Take away the two heart-stopping Hail Mary’s last year, and the Packers offense often struggled to stay afloat. Too many drops, sloppy routes, a quarterback that never seemed to find the target. It wasn’t pretty, and there were many parts of the 2015 season where we were left scratching our heads.
What a difference an offseason makes.
Don’t get me wrong, the Packers have plenty of room for improvement. Last weekend’s game was far from perfect. But there were enough perfect moments that should give us optimism that the ship has been righted and the Packers are all in for a long post-season drive.
Hello, Aaron. It’s good to see you back.
Rodgers was once again in control of his offense. At times, last year he looked utterly lost and drowning in the Packers’ own offensive scheme. This past Sunday in the victory against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Rodgers showed the poise and confidence that he lacked for much of 2015. Comfortable in the pocket, he wasn’t scrambling for his life (Kudos to Lane Taylor who pleasantly surprised me and rose to the occasion.) He never truly seemed rushed as he went through his progressions. Unlike last year, there were no unintentional (yes, he did throw some passes away on purpose) rocket balls to South America. His laser-sharp accuracy has been resorted and he easily threaded the needle with touchdown passes to Jordy Nelson and an even more jaw-dropping shot to Davante Adams.
Equally important, Rodgers was not hesitant to take off with the ball and sprint to the end zone. The belt was dusted off and Rodgers looked more like the MVP of days past than he has in quite a while.
It wasn’t his best game by any stretch of the imagination but 22 of 34 passes correctly landing in the hands of the receiving corp, no interceptions, two touchdowns by air and another with his own feet, and Rodgers is back in the game and in the thick of it. It was good to see him back to midseason form. It was like 2015 and all the miscues never happened.
The band is back together.
Aside from Jeff Janis in a club, the Packers entered the regular season with a full stable of healthy wide receivers. The were no longer the walking wounded and a band of replacement players. If fans were worried that Jordy Nelson was rusty after sitting out the lion’s share of the preseason and all of the 2015 season, all it took was a touchdown pass to remember that Rodgers still trusts Nelson more than anyone else on the field. He tied Cobb with six passes apiece for most favorite targets.
A healthy Nelson coupled with a rehabbed Randall Cobb (who played all of last season never quite at 100% healthy) truly did help spread out the offense. Throw in Davante Adams who has overcome his case of the butterfingers, a healthy Jared Abbrederis who is taking every advantage of playing time to impress the coaches and a reliable stable of tight ends, and opposing defense are forced to gamble on coverage. While Jared Cook has not had a chance to prove he is the deep threat that Jermichael Finley used to be, he automatically draws coverage away from Cobb or Nelson. Defenses simply cannot bet on leaving him uncovered, because then he will torch things up in the end zone.
Rodgers has excellent chemistry with everyone on the field. From Nelson, his prized journeyman receiver to little padawan* Abbrederis, he trusts each and every one of them this year. With chemistry restored, do not be surprised to see an uptick in total receiving touchdowns this season.
The Incredible Shrinking Eddie.
Maybe he got sick of the fat jokes. Maybe the Packers really did say go on a diet and don’t come back until you’re back to your college playing size. Or maybe they told him to lay off the video games and Adventure Time** and focus more the game. Whatever the Packer made Eddie Lacy do in the offseason has paid off. Returning to camp this summer, Lacy was a lean, mean (?dancing) machine***.
Yes, he only ran for 61 yards on 14 carries (long of 28 yards) and no touchdowns, it’s important to keep in mind that it was 112F on the field that day, and he probably would’ve keeled over and died had they run him any harder. But this was a Lacy that had down more drive and purpose than he did all last season. More nimble on his feet, he did not look nearly as stiff as he did last season. He was explosive and ready to spin. Unlike last year, he wasn’t apathetically plodding for a yard or two. If weight and lack of speed was one problem last year, motivation seemed to be the other. Remember the fiasco in Detroit where he was late to a meeting? This isn’t the same Eddie.
He wants to prove his critics wrong. And if playing with a chip on his shoulder puts him in the end zone all season long, I have no problems with an Eddie Lacy trying to stick it to each and everyone person that has ever cracked a fat joke in his direction.
One victory down, at least 15 more to go. It’s going to be a long season, but the Packers Offense is playing with a newly found sense of purpose and confidence. A victory on the road to start the season is the perfect way to get momentum headed in the right direction.
Silly pop culture references for those playing along at home: