Everywhere I go, on every show I do, everyone wants to know what’s wrong with the Packers? More specifically. what’s wrong with the Packers offense? Especially, what’s wrong with Aaron Rodgers?
As Mike McCarthy has said, there is no easy answer.
It is not about play calling. The head coach is not going to grab the play card and start calling plays again. The solution is not that easy.
Offensively, consider this: If you take away last year’s yardage and touchdown production of Jordy Nelson (out for the season knee injury) and Eddie Lacy (slowed by injury and not as effective so far this season as he was the previous two) you would be taking 3,085 yards and 26 touchdowns right off the top of the highest scoring offense in the league from 2014.
That’s a lot for any offense to overcome, but what is perplexing is it appeared through the first month and a half of the season that the Packers were not going to miss a beat!
In the first six games, the Packers were six and oh, averaged 27.3 points per game, held opponents to just 16.8 to lead the league and had a plus-6 turnover differential.
In the last three games Green Bay is 0-3, scoring just 18.3 points per game, allowing 28 points and just plus-1 on the turnover table.
So what happened?
First off, teams around the league do a great job of scouting, and they began to attack the Packers offense by playing a single safety high, with an extra man in the box and pressing the receivers in man to man on the outside.
The result: the Packers have not been able to run the ball as effectively.
After gaining 120 plus yards a game in the first four games, the Packers have been held under 100 yards rushing in four of the last five.
It is even worse in the last three games: 58 rushing attempts, 208 yards and just a 3.6 average.
Whether it is injuries (he’s had a couple) or conditioning (I am in no position to question that), Lacy has not been the same explosive, productive power back that rushed for over 11 hundred yards in each of his first two seasons.
The added safety in the box by the opposition is no doubt a factor in slowing down the run game.
With the ground game slowed, the Packers are struggling to stay ahead of the chains and the pressure to convert third and long has fallen to the passing attack. The Packers are 18th in the NFL in third down conversions at 36.4%.
In recent weeks it appears the Packers are gong with a little more first down passing to take advantage of the “single safety high” look they are seeing defensively. The problem there is, the receivers have not been able to consistently win their matchups on the outside.
Thus, quarterback Aaron Rodgers has to hold the ball a little longer, extend plays a bit more in an effort to get someone open down field.
The result has been a pass offense trying to get on track without the benefit of a strong running game, and in his last two games Rodgers has 109 combined passing attempts (61 against the Lions), the most in any two game stretch in his career!
One of the key statistics in judging the potency of a passing game is yards per attempt.
Last season, Rodgers posted an 8.43 mark in this category second in the NFL; this year the Packers are averaging 7.25 yards per passing attempt ranking 16th in the league. Rodgers has been first or second in this category in four of the past five years.
Of late Aaron himself, a career 65% completions passer, has been a little off target on a few throws (the guy’s human - who knew?) and his receivers have struggled at times with drops. As a result during this three game losing streak, the Packers are completing just 56.5 % of their passes, posting a passer rating of 86.0 - well below Rodgers’ triple digit career mark.
As for receivers, there are two things the Packers are missing from their high flying days of last year and especially 2011 and 2012.
They miss their lead receiver Jordy Nelson who was not just a deep threat, but also one of the most skilled sideline receivers in the business.
No one in this receiving corps works the sideline like Jordy ,and when Aaron rolls out to keep plays alive, he often would find Jordy coming back for the ball along the sideline.
The other missing ingredient is a tight end that can threaten the middle of the field and not just in the red zone, but also all over the field.
Jermichael Finley was this type of weapon, and the Packers need to find someone who can provide a little of the seam stretching ability that he brought to the offense.
Did you see Justin Perillo in the Detroit game? His five catches for 53 yards including an 11-yard touchdown reception are exactly the type of production/numbers I’m talking about.
We all knew the offense would be a work in progress this season due to the loss of Nelson, but many of us thought by this time of the campaign it would be less work and more progress.