Matt LaFleur’s record out of bye weeks hasn’t been particularly good. That’s an opinion you’ll probably hear a lot this week, and it’s true that in the first game following a bye, the Packers haven’t played very well in LaFleur’s tenure, in the rest of the games that season, however, the Packers have been great. In three of the last four seasons, the Packers had just one loss following the bye week. In the other, they went 9-3. It’s very likely that the coaching staff cooked a new plan for the Packers offense in the bye week, let’s talk about how the offense may change.
Sweat the Small Stuff
Lately, the offense has been too much get stuffed in the run game and then throw it up downfield on third and long. You can throw it up if you have jump ball receivers, but all of the Packers’ receivers are more finesse and less Anquan Boldin.
To open up both the run game and the downfield pass game, the Packers need to do better at short and intermediate passing. Making the linebackers hesitate in the run game because there could be a slant fired right behind them or making corners play tight coverage because there could be a smoke screen thrown at them at any time will open holes.
In the first few games, Jordan Love’s number one strength was hitting those 10–19-yard passes, specifically to Romeo Doubs. When Christian Watson came back, those passes sort of went away and were replaced by a lot more chuck and duck. Get these types of passes back in the gameplan on early downs. You can still establish the run, but do it on third and short, not first or second and long.
Play Within the Scheme
A lot of analysts have talked about how LaFleur’s offense is a greatest hit type of offense. LaFleur watches all these other teams and steals their best plays. That’s fine and it works particularly well when you have a 15-year starter at QB, but when you have a young starter, you need to play series offense.
That means use the run to set up the pass, use the pass to set up the run, use both to set up RPOs. Don’t just call cool plays over and over and watch them fail. Use earlier plays to set up future plays. This is how the Shanahan scheme has worked for 30 years. There’s no reason to get too cute now.
Another way to help young QBs is with tempo. Get the defense into a personnel package that you like and keep them in it while forcing them to play simple coverages.
Come out in a two or even three tight end set to get the defense to match with base and spread it out, then use tempo. Conversely, put a lot of smaller players on the field and condense the formation, make nickel corners get into the run fit.
You want to do what the defense doesn’t expect. If you’re lining up in a heavy formation on first and ten and running the ball every time, the defense is going to stop the run. If you have the defense on the ropes and you throw a little misdirection at them, you can open holes even with bad run blockers on the o line.
Warren Buffett once said he wanted to invest in the type of business that even an idiot could run, because eventually one will. Run the type of offense that even young mistake prone players can do well in, don’t shoehorn them into the veteran offense you ran the past four years.
Mike Price is a lifelong Packers fan currently living in Utah. You can follow him on twitter at @themikeprice.