far.
Fortunately the season is still early. There is time to get this figured out. But the Packers need to get this issue fixed ASAP. They need to find a way to establish rhythm on offense. They need to start playing like the offense which put fear into opposing defenses as recently as last season.
They need to do this before the season starts to get out of hand.
John Rehor is a writer at PackersTalk.com.
He can also be heard as one of the Co-Hosts of Cheesehead Radio. ---------------------
He can also be heard as one of the Co-Hosts of Cheesehead Radio.You can follow John on twitter at jrehor or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.