Packer Update

Analysis: Offense Still Not Clicking

Green Bay’s high-powered offense has struggled early in the season

The Green Bay Packers are 2-1 1-2. That puts the defending NFC North champions one game behind the division leading Vikings and Bears and tied with the Lions. Here’s my analysis of the offense after three games:

QUARTERBACK: Aaron Rodgers‘ passer rating is down nearly 35 points from last season, and while numbers can sometimes be deceiving, they’re spot on in this instance. The reigning league MVP was spectacular a year ago, but he’s been pretty ordinary through three games. He hasn’t been helped by questionable playcalling, shaky protection, a weak running game and receivers who haven’t been able to get separation, but he’s also made his share of poor decisions and throws. Rodgers hasn’t looked particularly sharp since the start of camp. If he doesn’t get a lot better in a hurry, this season will end in December.

RUNNING BACK: Cedric Benson‘s numbers are pedestrian, but that’s more a result of below-average blocking by the offensive line. The nine-year veteran is still a good runner who almost always picks up the yards that are there and sometimes finds yards that aren’t there. What he doesn’t do, however, is scare opposing defenses. Benson no longer has the speed to threaten on the second level, so most coordinators aren’t going to feel the need to bring up a safety. That’s why the offense misses James Starks (turf toe). He’s not as instinctive as Benson, but he’s more explosive. John Kuhn has been OK as a lead blocker, but having to use the slow-footed fullback on third downs really limits the passing game.

RECEIVER: Jordy Nelson has been a disappointment through three games. The offense really needed him to step up with Pro Bowler Greg Jennings slowed by a groin injury. That didn’t happen. Last season’s breakthrough star has been unable to get much separation, and even worse, he has allowed himself to get outmuscled by much smaller defenders. Nelson should be better once the real officials return, but it’s pretty obvious that he’s not a legitimate No. 1. Jennings missed the first game and wasn’t much of a factor in the next two. The best receiver so far has been James Jones. The much-maligned veteran hasn’t let grabby corners slow him down. Randall Cobb was very productive against the 49ers in the opener, but he’s barely played on offense since then. Tight end Jermichael Finley has caught a lot of passes (15), but he’s averaging only 8.9 yards. Ed West laughs at that number.

OFFENSIVE LINE: The guards, T.J. Lang and Josh Sitton, have played extremely well. Center Jeff Saturday is about what I expected. He’s certainly not Scott Wells, but he’s been more than adequate. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the tackles. After playing at a Pro Bowl level in 2011, Bryan Bulaga has taken a step back. He opened the season with a pair of mediocre performances, and then was embarrassingly bad in the first half against the Seahawks. The Packers desperately need him to pick up his game. Marshall Newhouse hasn’t been a disaster on the left side, but he simply gets beat too often. The days of not worrying about pressure coming from the QB’s blind side are long gone – at least until Derek Sherrod (PUP/leg) gets totally healthy. His skill set is much better suited for the position.

SPECIALISTS: Tim Masthay is one of the team’s MVPs through three games. That says it all. Other than his last punt on Monday night, he’s been excellent. Mason Crosby is 5 for 5 on field goals and his kickoffs have been high and deep. Long snapper Brett Goode continues to be great at his often underappreciated job. Cobb has one long punt return for a touchdown, but otherwise, he’s been pretty quiet.

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12 Comments to "Analysis: Offense Still Not Clicking"

  1. Hands says:

    It seems like too many players, including Rodgers, haven’t worked their craft during the off-season. I only saw two passes from Rodgers in Monday night’s game that had the zip and fit into tight windows. So far the receivers haven’t made any plays but I also don’t think MM has done anything to adjust to what the defense are showing the Packers. Make the O-line run block and put those pass rushers on their heels.
    Sorry Michael, just venting…agree with what you are saying and also not surprised since the pre-season showed these issues.

  2. Baz says:

    Great analysis.

    Not to sound like an apologizing homer, but I think there are two main challenges the Packers offense has faced in these games.

