Every podcast I listen to, every article I read, every piece of video content I watch seems to tell the same story – concern over the Packers offense. On its face, it makes sense. This offense was non-existent for the first half of the Bears and Redskins games, it struggled against Buffalo, and had its share of struggles in the later parts of the Vikings games. However, there is a few rays of light that I think more people need to focus on. Let’s see what’s ailing the Pack, what’s going well, and what will likely improve by the end of the season
- Turnover Margin – Including of a few unfortunate Deshone Kizer moments, this team is still +1 in the turnover margin. However, in moments where Aaron Rodgers is the QB, they are +3, which would rank 7th in the league. Continuing to stay in the black on turnover margin and the outlook for the season looks peachy.
- Health – This group has been banged up through 4 weeks. Rodgers, Adams, Cobb, Bulaga, McCray, Allison have all missed time and snaps with injuries. It’s hard to remain consistent when your key contributors’ availability is inconsistent. As guys can get healthy and stay on the field, the offense will only improve.
- Drops – It seems like you can point to any week, and there’s been one or two wide receivers struggling with drops. Against Minnesota, it was Adams. Against Washington, it was Cobb (this one is particularly surprising). Against Buffalo, it was Allison. The starting pass catching options need to be better in this regard, and honestly, it’s hard to see it not improving. Patience is not a Packer fan virtue.
- Quality of Opponents through week 4 – Let’s take a second to just appreciate how good the defenses the Packers have played actually are. Chicago and Washington rank 2nd and 3rd respectively in points. Minnesota is coming off a year where they were one of the top defenses in the league, and are always a tough division rival. Buffalo was fresh off a thrashing of Minnesota the week prior, and has a very good front 7. While the execution wasn’t crisp, it’s hard to ignore that they have played some tough defenses through 4 weeks and are 2-1-1. Hard to be mad.
- The Offensive Line – First half against Chicago looked rough, but this unit has had a lot on it’s plate with Rodgers being hobbled, and they have answered the call. Most of the sacks so far have been coverage sacks since Rodgers is unable to move around the pocket. They are also doing yeoman’s work in the run game (more on that shortly). More importantly, Bulaga has comeback (mostly) healthy and is playing really well. He’s always been a Pro Bowl caliber tackle…when he’s on the field. A healthy offensive line could prove to be a top 5 unit.
- Running Game – The Packers rank 8th overall in rushing yards per attempt….and that is without 2 weeks of Aaron Jones, who is by far the best running back on roster, and for my money, in the division. Averaging 6.3 yards per carry, Jones adds an entirely different dynamic to an offense that is yearning for innovation. It’s something the Packers have been missing since 2014 with an in-shape Eddy Lacy, and that offense was unstoppable.
- The Defense – Don’t look now – the Packers are ranked 7th in total yards and 11th in points. This defense is coming off a shutout, and are showing they can make a stop every once in a while. Turning the ball over to Aaron Rodgers with a shortened field is like giving Gallagher a watermelon – he’s going to crush it. Give it time, this unit is just getting started.
- Jimmy Graham – There hasn’t been a game where Jimmy Graham has dominated, but it shouldn’t be long now. He had his first TD against Buffalo, and has had some blips in big moments that were either called back or dropped. He’s so close, and I think Rodgers has even mentioned this. This is also a byproduct of Rodgers not practicing or playing much in the preseason, and they are just not quite in rhythm yet.
- Quality of the Remaining Schedule – Outside of the Rams, Vikings and Bears, the remaining games are against some BAD defenses. Atlanta, Arizona, Detroit, Miami, and San Francisco are some really bad defenses. Better days are ahead.
- Aaron Rodgers – This could be numbers 1-10. Outside of an inexplicable 2015 and early 2016 seasons, Aaron Rodgers has been the best quarterback in football. He’s playing injured right now and still playing some good football. He hasn’t been sharp, but he’s not practicing much and hasn’t developed a rapport with a lot of new faces.
This isn’t to say all of these things will be improved (they won’t). This isn’t to say that they won’t struggle at times (they have the Rams on the schedule). This is to say that there are a lot of things factoring in to the struggles, and at least a handful will be improved. It’s a long season, and we are only in the first quarter. R.E.L.A.X.