Clearly this season has not gone the way the Packers envisioned it. They likely never imagined the possibility that with a (mostly) healthy Aaron Rodgers they would be looking at a likely lost season with a trip to the playoffs functionally off the table. The turnaround of the Packers season is going to rely on not only on a complete transformation of Rodgers play at quarterback, but will also require radical changes throughout the team both in personnel and philosophy.
Starting with personnel, the coaching staff is going to have to take a long look at who is producing and who is taking up space on both sides of the ball. The last two weeks have made it clear; Sammy Watkins hasn’t earned any opportunity to keep the starting snap share he’s been getting. He’s consistently running poor routes, dropping passes, and is in general a liability on the field. At this point he’s actively hurting the offense, which does not have the talent to overcome playing with 10 men on the field.
Even with Romeo Doub’s injury likely keeping him out for the foreseeable future and Christian Watson’s recent concussion, it would be better to have Samori Toure, likely practice squad callup Juwann Winfree, and even Amari Rodgers on the field. At least each of them has shown to have some chemistry with Aaron. They all have also shown a much better mastery of the offense than Watkins.
On defense it’s a similar thought process when it comes to personal. Darnell Savage and Dean Lowry both look disinterested in playing assignment sure football. Both have given a lot to the Packers over the past couple of years, but if the Packers want to try turn this season around, they need to lower both players’ roles.
Lowry could give way to rookie Devonte Wyatt, who has been coming on in recent weeks. Even if right now Wyatt is as good as Lowry, his motor cannot be questioned. Additionally, he’s the future for the Packers and Lowry is the past. Wyatt bring hustle and juice to the defensive line. His pass rush alone could help offset the massive loss of Rashan Gary to an ACL tear.
Another injury on defense, Eric Stokes, could help the Packers solve their Darnell Savage problem. Savage has been at his best near the line of scrimmage and with Stokes going down, they now have a hole at nickelback. The Packers could move Savage there and then put Ruby Ford at Safety. While that depletes the Safety depth chart, it could be the jolt Savage needs to salvage his (and the Packers) season.
Philosophically, the biggest changes are going to have to happen on offense. The Packers are trying to be something they just aren’t right now. With the lack of offensive weapons, they are going to need to attack the middle of field and move away from the isolation routes along the sideline. They are just not equipped to consistently win there.
Additionally, the saving of Aaron Jones for later in the season can stop. There isn’t going to be any post-season football for him to be fresh for if they don’t start winning games. Jones is their most dynamic offensive player. He needs to be the fulcrum which the entire offense pivots around. Whether running the ball, screens passes, or even full routes he needs the ball 15-20 times a game at a minimum.
Defensively, Joe Barry already showed some in Detroit what he is going to have to do the rest of the season if he wants to keep the Packers in games. He began calling a more aggressive game, sending blitzes from both the inside linebackers and defensive backs with some success. Additionally, he had is corners playing more aggressively towards the line. The defense is going to have to adjust from a ‘bend don’t break’ defense to a ‘live by the sword, die by sword’ mentality.
The Packers have an incredible hole to dig their way out of. They can’t stick with the status quo or what little chance they have left to salvage the season will go down the drain.
Jordan is a lifelong Packer fan who grew up in Idaho and now lives in Seattle, Washington. You can follow him on twitter at @jordantwolf.