    First, they have played three defenses with the systems and personnel that are ideally suited to stop exactly what the Packers want to do. All three games we have seen cover-two, safeties deep, man shell, with the corners mostly pressing. All three defenses have absolutely refused to get beat deep, and McCarthy has been slow to respond. He seems to think he can just put his foot on the pedal and pass through it, and it hasn’t been working. Until the Packers can consistently run against the looks they’ve been getting, they will see it all year. Screens, slants, stacked wide outs and more trickery with Cobb with pull defenses up. I disagree that Starks is the answer -I prefer Benson’ steadiness and consistency. Fortunately, most teams on the schedule the rest of the way do not have the players or schemes the first three opponents have.

    Second, the replacement refs have been calling the games differently as you pointed out in a previous post. They’re “letting them play,” which hurts Green Bay’s style and philosophy. That should change when the real refs come back, but the Packers receivers have not done a good job of beating the mauling. The flip side of that is, that style of officiating, while hurting the offense, has also dramatically helped the Packers defense. I expect the offense to score more and the defense to give up more scoring as the real refs return.

  3. Saguaro says:

    I wonder if Bulaga is hurt. Hard to explain his play otherwise. Having Jennings injured has exposed the other receivers. Every team now knows the scheme to slow down this offense. Ever since KC last year the formula has worked all too well. MM had better figure it out soon.

  4. Archie says:

    Your concise analysis if offense is spot on. I have been beating the drum since late in teh pre-season that AROD is not mentally or accuracy sharp this year. All of the factors you point out certainly haven’t helped the cause. I also believe AROD has gone Hollywood. That is a major distraction. I live in NY yet I am bombarded with his commercials and he is at every event, hot spot etc. around the world. He’s a jet-setter now. Football used be #1 in his life year-round. I think he’s lost that. That said, he’s not far out of sync but he has got to get the mental side together.

    Play-calling — let me say, in my mind, the Pack won this game period. They won it with a gritty 2nd half offensive smash-mouth performance and a gritty defense from start to finish. SEA’s offense is not going to win too many awards but the Pack shut them down.

    What was MM thinking in his play calling in the 1st half? Do we miss Joe Philbin? That was total idiocy to not only continue throwing but to try to throw deep more often than not. Rodgers was getting killed and didn’t have a chance to connect down field. Was MM blind to his OL being dominated? This loss was on the referees but before they could steal it away from us, it required a moronic play calling performance in the first half. When will the Packers learn to be balanced offensively until they gain the upper hand? Also, where the hell is all the up tempo no huddle stuff we hear about? I guess he’s holding it back for games when we don’t need it.

    rookie of the year so far for Pack —- jerron mcMillion

    Hayward is a player too. Probably lacks the speed to be a top starting CB.

    The rest of the defensive picks leave much to desire.

    Comeback player of the year – Sam Shields

    runner-up – Tramon Williams

    Disappointments: Finley, Nelson, bulaga, saturday, starks, rodgers (all 6 on offense!!!)

  5. Saguaro says:

    Gotta agree with you Archie & Michael that something is off with ARod. He looks like he’s flirting with a 2008 season. Is it play calling? New QB coach who’s never coached QBs? New Offensive Coordinator? Celebrity distractions? Inability to adjust to bump n run with cover 2? Some personal problem nobody knows about? Who knows? But he needs to get it together or it will be a long season for Green Bay

  6. nick perry says:

    I have to agree with Archie. Every time I look up I see Rodgers AND Jennings on a new commercial. Perhaps if they trained a little harder in the off-season instead of making commercials the results would be different. Perhaps it’s just the fact that they’ve played 3 very good defense’s, or the fired Foot Locker employees let the corners mug our receivers. They say you know what you have after 4 weeks. What I see is a defense that’s playing better, but still hasn’t really played a top tier offense. With that said compared to last year they look like the 85 Bears. As for the offense, it’s almost like they think they just have to show up and they’ll score 35. The offense will click and I hope it’s much sooner than a little later. They miss Philbin who was huge in installing game plains. They have a lot of old coach’s in new spots. Week 4 is where they put it all together folks. They better because if they lose here, they’re 1-3 and 1-3 in conference play. In a 16 game season that’s tough to climb out of.

