What’s wrong with the Packers offense this season?

Aaron Rodgers, Fantasy Football

What’s wrong with the Packers offense this season?

Packer fans this season have been scratching their head as the historically potent Packers’ offense has fluttered and fallen far short of expectations.  Green Bay so far this season is 24th in total yards, gaining only 341 per game. Despite an up-and-down year overall rushing, they still rank 15th in yards per game, getting 111.7 yards per game. The problem has been the passing game, getting only 229.8 yards per game through the air, good for only 22nd overall.

What has been the cause for such a collapse? The answer is three fold: simplistic route trees & play calling, a regressing offensive line, and the lack of a true dynamic weapon have caused this offense to become one that ranks in the bottom third.

Simplistic route trees:

Since Mike McCarthy has handed play calling duties to Tom Clements, the offense has gotten significantly less complicated. Very few crossing routes causing legal pick plays, wheel routes around a receiver who cuts in, bubble screens to wide receivers…the list of unique looks McCarthy had executed for years has dwindled to simple curl and drag routes, as seen above.

Denver was the first to spot this during their bye week and subsequently has given teams a blueprint on how to beat the Packers. Line up man coverage, with bracket (meaning two or more defenders) coverage on Randall Cobb, and do not worry about anything deep. Defenses have been dropping safeties into the box, both to stop the run as well as guard the first down marker because they know Green Bay no longer attempts to hit it deep.

The easiest way to fix this would be at the very least have McCarthy implement the offense, even if it is Tom Clements calling the specific plays. More diversity in route trees and deeper looks will open the door up more for Randall Cobb to get open, though there are other limitations causing the Packers to be unable to consistently throw it deep.

The Offensive line:

The offensive line has been breaking down as the season has progressed. The most obvious reason for the offensive line’s struggles have been injuries. Each member of the offensive line has been dealing with nagging injuries throughout the season, though that can be said for basically every offensive lineman. Still, it appears that the Packers line is playing especially hurt and most likely is the reason for the recent struggles.

Historical trends as well as the first six games the offensive line kept Rodgers for the most part upright and rarely sacked. Since the bye however teams consistently have been getting to him. This is the easiest long-term fix because an off season of rest and some good luck next year will fix this hole.

The lack of a dynamic weapon:

This has been the biggest issue this season for the Packers. This is why Randall Cobb is being taken away and why Rodgers has to keep looking and looking for someone to get open. They physically do not have the capabilities to beat the corners they are matched up with consistently. Take a look at the Packers’ receivers, for the most part they are all 4.5 forty yard dash speeds and range from 6’0″ to 6’1″. Think of these all as more-or-less your, “Greg Jennings,” mold guys. Greg Jennings was so good for the Packers because he worked incredibly hard to give small nuance fakes, utilize perfect timing with his quarterback, and ran in an offense where they would crisscross over the field. We do not have the intricate offense to hide their physical deficiencies.

Take a look at every successful passing attack and what they all have in common is a true mismatch physically either from speed or size. You can go back three years and the only team to do this without one is the Packers. Yes, even when Jordy Nelson was healthy, his recent big play explosion the previous two seasons was from double moves and usually on the free plays when Rodgers would draw a defender off sides. While Nelson will help Rodgers be more comfortable next season, let’s be honest he never was a top flight burner and coming off a torn ACL over the age of 30 means we will see diminished returns. If Nelson came back today with the way the offense is being run and the blueprint the teams have on the Packers, it likely would not make a large difference. Sure, they would get a few more points here and there but he is not a Rob Gronkowski, who when missing the Patriots look like a different team. Or a Julio Jones for the Falcons.

The Packers only solution to this long term is something people have more-or-less speculated on for quite some time, “what would Rodgers do if he had a true number one receiver?” Unfortunately for the Packers those do not grow on trees. What Green Bay needs to do is STOP drafting the same receiver over and over again, instead take someone who may not be that tall but is very fast, like a TY Hilton (5’9″ but 4.34 forty yard dash, third round pick) or someone that may not be fast but is 6’4″ or 6’5″ like a Kelvin Benjamin (28th overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft, so these types of talents are accessible).

