Last week’s trouncing of the Bears was the most creative game planning of the Packers offense that I remember seeing. The coaching staff utilized both running backs effectively, used plenty of jet motion, back side screens to hold linebackers, and even had a few deep shots lined up. If the play calling can stay this creative, the team can put up points against anyone.
This week Rodgers and LaFleur both hinted at more creativity to come. Let’s go over what the offense may do next.
Fun with fullbacks
The 49ers and Vikings dragged the fullback into the new generation of football. For the last three years, they were the only teams to make use of a fullback consistently. Now the Dolphins are using (former Badger) Alec Ingold in almost every spot of the offense, the Rams ran 19 plays with a wide receiver at fullback and it worked, and the 49ers are up the same stuff with Kyle Juszczyk.
Many Packer fans were surprised when the first split backfield snap last weekend was with Josiah Deguara and Aaron Jones. Deguara was drafted a few years ago to be the Packers version of versatile fullback and has blocked fairly well in the first two weeks.
The Packers have experimented with several fullbacks in the LaFleur era: Dan Vitale, Dominque Dafney, John Lovett, and now Josiah Deguara who is in his third season.
If Deguara can prove to be as reliable as Alec Ingold and Kyle Juszczyk in both the pass and run game, it opens up the offense. The team can use him to go to an empty set even in 12/21 personnel. He can run vertical routes out of the backfield on play action. They may even hand the ball off to him as a change-up every once in a while.
AJ Dillon can also be useful in some of these spots. LaFleur mentioned that he doesn’t want to be seen as a fullback, but he showed in a TD last week that he clearly has the lead blocking chops. Keep going to Pony sets with Dillon and Jones on the field and use Dillon as a lead blocker enough to get him open in the flat on some play actions passes.
Speaking of Dillon, he had a relatively good game against the Bears, but still averaged fewer than 4 YPC. A big part of that average was his usage, in short-yardage situations. I think another boost for the offense will come in games when Dillon is able to break off some longer runs. Remember, he had a faster 40-time than Jones.
Christian Watson started his career on a meh note, toasting Patrick Peterson on a double move and then dropping a sure touchdown. Since then, he hasn’t participated in the offense much (he had single-digit snaps last week) but has shown the ability to run right by opposing corners a few more times.
Training camp superstar Romeo Doubs also hasn’t gotten many looks but did have what Coach LaFleur called possibly the most impactful play in the game last week when he took a WR screen 20 yards on 2nd and 28.
As the team continues to condense the formation and run the ball at will with pin and pull runs, defenses will eventually bring a safety into the box to stop the run. That’s when Watson and Doubs will become important.
Not many teams have challenged Rodgers to hit deep sideline throws to fast receivers in his career and I’m sure he’ll relish the opportunity to pick on young corners attempting to defend the team’s deep threats with no safety help.
Look for the team to also continue to use the two rookie receivers on jet sweeps, screen plays, and other assorted YAC opportunities. I also wouldn’t be surprised if Watson eventually gets the nod at kick returner and Doubs at punt returner. If push comes to shove and Gutey needs a roster spot, I can’t imagine there are many players left above Amari Rodgers.
Mike Price is a lifelong Packers fan currently living in Utah. You can follow him on twitter at @themikeprice.