For once it’s the offense that can’t hold up their end of the bargain in Green Bay. For years the scapegoat was a defense that consistently surrendered big leads and lacked creativity. Now Aaron Rodgers can’t seem to get on the same page as his receivers and Mike McCarthy isn’t successfully implementing his three viable running backs. It’s safe to say the Packers have flipped the script in 2018.
Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine is leading the sixth overall defense this season, up 16 spots from last year. And what was the 23rd overall pass defense is now up to number four. The offseason addition of Tramon Williams and rookie corners Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson have been good investments.
The pass rush has also seen a boost as the team is already up to 16 sacks on the year which is good enough for fifth in the league.
Unquestionably, the defense hasn’t been the reason for Green Bay’s struggles as they sit at 2-2-1 through the first five weeks. For two weeks straight, Rodgers has voiced his frustration with his own play as well the offense’s execution as a whole.
“We have to make the plays throughout the game, not just in crunch time, and I’ve got to play better from the start,” Rodgers said following Sunday’s loss to the Detroit Lions. “And I expect to and I will and we’ve got to give our defense, you know, some more help.”
Rodgers will always be his own biggest critic and it’s not hard to notice even for the average viewer that the two-time MVP looks off. Not only is he missing easy throws, but Rodgers can’t seem to sustain any kind of rhythm. Against Detroit, he operated mostly from a clean pocket, however, holding onto the ball too long resulted into two costly fumbles which led to points.
Rarely has Rodgers benefited from sturdy defensive play, but so far he hasn’t made the most of it. Currently, the Packers offense is ranked 18th in points and 23rd in red zone scoring percentage.
Part of the reason could be his own injuries or injuries to receivers Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison. The two sat out week five’s matchup hoping to be available to face the San Francisco 49ers on Monday night. That left Rodgers with Davante Adams and the three rookie receivers against the Lions.
Another variable could be McCarthy’s inability to commit to the run. While many are fermenting about a lack of touches for Aaron Jones, McCarthy appears to be ok with the distribution of carries with no changes on the horizon.
“There’s more to playing the position than just running the football,” he said Monday.
That may be true, but Jones is averaging 6.1 yards per carry and is only getting eight per game. Clearly, not enough for someone who is that effective.
So not only do they have an issue throwing the ball, but McCarthy and company may want to revisit the run game before the offense gets stuck.
The NFC North is still anyone’s division, but the Packers need to put together strong performances over the next month or so. It’s the toughest part of their schedule which includes the Los Angeles Rams, New England Patriots, and Miami Dolphins.
Time is ticking for Rodgers and McCarthy to keep pace with a defense that is already clicking. If the offense can match their production before it’s too late, this team has the potential to be scary and finish strong.
___________________Brandon Carwile was a Cheesehead at birth. His dad grew up attending games at Lambeau and passed on the legacy. He has covered the Packers for over five years and currently works with packerstalk.com. Find him on twitter at @PackerScribe.