A bargain draft pick example would be Martavis Bryant from the Pittsburgh Steelers. Bryant was a raw, underdeveloped talent but ran a 4.4 forty yard dash and is 6’4″. He was more polished in college than Jeff Janis, who incidentally is the closest thing to what the Packers need being 6’3″ tall, with 4.42 speed. Bryant was a 4th round pick, and that kind of talent is available for the first few rounds. Historically, Thompson has selected guys who are not too short but also not tall, and guys who aren’t too slow but are not fast either. He needs to infuse something, either a speedster to take the safeties away from the first  down marker OR a big tall receiver that cannot be covered one-on-one by someone who is four inches shorter.

The Packers could also fix this by simply drafting a physical mismatch at tight end. While Richard Rodgers has had flashes (see Thursday night’s amazing Hail Mary grab; in fact, see it again and again because it was fantastic) he also was on pace to be the third Packers tight end in the modern era to not have over 10 yards per catch. He was putting up one of the worst seasons outside of the redzone for any Packers tight end. This is not a knock on Rodgers so much as a reality check. He’d be fantastic…as the number two tight end or alright as the feature tight end if we had someone on the outside to draw the bulk of the attention.

As it stands, the Packers best hope going forward would be to either have Jeff Janis make a leap forward development wise or by making a bold statement early drafting high impact potential players. While the draft is a crap shoot and no one is guaranteed to succeed, what is guaranteed is that everyone has a limitation when they reach the maximum use out of their physical gifts. Like any sport, the players with the highest upside are those with the highest physical capabilities for growth and development. Instead of drafting a bunch of 6s and 7s who can only ever hope to become near 8s, lets get some 4s and 5s that with good coaching could become 9s and 10s.



As always, go Pack go! Stu Weis -Journalism graduate 2012, Carroll University
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11 thoughts on “What’s wrong with the Packers offense this season?

  1. I think the most obvious conclusion is put JANIS on the field more often–we’ve seen Rodgers throw deep to Janis against Vikings-who had FOUR DB’s covering and Janis still got ahead and open but the throwaway from Rodgers (yeah, Aaron deliberately threw it too deep not expecting a catch but just to stretch secondary) was overthrown. We saw same vs. Lions on Thurs, Janis deep, Rodgers overthrowing the ball again just as he did to James Jones across the middle causing the INT. Utilizing Janis is the only way to change defensive coverage and Pack’s only deep threat, playing him just one, two sets and then ignoring him is allowing defensive to continue pressing WR’s and forcing Rodgers to hold the ball too long, miss rhythm throws. Packers also need to disguise run plays with some misdirection, use more screens–especially TE bubble screens. It wouldn’t hurt to throw in a trick play now and then if nothing but FORCE defense to adjust to a different look–handoff or pitchout to Cobb out of backfield, quick throw back to Rodgers to look deeper down field for option–Rodgers can always throw it away or Cobb to run it should the trick not be open, at least they show something to make defense THINK instead of reacting to what they KNOW is coming. Jet sweep or read option–use a direct snap to RB beside Rodgers–at this point I’d prefer Starks or Kuhn to handle that snap–even that’s shaky with Starks fumbling TWICE against Lions, ANYTHING to force defense into mistakes in cover.

  2. Jordy Nelson’s not a physical match up problem for DBs? You watch the Packers play much the last 4 years? I don’t care how good he looked in his underwear at the combine, Jeff Janis will NEVER be the player Jordy Nelson is. In fact, neither will TY Hilton or K Benjamin. Nelson’s 6′ 3″ nearly 220b and ran a 10.6 100m in high school for crying out loud. Plug Jordy back into the lineup with a somewhat healthier OL and the Packer offense is humming again. It is the only difference from last year. And of course the play calling is different, but it’s not because of the guy calling the plays…they lost one of the best WRs in the league and they’re trying to make up for it with 2nd year guys and rookies who don’t have Nelson’s experience or physical tools.

    1. Jordy Nelson is a very, very good WR but if you honestly believe that him being out is the main issue for this teams offensive failings, it would seem you belong in the audience of a show being taped that claps when instructed.
      The point spreads,which are the most trusting over all in value of a player, in or out of a game, likely has the absence of Nelson moving that number 1-2 points at most.What has moved the spread and the trust in the Packers this season is the total failure of recent weeks and the 6-0 start that wasn’t as decisive as many Packer fans wish to believe.
      Poor play calling, predictability or bad play, whichever eases the pain more, the lack of growth from the recent draft class and the almost total failure of growth from draft classes of older, 3-4 years, have caught up to the team but not as quick as the most recent class of last season.
      The failure of this team to release/cut dead weight and replace in a more efficient manner has been the reason for a decline in play even if the wins already achieved are but illusions of false grandeur.

