Packers Hot Stove: Offense

Packers Offense Statistics 2010 à 2016 (NFL Rank)

  PPG Pass Yds/G Yds/Att Rushing Yds/G Run v Pass 3rd Down Red Zone
2010 24.3
(10th)
258 (5th) 8.1

(3rd)

100.4

(24th)

56.2% Pass 41.5% (8th) 62.7%
(4th)
2011 35

(1st)

307.8

(2nd)

9.4
(1st)
97.4
(27th)
58.3% Pass 48.1%

(3rd)

65.2%
(11th)
2012 27.1
(5th)
253
(9th)
7.8

(6th)

106.4
(20th)
56.3% Pass 42.3%
(9th)
68.5%
(1st)
2013 26.1
(8th)
266.8
(6th)
8.0

(5th)

133.5
(8th)
55.4% Pass 41.2%
(9th)
50.7%
(26th)
2014 30.4

(1st)

266

(8th)

8.2
(2nd)
119.8

(11th)

55.2% Pass 47.2%
(3rd)
57.1%
(11th)
2015 23

(18th)

219

(25th)

6.7

(28th)

115.6

(12th)

56.8% 33.7%

(28th)

55%

(7th)

2016 27

(4th)

262

(7th)

7.2

(16th)

106.3

(20th)

62.4% Pass 46.7%
(2nd)
64.5%
(9th)

 

COACHING

After the meltdown in the NFC Championship game in Seattle in 2015, Mike McCarthy handed over play-calling duties to Tom Clements.  This despite the top scoring offense in PPG during the season.  Abandoning that during the NFC Championship seemed like an overreaction.  That change didn’t last and he has since reclaimed responsibility for play calling.

As the statistics demonstrate, GB was a poor rushing team 2010-2012. Ryan Grant got hurt in the first half Week 1 in 2010 and Brandon Jackson and Alex Green didn’t exactly seize the opportunity in his absence.  It didn’t matter too much in 2011 as #12 had his best ever season and the GB offense exploded posting high 3rd conversion #s and an absurd 35 PPG.

However, defenses adjust and by the end of that season teams were consistently sitting both S deep in Cover 2 Shell to take away big plays.  Previously, any time a defense lined up in “single high” (1 S deep) or “cover zeo” (no S deep) that was an open invitation for #12 to hurt you deep.  He obliged more often than not.  Teams knew that the GB running game wasn’t a threat so they could play nickel/dime and sit S deep because their defensive fronts could handle the run.

In 2013, Eddie Lacy arrived and provided the GB attack some much needed balance.  GB jumped up the NFL rushing rankings and the Pass-Run split narrowed slightly.  With a serviceable RB, the Packers had 6-7 blockers (depending on FB or TE usage) to match up against 6-7 man fronts.  This means a hat-on-a-hat for the running game.  It also meant opportunities outside 1-on-1 for WR.  Pick your poison defense.  Sit your S deep and GB can match up and run.  Stack the box and you give #12 favorable chances outside.

That balance makes the GB so dangerous but lack of consistency in the running game has hampered that effort.  In addition, teams have had success matching up in man-to-man blanketing the GB WR.  A disciplined pass rush hemmed #12 in the pocket and he took a lot of sacks or fired some errant throws as he bounced around the pocket.  During the losing streak, #12 was always looking to bounce plays outside and hanging onto the ball indefinitely.   He reminded me of a hitter in baseball who is only looking for home runs, when sometimes just getting on base (i.e., picking up a fresh set of downs) is the smarter play.  The O got some energy by getting the ball out of his hand quickly.  Even incorporating some pick plays where #12 wasn’t reading the field but letting his WR make plays.

You can see in the stats above the larger the Yards Per Attempt indicate a more robust offense.  In a simple sense, farther downfield you throw, the more field those 11 defenders have to patrol.  We saw this in our Jordyless season in 2015.  No vertical threat meant teams could sit everybody within 15-20 yards of the line of scrimmage and keep everything in front of them and compress the field for the Packer offense.  Being able to threaten teams down the field and over the middle (with an athletic TE) makes the O a lot tougher to defend by using every part of a the tic-tac-toe board (left-middle-right, varying depths).

