Understanding the Slow Start for Green Bay in 2021

After all of the offseason drama that the Green Bay Packers endured with the ‘will-he, won’t-he’ saga of Aaron Rodgers’ career, their Week 1 matchup against the New Orleans Saints was seen as the first true showing of what kind of team was going to show up this year.

Here’s to hoping that game was not an accurate look into what can be expected going forward.

After suffering an absolute 38-3 drubbing, it is fair to say that the 2021 NFL season did not end up starting out how the team had hoped it would. Rodgers was off with all of his targets, the offense as a whole was worse than just inefficient, and the defense was – yet again – a sieve, but this time was led by someone now named Dom Capers or Mike Pettine.

With plenty of work to be done, the team’s Week 2 game against the Detroit Lions can be used as a get-right game, hosting a team on Monday Night Football for their first home game of the season. The Lions underwent a facelift this offseason, welcoming in Dan Campbell as their next head coach and sending Matthew Stafford out of town so he can actually feel what the postseason is like.

But for Green Bay, their awful start to the season can somewhat be compartmentalized, which can easily help this team correct its flaws early on.

Offensive Cohesion

When a team decides to not run out its starting unit for even one snap during the preseason, the hope is that they are all going to be on the same page, and those relationships are fully established in meetings and practices. Unfortunately for the Packers, they were unable to showcase their offensive cohesion at any point during the game.

Starting the year off on such a bad foot certainly can put the team under the microscope even more than needed, but the offense is what is going to help keep this team as one of the biggest Super Bowl threats to come out of the NFC this year (since the defense very much does not).

To justify the lack of team involvement that Rodgers had this offseason, his play in the first game was worse than subpar, against a team that was running out Jameis Winston as its QB. On too many occasions, Rodgers was trying to fit the ball into tight windows, and on his two interceptions, he was nowhere close to being able to even justify the decision-making at that time.

On the ground, Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon were kept in check, and their role transitioned into a passing game one quite early on, eliminating any success they may have had on the ground.

Against the Lions, Matt LaFleur needs to help get Rodgers into a routine early on, working through rhythm throws and establishing a rapport with all of his targets. Combine that with the threat of either Jones or Dillon on the ground, and you have the makings of what can make this team so dangerous.

Defensive Efficiency

Literally any sort of improvements can be made in Week 2 and it will be a better performance than what Joe Barry’s unit produced last week. While expecting Alvin Kamara to have a field day was in the list of nearly uncontrollable outcomes, it was the absolute mastery that Winston demonstrated of the NO offense that was the biggest surprise of the contest.

Barry was not the first choice for LaFleur in his defensive coordinator search this offseason (that honor goes to Jim Leonhard), but the NFL experience and history that Barry brings to the table was something that must have appealed to LaFleur. But, so far into his GB career, Barry has a lot of work to do.

Winston’s five passing scores were inexcusable and downright avoidable, but the team’s reliance on Kevin King as CB2 will continuously be this team’s downfall as long as he holds a spot on the roster. The Saints were even without Michael Thomas, and Winston was still able to pick apart the team, even though his passing yard numbers were quite low for a QB that threw for 5 TDs.

Relying on the strengths of this unit, namely Jaire Alexander and the pass rush, is what is going to help Barry correct the majority of this unit’s shortcomings. Even with Za’Darius Smith being placed on the Injured Reserve list with a nagging back injury, Rashan Gary will need to step up and show why the team took a chance on him and his potential.

Green Bay’s slow start has only been held to one game at this point, and provided they can right the ship against the Lions in Week 2, they should be able to flush some of the bad memories from their first game down the drain.

The biggest part of how successful this team relies on the cohesion of both units – so if the offense is able to capitalize on what could be Rodgers’ final season in Green Bay, and if the defense can actually provide average numbers on a weekly basis, then this team sets itself up perfectly to finally get over that final bump in the road.

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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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