What would you guess the Packers current record would be if you only looked at their injury list? .500? 7-5 maybe? Maybe. What Matt LaFleur, Brian Gutekunst and the bottom half of this roster have done this season to get to 9-3 is simply incredible. Let’s talk about how the Packers can self-scout and come out of the bye week strong for the stretch run.
Packers Look Inward For Improvement
Matt LaFleur and defensive coordinator Joe Barry have done a masterful job preparing this team (aside from week one) this season.
Their game plans have been fresh and kept opposing offenses and defenses on their toes.
But how can the Packers keep things trending upward and not become predictable for the tail end of the season and playoffs?
Throw out the playbook. Well, not literally but NFL defenses (and coaches) make their living on studying tendencies.
The Packers offense has been very good about mixing up tendencies on different downs and distances but they will need to continue to be creative if they want to stay ahead of the chains and opposing defenses.
If you or I can call the play out on offense before it happens that will not bode well for the Packers going forward 😀
After watching Sunday’s game against the Rams and seeing the trick play where Matt Stafford flipped the ball to Cooper Kupp in the flat and then heaved it in the endzone to Van Jefferson for an almost-TD made me wonder why the Packers don’t have a trick play wrinkle or two in the book.
They very well might have one but I haven’t seen it used in a game.
I’ve always thought that a nice wrinkle would be that instead of that often terrible halfback up-the-gut play they call out of shotgun on 2nd- and 3rd & long, they could turn that into a flea flicker once in a while.
I always feel like the truly fearsome coaches have utilized trickery to some extent to gain an upper hand.
LaFleur has been fortunate in that he doesn’t have to rely on smoke and mirrors to win games, but I can’t help but feel like throwing in the unexpected once in a while could help jumpstart the offense when it’s stagnant.
Things seem to be improving in the red zone for the Packers offense. They must continue to build on that if they want sustained success the remainder of the season.
Obviously losing Robert Tonyan to an ACL was a major blow to the red zone offense if for no reason other than he attracted attention in the scoring area.
It was nice to see Rodgers look Josiah Deguara’s way for a TD grab in the Vikings game.
It’s well documented that Josiah is still learning the TE position at the NFL level, but the guy has great raw athleticism and deserves some looks at the goal line even if it’s just to keep the opposing defense honest.
Obviously, when (& if) David Bakhtiari suits up that will certainly help red zone efficiency as well.
The defense has been such a pleasant surprise this season, and praise must be heaped on Joe Barry for his preparation and Brian Gutekenst for his acquisitions of De’Vondre Campbell and Rasul Douglas.
I can’t remember who said it but someone within the organization described the defense that Joe Barry runs as fairly simple for the players to understand. Allowing the players to use their talents to read and react instead of worrying about the minutiae of the scheme.
That’s stuck with me because even if you know little about the subtleties of NFL defensive schemes (that would be me!), you can see with the on-field product that the players are playing with a confidence not seen in years.
Not just the Kenny Clark’s and Rashan Gary’s but all the way down to little known replacement players, you can tell that they’re in a position to succeed.
The defense isn’t without warts, and not many are.
The past couple of weeks we’ve seen the likes of Justin Jefferson, Odell Beckham Jr. and Van Jefferson score LONG touchdowns through the air.
Rasul Douglas and Eric Stokes have played unbelievably well but they have their limitations.
When the Packers play teams with blue chip wide receiver talent they have to give their corners help over the top.
The Vikings game was a little bit worrisome in that they’re a team that has strong running and passing games and I felt like Joe Barry got caught in no-man’s land deciding which one to focus on and did neither particularly well.
That said, the body of Kirk Cousins was usurped by Peyton Manning for a few of those throws.
The Packers have always had their troublesome team and to me it’s still the Tampa Bay Bucs, and I’m still not sure I like the way they match up.
The Bucs are still pretty hurt, but getting healthier. Another team that can run the ball very effectively and spread you out in the passing game.
Barry will certainly have his work cut out for him as there are no easy outs in the playoffs, but can you imagine how much easier he’ll sleep at night if theres word Jaire Alexander or Za’Darius Smith are on their way back.
Run defense is still a sore spot. With the Ravens coming up on the schedule I will be very curious to see how the Packers defense handles it.
TJ Slaton only had 5 snaps against the Rams. Not a formidable Rams rushing attack but still a guy you want to keep getting experience clogging rushing lanes heading into the playoffs.
Equanimeous St. Brown – “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!” -EQ/Al Pacino
AJ Dillon – He can literally just fall forward for five ypc. I’ve never felt more confident going for it on 4th & short or punching it in on the goal line than I do with this young man toting the ball.
Yosh Nijman – It’s thrilling to see things coming together for Yosh, so rarely do you see success stories with “project” players. There’s a starting spot for him in the NFL, somewhere.
Lucas Patrick – Just the embodiment of grit. Erasing Aaron Donald, to the point where Donald attempts a chokeslam on him? I’d say job well done.
Aaron Rodgers 😉 – Ohhh, what’s that? Rodgers name being bandied about in the MVP conversation? Let’s keep the toes to the metal, 12.
Allen Lazard – I know Lazard may not be healthy, but he just doesn’t look like an NFL caliber wide receiver at the moment. Never great at separating, Lazard is pretty much blanketed at all times. When he’s been open he’s had some untimely drops. Need improvement there.
Amari Rodgers – Amari may end up having a great career in the NFL but it’s to the point where the Packers should consider shutting him down because he’s a liability. Hoping Cobb doesn’t miss any time because PR/KR options are limited.
Mason Crosby – Once steady, now leading the league in misses. He’s hooking everything and not pushing his kicks…there has to be something behind that right? Hopeful Mo Drayton can help square it away this week.
Injuries – The Packers have withstood a lot, in outstanding fashion but they are at just about their breaking point with injuries. No more please, let the injury news going forward be about who’s coming back and not who’s going out.
You can follow Adam on twitter at @adamjcarlson28.