Quarterback

As long as #12 is healthy, GB is a Super Bowl contender.  Backup Brett Hundley reportedly is progressing nicely.  A QB-needy team could acquire him for pennies on the dollar compared to what Jimmy Garoppolo would command.  Drafting Hundley in the 5th round in 2014, trading up to do so, is right from the Ron Wolf playbook. Draft QBs and try to flip them for picks.  GB really liked what they saw from rookie Joe Callahan bringing him back later in the season and keeping him in the fold.  If Hundley gets dealt, that’s another sign of the team’s faith in Callahan.

Fullback

Aaron Ripkowski is a good player and a fumble or 2 in the NFC Championship game dragging multiple defenders doesn’t change that.  GB is set at the position for next season.

Running Back

The 250+ pound question for GB is what to do with Eddie Lacy.  The powerful runner of 2013 and 2014 disappeared to injury and fitness and a little fumbling over the last 2 years.  Lacy enters UFA on a 2-year downbeat.  He could be back in GB on a short-term “prove it” deal heavy with performance incentives and active roster bonuses.  But I don’t know how the team has any confidence the guy will revert to 2013 form.  John Crockett was on IR all season and is a ERFA as is former practice squader Don Jackson.  One of them could be back cheaply.  Aside from some spirited runs against the NYG in the playoffs, Christian Michael didn’t do enough to earn his corn from GB.  Ty Montgomery will be shifting full time to RB but not a 20-25 carry a game guy. James Starks was released recently but is another candidate to possibly return if he recovers and accepts a minimum salary deal.   Fortunately, this is a deep draft at RB.  I’m zeroed in on Christian McCaffrey from Stanford who should have beaten Derrick Henry for the Heisman a year ago and can also return kicks and punts.  Imagine just running the staple zone read play with Rodgers flanked by Montgomery and McCaffrey.  Either gets the handoff.  One or both go out in motion since McCaffrey has a full route tree.  That usually means a LB matched up on your RB.   You could motion a speedster like Trevor Davis on jet sweep action.  play fake to either and hit a TE like Cook on the seam.  That’s some Oregon Duck New Mexico Lobo type offense.

TE

TT did the TT thing and bought low on a street FA that didn’t count against the compensatory pick formula in acquiring Jared Cook on a 1-year $3.5M deal.  When Cook was on the field, he provided a big athletic downfield target missing from the Packers offense since Jermichael Finley got hurt.  #12 noticed and appreciated the big TE.

Cook is an UFA but there is every expectation he’ll be back.  He should be.

Hail Mary recipient and general plodder Richard Rodgers is under contract for one more season.  He did burn the Cowboys Sean Lee for a deep TD in the playoffs but he’s slow and isn’t that great a blocker.  He’ll contribute as best he can next season but he’s not a long term solution.  GB has Beau Sandland under contract through 2019.  The draft is loaded at TE and it would be surprising if GB didn’t find the value somewhere to greab a TE.  But for the next couple seasons I would think Jared Cook will top the depth chart.

WR

Davante Adams finally delivered on some of his potential with a strong 2016 campaign.  Adams is an UFA in 2018.  He’s a prime candidate for an extension during the season if he continues his ascent.  Jordy Nelson eventually rounded back into form.  Both he and Cobb are on the books until 2019.  Cobb had a nice day against the NYG in the playoffs but otherwise has not lived up to his big contract he signed in 2015.  He has a cap hit of over $12.5M these next 2 seasons.  His dead cap figure drops to $3.25M (roughly what we will pay for Sam Shields this season) after the 2017 season.  If he doesn’t raise his game he could be gone after this season.  Hail Mary specialist Jeff Janis eventually regained his form on special teams and scored on a couple jet sweep plays.  But overall has not learned a route tree and is really more special team gunner and little else.  His salary isn’t a burden, but he’ll be fighting for a roster spot all summer.  Rookie Trevor Davis drew a soft DPI flag against the Lions. He had a drop or two.  Not much else.  He is lightning fast and nobody on the team can match that trick.  But Davis was jumped on the depth chart by undrafted free agent and mini camp breakout player Geronimo Allison.  The ex Fightin Illini made some impressive catches and earned a lot of #12’s trust during the season.  He is 6’3” and is size makes him an inviting target given that GB really doesn’t have many trees on the WR depth chart.  Adams and Nelson are your #1 and #1A moving fwd and Cobb still has the slot for now.  All signs point to Allison earning more snaps this season.  It’s an important offseason for Davis to earn his place.  With Montgomery as a full time RB, there is room for somebody to emerge.  As we’ve seen at this position previously, a position of strength can be a liability in a hurry when injuries stack up.