      1. I agree. I saw the issues with the offense going way back to the SF game and it looked like they were just left unaddressed, being covered up by the win. It was the defense that stepped up big in that game and covered for the deficiencies with the offense. Had they not been satisfied with just the win and looked at the issues and deficiencies early on with fresher schemes and more practice, they would’ve been far better prepared after the bye to take on every one of those teams they lost to.

        Each one of those games were winnable if both the offense and defense were on their “A” game. It just seems so lopsided at times where either the defense or the offense are playing at a high level but rarely have BOTH played at a high level at the same time. That’s something the coaches need to figure out in getting both sides of the ball on the same page in sync and playing at a high level every game. That’s what we’re been missing for quite some time now.

        1. What exactly are the issues and deficiencies that you speak of? Do they possibly have anything to do with the sudden absence of an elite playmaking WR? Guys are dropping balls left and right – does Jordy not have great hands? Guys are having trouble getting separation – is Jordy lacking in that department? Guys are having problems getting YAC – Jordy’s always been pretty good at that. No one’s getting deep – Jordy’s been one of the best in the league at that for a while. Who’s been good at running the back shoulder? – I seem to remember Jordy having occasional success with that. Not only are guys not compensating for Jordy’s production, but others who’ve been productive in the past with Jordy are having trouble finding success…Randall Cobb is struggling now that he’s drawing the focus of the defensive secondaries – Jordy produced 1500 yards and 13 tds against at least the same defensive attention last season.

          How is an “A” game measured. Is it by effort? Is it by results? Is the Packers’ “A” game on offense is pretty much the same whether they have Jordy or not? I find it hard to believe that they’ve had the same problem finding their “A” game for 12 games so far this season simply because they’ve not been practicing enough or coming up with the right schemes.

          It is an indisputable fact that defenses have changed the way they play the Packers because Nelson is no longer out there. They are daring the Packers to throw. Not a bad strategy considering the results I’ve already outlined in the first paragraph above. Results that have had a ripple effect on the entire offense. This has been brought up over and over, but some people still believe it can’t be due to Nelson’s absence because they’re convinced the Packers have an embarrassment of riches at WR or that Rodgers is so amazing he can make any wideout a Pro Bowler. You are overestimating the talents of Rodgers and the other WRs on the Packers, and underestimating Jordy’s talent and worth to the offense.

      2. You’re simply wrong. If you don’t think so, then tell me who exactly has stepped up and filled Nelson’s shoes this season? Defenses sure don’t seem to be game planning to stop Adams or Jones, so some of the extra attention is now focused on Cobb and some is focused on stopping the run. Rodgers basically said teams are daring the Packers to throw. You don’t think a healthy Nelson changes that? Do you think the play calling this year might have been compromised a little because defenses are playing the Packers differently? Or maybe because the Packers don’t have a WR who can get deep this year? Or run the back shoulder? Or hold onto the ball? Or even get open? You also seem to be saying it’s not Nelson’s absence that’s the problem but the lack of development of the young guys who were supposed to step in to replace his production this year. A bit of a paradox there. The truth is Nelson consistently drew the focus of defenses last year and still produced almost 100 catches, over 1500yds, and 13tds while opening up the field for everyone else on the offense. Is the step down from that level of production really only worth about 1-2 points a game? And, what the heck do point spreads have to do with anything?

        1. Nelson is a WR who fights for the ball and has a strong ability for the side line pass but his separation from press is a little above average.Him being on the field with Cobb and another of your choice enables that to be more enabling.Much of Nelsons yards are after the catch because of his speed and that is a reward of his hands in tight cover.
          What I’m saying is the others,whether Nelson played or not wouldn’t be a correct all for what has been seen from the offense.In fact,Nelson not being out would simply make it harder to understand and accept the ill play of this team that goes beyond anything as simple as its the loss of Nelson.
          I love Nelsons play as much as anyone but in no shape or manner is he the main answer or reason for this failing by the offense.This thinking has the scent of Nelson being more responsible for the pass success of the offense more than Rodgers and that is as ridiculous as the sentiment we are debating to begin with.
          Yes,Rodgers is playing bad also but even his issue goes beyond Nelson as the cure.