  7. nick perry says:

    I hope to hear some response’s from you guys on this or what I think would really help. Since last year at K.C., it seems as though teams have slowed the Packers down a bit. With that said I think of what Bill B has done in New England. He doesn’t have the wide receivers the Packers have but what he does have is two very good pass catching tight ends. I think the Packers could run the exact same type of offense with the tight ends they have. They have Finley (If he could just catch the ball) who’s faster than any of the Pats tight ends and is supposed to be the next great TE. They also have D.J. Williams who is a carbon copy of Hernandez as far as size and speed. They could also run out of this formation and run a hurry up. By doing so defense’s need to play the Packers two kind of ways as far as personal. The Packers could catch a team in a personal group that doesn’t match up well more often. I really believe if the Packers went to this with Cobb or Jennings in the slot we’d have something to combat these teams playing us this way. Just a thought and would love to hear what you guys think.

  8. Archie says:

    nick perry – I like the two TE look to give a dual run/pass threat, especially with two deep coverage. You are right, Romeo Crennel showed the league how to stop the Pack’s passing attack and MM has yet to figure out a response. MM may be a meat and potatoes guy and he may be a detail guy, but his game plans or same ol same ol – let the MVP QB throw downfield to his WRs. This team can’t even screen anymore. Where would the offense be right now w/o Cedric the entertainer? We need to emphasize different things offensively each week, depending on the kind of defense we are facing. Stop being predictable. With 4 healthy RBs and all those TEs, let’s use them to run the ball when teams play us to throw. The OL responded last week to run blocking. Let’s build on that and take the heat off Rodgers/WR. Get teams thinking stop our short/intermediate game before we try blowing the top off the defense. So I’m with you 100%. Of course, I was the same guy that begged for M Lynch a couple of years back. I believe in balance. No matter how well you do something, you can’t be one-dimensional against defenses in this day and age.

    • nick perry says:

      Can’t agree more on having balance Archie. I was right there with you on the Lynch deal. Now of coarse it turned all right for that year and the Packers were lucky Starks stayed healthy for the playoffs and SB. Long term it’s really hurt us. T.T. felt Lynch wasn’t Packer type people and granted he’s been in trouble but it was still worth a 3rd rounder to find out. We took Alex Green and I don’t care what they say he was getting ready to do before his injury, he’s never shown anything yet. Time will tell with Alex but I think they could have got him in the 4th or 5th round as did most of he experts. At least M.M. had Williams and Finley on the field at the same time last week so that’s a start. I just feel with D.J’s hands, Finleys speed and size and Jennings or Cobbs quickness we could really have something. Lets hope for the best tomorrow. The off season was to long to wait for this! GO PACK GO!!!! Great comments Archie!

      • Archie says:

        Thanks Nick. I agree re: Alex Green. Other than a couple of plays in space on short catches, I’m still waiting for an impressive run from scrimmage. TT was willing to give a D4 for ML but not a D3. Then he uses the D3 on a RB that was rated D4/5. Go figure.

        Tomorrow’s a big game. NOR is hurting w/o its coaches but it’s do or die for them so we will probably get their A game. They are a double threat team with a decent defense. My eyes will be on our game plan tomorrow. I expect our players will be ready to get the taste of SEA out of their mouths. While I expect the defense continue to play well, I expect a high scoring game w GB winning 35-31.

  9. Archie says:

    One last observation – one I haven’t seen mentioned anywhere – though I have been a bit busy lately and not keeping up as well as usual – wy didn’t MD Jennings just bat the ball down? Isn’t that DBs are trained to do on a HM in the EZ? Would have kept the blind refs from deciding the game.

    Oh well, like Woody sez, it’s time to “Just play football.” It’s 1pm Sunday – time to go and watch the warm-up games. Here’s to great day for all Packer fans!

  10. Archie says:

    A win is a win. Cedric entertained again. 14 point turnaround almost a game changer. 4 TD passes against weak defense for AROD is better than a sharp stick in the eye. Oops, I mean finger. And all w GJ missing most of game again. I’m sure nobody is questioning the wisdom of NOT trading JJ now.

    My only beef – 3rd and long on defense. What is this 3 man rush about? Drew Brees will cut a defense to shreds with all day and he did. Late in the game they came with more 4 and 5 man rushes on 3rd down. Give Rodgers an ineffective 3 man rush and Pack will go 14-0. Actually we did, last year. Rush the hell out of him and, well, not so easy. Is Capers living in the days of yesteryear? In today’s NFL, defense begins and ends with an effective pass rush. Show 3 and vary who the 4th guy. Do something other than rush 3 on 3rd and long. Puhleeze!

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