Time and time again, the defensive unit of the Green Bay Packers receives the blame from fans for forcing us to play from behind and costing us victories. While the defense has been a likely scapegoat for years, the lack of protection on the offensive line, combined with the lackadaisical starts to games have greatly affected AR’s health and game performance over the years.
Offensive line troubles
The offensive line issue was thought to have been addressed with the additions of David Bakhtiari, T.J. Lang, Corey Linsley, Josh Sitton and Bryan Bulaga, but with both Lang and Sitton leaving for “greener” pastures (Detroit and Miami), the two guard spots were left with gaping holes that haven’t been solidly sewn up since.
While Lane Taylor and Justin McCray have been serviceable, that level doesn’t mesh quite well with the levels of the two bookends and the middle anchor. With both guard positions requiring help on blocking assignments more often than comfortable with, this forces the hand of offensive coordinator Joe Philbin in his blocking layouts.
The simple outlook of, if more help is needed the holes multiply, really puts the GB line under the microscope, and the results aren’t pretty.
Even with Bulaga being healthy, the line has allowed 12 sacks in three games. Averaging four sacks per game is awful, especially for the precarious health of our guiding light behind center. The line has the potential to be one of the better ones in the league, but when both Lang and Sitton left, the potential quickly decreased and once again the weight of the world was put on the gunslinger’s shoulders.
Slow starts lead to facing an early deficit
With the team coming out of the gates lacking conviction, and seemingly treating the opening few drives/quarter as a preseason affair, the team is put behind the eight ball on a consistent basis as soon as the opening kickoff occurs. Having to face a deficit early on changes the flow of the game plan, and without a routine, the offense has to change its pace and play from the get-go.
While Rodgers proved what kind of mastermind he truly is in his historic comeback against the Bears on opening week, that cannot happen every game. Yes, I understand that he sustained an injury and the team didn’t show up while he was in the locker room, but the sheer incompetence that was shown while trying to regroup the offensive unit was unbearable to watch.
Defensively, this normally (but not always) falls into their lap as a unit. Time and time again, it seems like the unit cannot get early stops and that sets the tone for the foreseeable future of the game.
The running game needs to be established earlier on in games, but it cannot be relied on too heavily to jumpstart the offense right away. It seems like there is no happy medium with the play calling when it comes to running the ball, as it is either play after play trying to run it down their throats or abandoning it when it doesn’t lead to big gains only after a few tries.
While the play style of Rodgers calls for the ball to be in his hands more than what Philbin may feel comfortable with, Green Bay has a stable of three quality running backs that can present the defense with multiple looks, either in running plays or helping open up the passing attack from the backfield.
This team has been wasting the prime years of Rodgers’ career, and while this topic has been of regular discussion for a long time now, things need to change.
Rodgers did just agree to an extension that will most likely keep him in Titletown for his entire career, but only having won one Super Bowl while being led by the man from Cal is not just inexcusable, it is incompetent.
By shoring up the game plan, bringing in help (through the draft, trades or free agency) for the offensive line and putting a bigger focus on starting out games fast, the team’s performance will hopefully go from under the microscope to being feared by the league.
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Mike Johrendt has been an avid fan of the Packers ever since he can remember. He is now a writer at PackersTalk and you can follow him on Twitter at @MJohrendt23