The Packers offense has finally broken through. After half a season of dropped passes, missed throws, bad run blocking, and untimely timeouts, the offense has scored over 30 points in each of the past three weeks and is up to second in offensive DVOA rankings. Let’s look at how the offense has changed.
Each of the offenses in the Shanahan system is built around its run game. The Packers’ run offensive DVOA is ranked tenth. That ranking includes two horrific games (against the Saints and WFT) and would be higher without those.
More recently, the team has leaned on AJ Dillon more than Aaron Jones. Jones is a tier one running back and should be a perennial pro bowler, but the Packers focus on athleticism and pass blocking when they choose offensive lineman and Jones just isn’t as consistent as Dillon. With Jones as the lead back you get games where he averages 7 yards per carry and does well in the pass game. With Dillon, you get consistent gains in the run game no matter what.
That said, I, of course, don’t think Dillon should be getting far more touches than Jones. Jones should probably get more on average; he’s getting paid like a lead back. But using Dillon to run the clock in the second half and using more personnel packages where both backs are on the field and Jones lines up in the slot is beneficial to the offense. Give the defense as many looks as possible.
Outside of the Saints debacle, the Packers have been graded pretty well in passing offensive DVOA this season. Aaron Rodgers hasn’t graded as well. Missed passes, uncharacteristic interceptions, and a general lack of chemistry contributed to four games with PFF grades below 70.
Surprisingly, it seems like Rodgers’ toe injury may be what corrected this trend. Since the toe injury his PFF grades are mostly over 80. Staying in the pocket, leaning on quick game, and taking a shot now and then is doing wonders for the pass game. I don’t think any of the team’s remaining opponents will slow down the Packers’ pass game.
The Packers blogosphere has noticed that LaFleur’s play calling has drifted more toward a Rodgers centric type of offense this season. Recently, Aaron Nagler asked the coach about this on the Packers Transplants show.
LaFleur, of course, denied that it had anything to do with a Rodgers demand to come back. But acknowledged, that the play calling had changed because teams changed how they defend the Packers. The Packers had a clear top 3 offense last season, so defenses took time in the offseason to figure out how to defend them.
It takes time to change your offensive strategy and to develop chemistry with your players. As the season has gone on, the Packers haven’t used bread and butter plays from last season as often (think mesh, jet all go HB seam, pony package plays). But they’ve put plenty of other successful plays on tape and are at the point where they can go back to leaning on those plays from last year or lean on new highly successful plays.
Mike Price is a lifelong Packers fan currently living in Utah. You can follow him on twitter at @themikeprice.