The Green Bay Packers began the 2022 regular season on Sunday with a bit of a clunker in Minnesota. Last Wednesday I predicted a smaller margin in what I assumed would have ultimately been a loss to their NFC North rival, but they looked flatter than expected.
What Happened in Minnesota?
With drops, consistent pressure on Aaron Rodgers, a defense that failed to disrupt much of what Kirk Cousins and the Vikings tried to do, and a few other issues that we’ll get into, we were left with a lopsided victory for Minnesota. It’s reasonable to say “well the Packers offense has always started the seasons sort of flat under Matt Lafleur, no big deal,” but this viewpoint seems to ignore a fairly obvious piece of context.
The context missing in much of the Packers “week one woes” discourse is the fact that, as of this new season that’s upon us, the best receiver in the NFL no longer plays for the Green Bay Packers. I was persistent all offseason in stating that Davante’s absence was a bit overblown, and despite the issues in the loss I won’t be caught overreacting to the first game of a season. However, the reasons I had for saying the offense would be fine didn’t come to fruition… almost at all.
I was steadfast in believing that Aaron Rodgers would see a little more of the field if he didn’t have Davante as a built-in first read on almost every play. As we’ve likely all seen plastered on Twitter, there were quite a few plays that Rodgers left on the field, in instances with and without a ton of pressure.
Now, I won’t put too much stake in this argument, because I can’t claim to know what his progressions were supposed to be, nor what the offensive game plan was. Maybe he was rattled after taking some hits early on in the game because after all, he did have a bit of a makeshift offensive line protecting him. What I do know is that he had guys open on many plays that ended up going nowhere, and the issue wasn’t lack of separation from receivers.
We saw on the Packers first offensive snap that separation wasn’t a terrible issue, because rookie wide receiver Christian Watson torched Patrick Peterson on a deep shot down the field and then failed to catch a surefire 75 yard touchdown. These issues are to be expected, but it obviously hurt to watch in the moment. Rodgers may have lost some trust in the guys who would be running the intermediate and deeper routes and perhaps he glued himself to his first reads or the checkdown options on the field.
What Needs to Change on Sunday?
Green Bay kicks off its home-opener this coming Sunday night against the Chicago Bears, and it is an opportunity for improvement by the home team.
It looks like the makeshift offensive line and the lack of Allen Lazard on the field is still a looming issue, these problems will likely be closer to being solved by the time the Packers travel to Tampa Bay, but there are a few issues that can be alleviated in the meantime.
The Packers will need to put together a cleaner offensive game plan that relies a little less on long-developing plays. Even if the occasional play call comes up that is meant to take some time to accomplish, the hope is that Chicago’s front should create a little less pressure than the Vikings’ did. It also stands to reason that needing the silent count in a loud opposing stadium caused some tempo issues that will be mitigated when the Packers play at Lambeau.
The Packers defense wasn’t as big an issue in Minnesota as some people say, it’s not like they gave up 38 points. What they didn’t do was cause too much discomfort for Kirk Cousins, and hopefully they can put some pressure on Justin Fields and cause him to make some mistakes. The safeties will also need to have a better day than they did in Minnesota, luckily Justin Jefferson won’t be on the field. If I needed to make a prediction, I’d say the Packers defense should be able to hold Chicago to around 17 points, so the brunt of the blame could likely fall on the offense if this game goes poorly.
Aaron Rodgers will need to give his young receivers an opportunity to step up this week. Watson will especially be a key guy to look to, he got open on plenty of occasions against the Vikings, but there needs to be some trust that he won’t make the same mistake he did on the long ball last week.
Getting Aaron Jones more involved was a focal point of Matt Lafleur’s goals moving forward, as well as Rodgers’. This is obviously for good reason, but it should also be said that Tonyan needs a little bit more involvement as well. Getting the ball to the best veteran playmakers will be a key to success just as much as a balance of looking for the other open players on the field.
Overall, I think it’s almost guaranteed that the Packers offense will look better than last week. That’s not to say this is a surefire win though. If the Packers can put some of their mistakes from week one behind them, I think they will win this game 27-17.——————
Zack is a college student and cheesehead from California. When he’s not in class or writing, you can find him talking about the Packers on Twitter at @Zack_Upchurch.