In the team’s first ever trip to London, the Green Bay Packers lost, 27-22, to the New York Giants, blowing a 10-point halftime lead and falling to a 3-2 record. The Packers need an identity and are desperately searching to find it.
Coming into the season, everyone had an idea of how the 2022 Packers were going to operate. The wide receiver room is bare, and a strong running game headed by two talented backs would need to carry a different kind of Packers offense. The defense, on paper, was the best the Packers would field since 2010 and could create a wider margin for error.
Play great defense, run the football, and feel comfort knowing you have the four-time MVP still behind center.
Week 5 is over and all of that is out the window. The Packers haven’t felt this lost since 2018, when they fell to the 2-9 Arizona Cardinals in what would be head coach Mike McCarthy’s final game with the franchise.
The sky isn’t falling the same way it was during that darkest time in the Rodgers era. They have a winning record through five weeks with plenty of football left ahead of them. We’ve become so spoiled that 3-2 may as well be 1-4. It’s not time to hit the panic button.
However, it’s evident that so far, the Packers have no idea who they want to be, and it’s costing them. It’ll cost them more come December and January. They are inconsistent and appear to be scrambling for answers in all three phases of the game.
The defense is volatile and at times seems utterly lost. The Packers hardly blitzed at all their first few weeks of the season, clearly feeling that the amount of pure talent and high draft picks on the unit would allow for a vanilla scheme.
Zone coverage was abysmal to begin the season, so defensive coordinator Joe Barry started calling more man. Even in man coverage and sending a guy or two on the blitz, crossing routes are proving to be this team’s Achilles heel. They simply can’t cover them.
The offense is the unit under a microscope by fans and the media, but the Packers defensive issues are even more puzzling. The talent is there, but none of the three levels of the defense can consistently come to play week to week.
Even more concerning is the fact that Barry appears to have abandoned the scheme he entered the season with. The Packers have transitioned from vanilla Cover 3 to a more man-focused approach, and it still hasn’t been working for them.
The defense has been running a lot of Cover 1 the past couple weeks, especially against New York. In this look they bring a safety into the box to prioritize run defense, yet they’ve been a terrible run defense the entire year and show this look while playing their corners man-to-man about 10 yards off the ball. Why put an extra defender in the box if you’re going to back the secondary up so far away anyway?
For better or worse, the offense is more in line with expectations set in summer, but there’s only so many times we can hear Matt LaFleur and Aaron Rodgers standing at the podium talking about needing to be better and to put together complete games without those results being put on the field.
The strength is the running game, but Rodgers said last week that he’d like to start airing the ball out more. The veteran signal caller has yet to throw for over 260 yards and 2 touchdowns in a single game this season and some frustration is setting in.
Sunday against the Giants, it appears LaFleur obliged, Rodgers was checking out of several runs, or both. Rodgers threw a season-high 39 times, historically a recipe for success for Rodgers-led Packers teams, but New York still won a game in which they were 8-point underdogs.
Though the Packers faced the most stacked boxes they have all season versus the Giants, there were still numerous plays with good run looks that were passed up. Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon combined for only 19 carries in which they posted 97 yards rushing, good for a healthy 5.1 yards per carry. The topic of giving these guys the ball as much as possible comes out of the quarterback and the coach’s mouth every week, so why are they so quick to stray away from it?
It might just be that as long as Rodgers is the quarterback, the offense lives and dies through him. The future Hall of Famer isn’t one to just settle for being a game-manager type of passer. The suggestion that the ball should be taken out of Rodgers’ hands isn’t because he’s lost a step but rather that this offense simply doesn’t have enough weapons around him to lean so heavily on the passing game.
Is the season over? No. It’s still only early October, and the Packers could look very different in a couple months. For now, they’re a broken, wandering team searching for a consistent winning identity.——————
Liam O’Donnell is a devoted Packers fan and an aspiring sportswriter from Milwaukee. He writes for PackersTalk.com and you can follow him on twitter at @liamodonnell___.
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