It’s easy to be pretty down on the Green Bay Packers’ postseason chances after a sloppy loss to the Washington Redskins in Week 3. The 31-17 thumping continued what seems like a recent trend of slow starts for Aaron Rodgers & Company.
Despite the poor performance, there are reasons to remain (cautiously) optimistic moving forward. Green Bay killed its own chances with costly drops and penalties, things that can be fixed through practice. The defense got off to a miserable start, but at least Mike Pettine showed he can make adjustments at halftime, as Alex Smith and the Redskins’ offense were rendered ineffective in the second half. The sting of defeat was also slightly lessened by Minnesota’s loss at home to a previously winless Bills team.
But the loss hammered home a fact that likely can’t be fixed through practice alone: the Green Bay Packers are deprived of depth and devoid of talent at many key positions on their roster. Rodgers has covered up these issues for a while, but the game against the Redskins magnified some of these deficiencies with the Packers’ personnel management.
For starters, there were some questionable decisions regarding touches and snap counts that falls on the coaching staff. The most glaring can be seen in the offensive backfield. While Jamaal Williams was not bad on Sunday, he’s still the third best running back on the team. Ty Montgomery provides a better dual-threat, and Aaron Jones has displayed his dynamic running ability.
Jones, coming off a two-game suspension, immediately provided a boost with two long runs upon entering the game. He led the team with 42 yards, but was given just six carries. And Jones has shown that he’s capable of maintaining that production, averaging more than 5.5 yards per carry in 12 games last season. Mike McCarthy’s stubbornness when it comes to adjusting the depth chart needs to change moving forward; the Packers have to let Jones be their main running back.
Elsewhere on offense, the Packers’ tight ends also have to be better. Jimmy Graham is starting to click, but needs to emerge as more of a red zone threat who can make key, contested catches. And Green Bay added Marcedes Lewis to be their second TE, but he’s had just one target through three games. Instead, it was Lance Kendricks, plagued by drops all preseason, who was in the game and made a crucial drop on a perfect third-down pass as Green Bay tried to mount a comeback.
Meanwhile, the offensive line showed (again) that depth is a major concern. When healthy, the unit has shown that it is among the best at pass protection. But after Bryan Bulaga left the Redskins game with an injury, Jason Spriggs struggled mightily to fill in. He was flagged for false start and holding penalties, and was embarrassed by Ryan Kerrigan the the Washington defense on multiple occasions. Already hobbled, Rodgers needs consistent protection. And the team’s lack of depth prevents that if starters go down.
On defense, personnel issues have continued to hinder the unit’s success. The pass rush has been almost non-existent, and players like Clay Matthews (garbage flags notwithstanding) and Nick Perry are paid too much to continuously fail to generate pressure. Kyler Fackrell has been bad, and once again there’s little depth on the roster to help fix that issue in-house.
Looking to the secondary, rookie cornerbacks Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson have played well to begin their careers, while Davon House and the safeties have been liabilities. Kevin King’s return should help the cornerbacks, but Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Kentrell Brice simply need to be better. There are frequently discussed options, like signing Eric Reid or trading for Earl Thomas, to fix safety play, but no clear indications that anything will change soon.
Brice has been responsible for two big plays in consecutive weeks, and has looked indecisive while tackling. Clinton-Dix, despite interceptions in back to back games, has also been pretty bad yet again. But the problem still remains that there’s no help on the way–the personnel issues at safety and pass rusher will probably need fixing through improved performances from the existing roster.
There is still talent on the team, just not as much as many had previously thought. Regression from players like Perry and Clinton-Dix and poor roster management like with Aaron Jones’ touches have hampered the team’s overall ability to be successful, and the game against Washington magnified some of these problems. The Packers’ season isn’t over yet, but Gutekunst, McCarthy, and the rest of the organization need to quickly find ways to fix the deficiencies on the roster or get better play out of their existing pieces.——————
Sean Blashe is a Packers fan who grew up in Bears territory and is currently a journalism and history major at Marquette University. Sean is a writer with PackersTalk.com and you can follow him on twitter at @SeanBlashe .