Football Outsiders on GB WR

Nelson #3

Adams #16

Cobb #44

 

OL

Lots of GB fans and NFL pundits did not r-e-l-a-x after TT decided to cut LG Josh Sitton before the season.  Sitton, when healthy, ended up having a nice season for the Bears.  Lane Taylor did fine as his replacement and the concern about Sitton was way overblown.  TT smartly gave LT Dave Bahktiari a big contract extension before the season and the former 4th round pick out of Colorado responded with his finest season.  The LT spot is solved until 2021 with his extension.  The aforementioned Taylor had a nice season at LG and he is an UFA come 2018 as is Center Corey Linsley.  RT Brian Bulaga does his job well when healthy, and he is locked up until 2020.  GB has some decisions to make at RG and with top backups.  TJ Lang will be 30 in September and by all accounts is one tough SOB.  When he’s on the field, he’s fantastic.  The problem is he gets hurt a lot and/or plays hurt.  Lang injured his foot in the NFC Championship game but avoided more serious injury.  He had hip surgery last month.  JC Tretter was a college OT at Cornell but GB likes drafting college OT and cross-training them to play other spots. The theory being that the OT in college are always the best overall athletes on the OL.  Tretter played C well when Linsley was injured.  Tretter was supposed to be the starting C in 2014 but got hurt before Week 1 and Linsley took his job.  After Linsley got hurt before the 2016 season, Tretter took the job, but got hurt right about the time Linsley was back.  It would be wonderful to have a versatile player like Tretter back but despite missing lots of time to injury, I would imagine somebody would pay him starter’s money.  There is a possibility I think that GB could move on from Lang and pay Tretter to become the new RG.  That would give you a little insurance on Linsley in case the C gets hurt again. Tretter just turned 26, but he has only played in 31 games in his 3-years in GB.  Definitely a risk to depend on him to be healthy and be your starter but he is younger than Lang.   Don Barclay is an UFA again after he was brought back cheaply.  I have to think he’s done here.  GB traded up in the 2nd round to nab Jason Spriggs.  Spriggs is a solid athlete and I’d expect him to be a 6th-man.  By all accounts he projects better as an OT than OG.  Another possibility is to install Spriggs as RT and kick Bulaga inside to RG.  GB also used a 6th-rounder on Kyle Murphy from Stanford.  He’s a project.  But Murphy is why I think Barclay is done.  Not a great draft for OL.  If GB loses Tretter and Lang to FA then I could see GB using an early round pick to fill the void at RG.

Pro Football Focus on the GB OL

5. Green Bay Packers (3)

Top overall grade: LT David Bakhtiari, 89.9 (No. 3)

Top pass-blocking grade: LT David Bakhtiari, 93.4 (No. 1)

Top run-blocking grade: C J.C. Tretter, 78.7 (No. 8)

This has been the best pass-protecting offensive line in the game, and it isn’t particularly close to the next-best side in that regard. The terror that Aaron Rodgers instills in defenses when he escapes the pocket and makes game-defining passes helps in that regard a little, but he also holds the ball longer than every other QB in the league except Buffalo’s Tyrod Taylor, so it likely evens out overall. LT David Bakhtiari surrendered just 20 total QB pressures, and is the league’s only left tackle to be charged for less pressure than the QB he is protecting (Rodgers has been at fault for 23). RT Bryan Bulaga would likely have been a PFF All-Pro had his run blocking been anything better than below-average, and while LG Lane Taylor has been able to do a reasonable job in replacing Josh Sitton as a pass blocker, his run blocking hasn’t been of the same quality.

Football Outsiders on the GB OL

#19 in Run Blocking

#11 in Pass Protection

 

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