Before Green Bay’s match-up against New York Jets, I tweeted my prediction and hash-tagged it, #cardiacpack. In the moments prior to kickoff, my thinking was the Packers had been struggling and the Jets had been on the rise. It was going to be a hard-fought, close game. But the Packers would pull it out in the closing minutes leaving Cheeseheads on the brink of cardiac arrest. Now, with the game in the rearview mirror. I’m left wondering if the Packers themselves have a heart problem.
One might expect the Packers to play a little flat after returning home from London without a bye week to soften the landing. But after getting bullied by the Giants at Tottenham Hotspur stadium you would think they would play like a team that had something to prove. However, by halftime, most were wondering if paddles and chest compression would be necessary to revive this team.
Offensive Line is Out of Sorts and a Heart Problem?
It’s cliche, but football is won in the trenches. With this in mind, it’s not a stretch to say this is where the problems begin. Above all the Green Bay Packer’s problems start with the offensive line. While it was anticipated that there would be some struggles. Due to their two best offensive lineman – David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins – needing time to get acclimated following ACL surgeries. However, the problems stretch much deeper. Not only are they playing fundamentally bad football, but the offensive line doesn’t have any “let’s kick some ass” heart to it.
From the start of the season fans, podcasters, and bloggers like myself have been protesting Royce Newman starting at right guard. But with Bakhtiari on the mend and Yosh Nijman having to fill at left tackle and the Packers not having any other proven lineman available Newman was a logical choice. Now with Bakhtiari back in the fold, the question is why is Newman still on the field? Other than arguably the best mullet in the NFL. There doesn’t seem to be a good reason for Newman to be playing.
Time to Make Changes on the Offensive Line
Not all the blame falls at the feet of Newman. Jenkins is not himself at Right Tackle. Despite his struggles there, Packers Coach Matt LaFleur is yet to move Jenkins back to his best position, guard. While Jon Runyan Jr. has been solid and even better than expected at left guard, he did have a poor game against the Jets, giving up four pressures. As a result of these transgressions, it would seem legitimate that changes would be made.
I think the consensus across Packer Nation is that the best five linemen would be Bakhtiari, Runyan, Myers, Jenkins, and Nijman. Where it gets dicey is does Jenkins play at left or right guard. He is probably best at left guard. But that would mean putting Runyan at right guard. Can he play at right guard? The same question is asked about Nijman moving into the right tackle spot. He’s been super solid playing in Bakhtiari’s absence. But is not proven at right tackle.
Without solid play from the offensive line, the running game everyone and their brother is clamoring for will not work. Neither will the passing game. Nothing works.
Coach LaFleur’s Friends Know His Weakness
Jet’s Coach and said to be LaFleur’s best friend, Robert Saleh in his post-game press conference when asked about his halftime speech, more or less said, just keep leaning on the Green Bay Packers and they’ll ultimately give up. That could have been cliche bravado, “just keep giving them body blows and they’ll roll over” type thing.
Or it also could have been a close friend and former colleague knowing the weakness of his in-game foe. It could be argued that San Francisco Head Coach and LaFleur friend, Kyle Shanahan unleashed the same kryptonite in the 2022 NFC Championship Game. Which begs the question, are the Packers soft? And is the reason for their softness their well-groomed, skinny jean wearing head coach? Now I don’t mean to take personal shots at the coach’s personal appearance. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my monthly brow waxing.
Rodgers and LaFleur Wrestle for the Identity of the Offense
But I notice things. Aaron Rodgers often refers to LaFleur as, “Matty.” If the Packers’ offense was rolling right now, this might seem like, ohh shucks, buddy, buddy banter. But watching this offense operate in a disjointed fashion with a seeming conflict in offensive philosophy between Rodgers and LaFleur makes it sound like the MVP quarterback is initiating his dominance in the hierarchy between coach and player. Do the Packers players respect LaFleur enough to go out and kick ass for him. After all, it would be a cold day in Chicago, err hell when Bart Starr referred to Vince Lombardi as anything that didn’t start with coach.
On the verge of a three-game road stretch and coming off two humbling losses does LaFleur have the ability to inspire his team to play with heart, win in the trenches and convince Aaron Rodgers to follow his lead? These are some big questions. If LaFleur can do this, Matty has a shot to get a Green Bay street with his name on it.