          1. Maybe you’re nose isn’t working properly. At no point did I state or imply that Nelson was more responsible for the success of the offense than Rodgers. No WR no matter how good they are will ever be more important to an offense than a top QB. So yeah, the Packers wouldn’t be anywhere near 8-4 without Rodgers this season. But I bet they are at least 10-2 with Jordy.

            Haven’t read the scouting report that says Jordy’s just a little above average against press. If only all the other NFL teams had your insight last year. Or the last 4 years for that matter. Seems like they would’ve figured out by now just to man up on Nelson and play press. Maybe the reason it works sometimes is there safety help over the top? Or he’s facing a guy like Revis who gives every WR problems? You know the defensive attention he draws that allows other guys to make plays.

            And sure, Nelson gets plenty of YAC, but he also catches a lot of balls thrown deep. Who’s catching the play action bombs this season? How successful have they been on throws longer than 20 yards this season compared to the last few? The Packers have no deep threat, and no receiver who can do all the things Jordy can do. Not even close. Everything you claim is the problem here….questionable playcalling, Rodgers being off, young guys not stepping up, etc…is the effect of removing an elite receiver from this offense and replacing him with a second year guy, rookies and an aging vet. On top of that, Cobb is not producing with similar defensive attention Nelson got last year because he’s just not as good a Jordy. All the other WRs are NOT producing. And it’s not just Jordy’s production that’s missing, it’s the threat that commands the defensive attention that opens up the field for everyone else.

            Nelson is the only piece missing this year. Sure, injuries happen and players, even ones as good as Rodgers, have off games. But guys play hurt every season, and the Packers offense has shown signs of trouble even through the 6-0 start where the offense got by on free plays and sandlot ball. They are not nearly the same offense without Jordy. Last week’s win was great, but the two top pass catchers by far were a TE and a RB. Nothing is changing anytime soon. Defenses will continue to dare the Packers to throw.

            Even though I had major doubts about it, the conventional wisdom at the beginning of the season was with so much depth at WR Jordy’s loss wouldn’t hurt so much. Next man up mentality. After all, Rodgers was so good, he can make anyone look like an All-Pro, right? Well, it seems as good as he is, Aaron cannot turn water into wine when it comes to receivers. It’s amazing to me how after the last few seasons, Jordy’s still so underrated. He’s surely not be THE MVP of this team, but right now he’s a close second. The idea that this offense would still be struggling like they have been if Nelson were playing and that his presence would only make this mysterious problem more of a mystery is a pure denial of the obvious. Many times the simplest explanation is the correct one.

            1. My nose works fine and so do my eyes. We all know or at least those who admit to it, the Packers have endured the usual things that every team does during a season. Packer fans convince themselves it much worse for them. It isn’t and that is the simplest explanation. The Patriots have lost more players and ‘key’ players on offense and until this week they seem to continue winning. the Packers aren’t winning our opponent is simply losing easier…a huge difference and one that is obvious weekly.

            2. The Patriots and the Packers run two vastly different passing offenses.

              The Patriots use a quick passing attack with a freak at TE who’s matchup problem for anyone. They don’t have a deep threat and by extension much of a vertical passing game. Brady’s not the most mobile guy so they’ve put weapons around him at WR and RB who can get open quickly. He rarely has to hold onto the ball for more than 3 seconds.

              That’s not the Packers at all. They run a far more vertical attack. They ask their WRs to win on all levels, and with Jordy they had a guy who could do it consistently downfield. They have no one right now to replace that production/threat and the offense has clearly suffered greatly because defenses have adjusted and guys aren’t making plays.

              The Patriots never had a guy like Nelson to lose, so I’m not sure how it’s a comparison.

  3. No matter what the issue is … And I think it’s a whole bunch of everything , I just don’t see the pack going very far with Janis , Richard Rodgers , abbrederius, perrilo , and company …. I hope I’m wrong but if not for a Hail Mary this team is fighting for a wild card

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