Despite Davante Adams missing the past two games with a turf toe injury, the Green Bay Packers persevered, winning against the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions. These conference games will have meaningful implications when it comes to playoff and divisional standings and shows that Green Bay can win when the chips are down.
While the lack of Adams has let the team test its mettle, it’s also highlighted weaknesses in the passing game. The Packers have relied heavily on the running backs, and Rodgers hasn’t had a true receiver step up as a consistent threat.
I still don’t believe the Packers need to give up meaningful assets for a wide receiver, though bodies for depth would be helpful. Instead, the Packers simply need to better utilize the options they have. And it starts with making Marcedes Lewis TE1.
The 35-year-old hasn’t lost a step with age and is one of the most prolific blocking tight ends in the game. But Lewis is more than a blocker: he’s been fantastic in the passing game and has been reliable in big moments. With Jimmy Graham’s struggles, Robert Tonyan being injured, and Jace Sternberger on IR, it’s time for Lewis to see more snaps and be the primary tight end in this offense.
With Mike McCarthy’s offense, Lewis’ usage was baffling. He was asked only to block and received little love in the passing game, losing snaps to Lance Kendricks. Lewis played only 17.69% of offensive snaps, compared to Graham’s 74.02% and Kendricks’ 29.24%.
The former Pro Bowler has been utilized more in LaFleur’s offense, playing 42.09% of offensive snaps (and 3 starts) and eclipsing his 2018 receiving stats by week 2. He’s dominating in the blocking game, but maximized his opportunities in the passing game as well, turning 12 targets into 9 catches for 119 yards. Lewis has 13.2 yards per reception and 5 first downs.
Beyond the stats, we’ve seen him hurdle defenders and have big plans in the slant game, with a particularly enticing big play against the Lions. Lewis is playing outstanding football and is an important leader in the locker room as well. Before Monday’s game, he had a powerful pregame speech, and he’s been a fantastic mentor for Tonyan and Sternberger.
Jimmy Graham’s struggles have been detailed in-depth, so I won’t delve into them too much. But as much as I want to keep rooting for Graham, he is struggling. He’s had troubles catching the ball and getting yards after the catches he does complete. It’s also noteworthy that Graham didn’t practice on Wednesday. But if Matt LaFleur is serious about every position being an open battle every week, Lewis should absolutely be TE1 over Graham right now regardless of injury.
LaFleur relies on the illusion of complexity, a phrase he’s used often. All offseason, I discussed the importance of a true dual-threat tight end to excel in this offense. Lewis is that guy.
The Packers offense is beat up right now, with Adams still not practicing and MVS and Geronimo Allison out as well. That leaves the Packers with a host of UDFA and newly signed veteran Ryan Grant. Green Bay has been able to weather the injury storm by having well-researched game plans and utilizing the personnel available. Lewis is a key part of that equation and has more than earned a bigger role in this offense.Matt Hendershott is a Packers fan and Miller High Life enthusiast from Northwest Ohio. He has a Master of Arts in Media and Communication from Bowling Green State University. You can follow him on Twitter @MattHendershott.