NFL team’s often signal what’s in store, strategy-wise, for the upcoming season with the moves they make in the offseason. Teams looking to put more pressure on the QB may draft an edge rusher in the first round or sign a veteran inside linebacker known for his blitzing prowess. Teams looking to focus more on the pass may diversify their wide receiver corps and bring in more pass blocking oriented offensive linemen. Let’s look at what the Packers offseason decision may say about their offense.
Not just more running, but more power running with gap/man blocking. Last season, the team drafted Josh Myers, who is 95th percentile height and over 80th percentile weight for offensive centers, this year they drafted Sean Rhyan. Rhyan is close to 80th percentile size and retains the athleticism the Packers need in offensive linemen.
Without a true number one wide receiver to rely on or one who Rodgers can force it to on RPOs, the Packers may make the run game their base offense. Look for more misdirection, motion, and pin and pull runs. The static zone runs paired with screens to Davante may be out.
Not only is Davante gone, but the coaching staff’s two RPO specialists, Luke Getsy and Nate Hackett are as well. They’ve been replaced by Adam Stenavich, whose origins were in Harbaugh style run offense, and Tom Clements, who was the Packers’ OC when they installed man blocking schemes for Eddie Lacy.
If the team is going to base out of the run, it is imperative that it brings back explosive runs. In 2020, the offense was top 5 in explosive (20 or more yards) runs and last year it was bottom 5. The league figured out the Packers’ RPO game in the 2020 off-season and LaFleur and Steno need to evolve again.
More Downfield Passing
Once the run game gets going, the downfield passing game will follow. Force the safeties into the box and throw it over their heads.
MVS had some of the best deep catching stats when he actually played, but basically no one else on last year’s offense was capable of spreading the field like that. Christian Watson, Sammy Watkins, Romeo Doubs, and Samori Toure can all play the field spreading role this season.
When LaFleur was hired, he repeatedly mentioned how much his offense depended on explosive passes. Now that he has the personnel to pull it off, look for a different type of passing game as well. Not as many one read throws to the number one WR, more true play action, and more long developing plays.
I expect the coaching staff is watching a lot of what the Rams did with Matt Stafford last year. If Cooper Kupp and his 4.62 speed can dominate downfield in this offense, the four speed demons who were acquired this offseason should be able to get open several times a game.
A lot of writing has been devoted to how predictable the defense was last season. If Barnes was on the field, it was obvious what they’d be doing. Once he was swapped out for Burks, the offense could figure out immediately what would be changed. Not enough has gone to how predictable the Packers receivers were.
Davante Adams could line up anywhere, but he wasn’t going to be dominant blocking. MVS was going to run deep routes. Cobb was running the same slot routes. If Lazard motioned into the hip, they were running duo.
The lack of a true number one wide receiver will obviously hurt the offense but having interchangeable players will make it more confusing to the defense. Each receiver can move into the slot, each can block well in the run game, most can run effective deep routes or screens. Even better if Lazard is used more as a tight end with Watson, Doubs, and Watkins. Lazard will have the matchup advantage against safeties or linebackers and each of the three receivers can get open deep.
Mike Price is a lifelong Packers fan currently living in Utah. You can follow him on twitter at @themikeprice.