Even with starting undefeated, holes need to be plugged for Green Bay

Hoping to start the season undefeated is obviously the goal every year – however, the likelihood of that happening is quite minute with a first-year head coach at the helm of a team. For the Green Bay Packers and head coach Matt LaFleur, their undefeated start to the season was compounded by their victory over the winless Denver Broncos on a windy, rain-infested Sunday at Lambeau Field.

Three victories against zero losses is a fantastic start to the season for the former Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator, who is still learning how to mesh with Aaron Rodgers. While the two have publicly stated that they have a great relationship, and while there have not been any signs to point to thinking otherwise, learning on the fly about how Rodgers reads defenses and reacts to play calls will help make the offensive play calling that much more efficient.

Rodgers has been tasked with a different role in this team’s offense in 2019, as the importance placed on running the ball has taken the ball out of his hands more often, which ultimately is good. Running Aaron Jones and, to a lesser extent Jamaal Williams, on a more frequent basis will not only make the defense pay attention to the zone running scheme, but it will also keep Rodgers healthy if he is forced to do less because the rest of the offense is doing more.

As a team, 22 carries against 29 throwing attempts shows the commitment to more of a ‘50/50’ commitment by LaFleur and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett. Unfortunately, there are downfalls to each of these areas as well with the pace of the game.

22 carries are fine and all, but compared to last week’s victory against Minnesota which had 32 carries, the efficiency was not there in terms of yardage, even if the quantity was. Last week, Jones handled 23 carries for 116 yards compared to Williams’ 9 for 28, while this week yielded a complete 360 in terms of gameplan, with Williams earning 12 carries against Jones’ 10.

Williams averaged three more yards per carry than Jones did on his way to earning 59 yards compared to Jones’ 19. With LaFleur having made the comment of wanting to get more of an even share across the board for both guys, the carries will be tough to project going forward, even with Jones having found the end zone while running the ball.

Staying on offense, the wide receiver play outside of Davante Adams has been suspect at best, and even Adams has been kept out of the end zone to open the year so far. While his targets have been a bit inconsistent, his target share still features the volume of a WR1 in this offense. 

Marquez Valdes-Scantling hauled in a pretty 40-yard bomb from Rodgers on a free play, but outside of that, he has yet to break out into that WR2 role that he has the talent to. Geronimo Allison hauled in an outstretched touchdown last week but recorded negative yardage on his lone reception. 

Tight end play has not been helping the offense move the ball all that much outside of Jimmy Graham’s touchdown catch against the Bears in week one. Nursing a groin injury, Graham had one target but did not record a catch, and the entire tight end unit (Graham, Robert Tonyan and Marcedes Lewis) combined for two catches for 23 yards. 

Defensively, the play of the entire unit has been a lot better than originally thought, as the free-agent acquisitions have paid big-time dividends so far. Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine has so many new shiny toys at his disposal, and how he uses them has been impressive, to say the least. 

Both Za’Darius and Preston Smith have been disruptive off the edge, pressing the opposing quarterbacks into bad decisions and essentially living in the opposing backfield. The linebacking core, however, needs to shore up its depth and have other players step into larger roles.

Blake Martinez led the team in tackles with 12 on Sunday, but outside of him, the team’s inside linebacker depth chart is a scary sight. Recently-acquired B.J. Goodson from the Giants, seventh-round rookie Ty Summers from TCU and Oren Burks is still recovering from an injury suffered in the preseason. 

Burks has starting potential for this team and played well last season, but this team needs contributions now in that position grouping. Goodson is a run-stopping linebacker but very limited in pass coverage, and Summers is still adjusting to the speed of the NFL after putting together a solid preseason.

Both Jaire Alexander and Kevin King have elevated their game as defensive backs, but Tony Brown, who sits as the team’s third-best corner, still has yet to cross that threshold for the team. His youthful approach to the game of football is really helping this team see a future for him, but he is still lacking certain elements of his game, most importantly consistency. 

Josh Jackson, who was drafted in the same draft as Alexander, has been relegated to dime duties for this team, and while his ballhawk skills leave a lot of potential attached to his name, he has not earned the respect of the coaching staff yet to garner major playing time.

While an undefeated team is a very solid team, the Packers have enough noticeable holes in their current roster to show that there is a ton of work that still needs to be done. If LaFleur is able to get his coaching staff on the same page, then this team will become even more dangerous and more of a threat in the NFC and beyond.

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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

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