The Green Bay Packers are sitting at 11-3 and headed back to the playoffs. While Packers fans should be elated about their favorite team headed back to the playoffs, there are still questions. One of the biggest questions facing the Packers has to do with their offense. The play of the Packers offense has been like a roller coaster this season. At times, their run game has looked like a well-oiled machine. But at other times, it has struggled to gain traction. The passing game, led by Aaron Rodgers, has looked like an enigma wrapped in a riddle. At this point in the season, an offensive unit should have some type of identity. But for the Packers offense, they are still searching for their identity.
Entering Week 16 Packers Offense is Still Trying to Find Its
The Packers offense currently sits 17th in passing and 17th in rushing. Individually, the Packers top two offensive weapons sit in the top 20 in the NFL. Rodgers is ranked 11th in passing while running back Aaron Jones ranks 20th in rushing. Statistically, those numbers aren’t awful by any means. But with a record of 11-3, and having weapons like Rodgers, Jones, wide receiver Davante Adams, and a highly effective offensive line, you would expect better.
There are a lot of reasons the Packers offense isn’t putting out the numbers most would expect. Some of them can’t be controlled, others will need to be fixed before the playoffs kick-off.
LaFleur’s Dealing with Growing Pains
You have to credit what Packers head coach Matt LaFleur has done. A rookie head coach leading his team to a playoff birth and a possible NFC North title is quite impressive. He has gotten players who have never played for him to buy into his program. A program that has led to a playoff birth. But when it comes to the Packers offense, LaFleur still has work to do
This is only LaFleur’s second season calling plays. His first season calling plays was last season with the Tennessee Titans. The Titans offense wasn’t a juggernaut by any means. Many expected that with having Rodgers at the helm that the Packers offense would be a lot better than their current rankings.
LaFleur is still learning on the job when it comes to calling an offense. At times this season, the Packers offense and the play-calling specifically, has looked out of sync. For example, in week two in their 21-16 victory over the Minnesota Vikings, the Packers offense ripped off 21 points in the first half. But as they quickly put up 21, they were quickly shut out the rest of the way.
That has been typical throughout the season for the Packers offense. Scoring seems to come in spurts, usually in the first half. LaFleur scripts his first amount of plays. Those are the plays that the Packers offense has seen success. But as the game starts to flow, LaFleur, the play-caller, seems to have struggled.
Granted, LaFleur is still trying to learn how to juggle being a head coach and an offensive game caller. It isn’t only the play calling that LaFleur is still trying to learn. His fourth-down calls seem to be made out of emotion as well as some of his replay challenges. As time goes on, the hope is that LaFleur progresses. But for this season, and the playoffs on the horizon, the Packers are hoping that progress will kick into hyperdrive.
Looking for Weapons to Step Up
The Packers offense appears to have found a weapon in Jones. He has become a big part of the Packers offense this season. He is also a nice weapon to go along with Rodgers and Adams, but finding other offensive weapons has become difficult for the Packers offense.
Second-year wide receiver Marquez Valdes Scantling has struggled to progress this season. It appears that the Packers were hoping that he would develop into their deep threat…that just hasn’t been the case. Fellow wide receiver Geronimo Allison was expected to take the place of former slot receiver Randall Cobb. Drops have hampered his game, and he has become undependable.
The tight end position hasn’t played much of a factor in the Packers offense as well. Veteran Jimmy Graham is a shell of his former self. The once dominate middle of the field pass-catcher has lost his speed and has struggled with drops. Third-year player Robert Tonyan has a lot of potential, but he is still raw and also missed time this season with an injury.
Another major cause that helped stunt the Packers passing game this season was Adams toe injury. The injury caused the Packers number one wide receiver to miss four games.
Two-pass catchers that have flashed potential this season are Allen Lazard and Jake Kumerow. Both are undrafted free agents but have both gained the trust of Rodgers. If the Packers passing game is going to start to click, one or both of them will have to step up opposite Adams. Both of them have good size and have shown they are capable of making plays.
With the playoffs coming up, the Packers offense will need somebody not named Jones or Adams to make some plays in the passing game. If not, the Packers offense will rely heavily on the running game. Becoming one dimensional isn’t something you want to be when the playoffs kick in.
The Play of Aaron Rodgers
Aaron Rodgers 24 touchdown passes, which is tied for ninth in the NFL, just two interceptions, all while playing in a new offensive system. By taking all that in, many would believe all is well with Aaron Rodgers. But if you take a closer look, things aren’t exactly the same with the former two-time league MVP.
By no means are we taking a shot at Rodgers. The Packers offense is new and it is the first season as a starter that Rodgers isn’t getting plays called by Mike McCarthy. However, just like with the rest of the offense, Rodgers still doesn’t look fully in sync with this new offense. Rodgers has missed throws, something Packers fans aren’t accustomed to seeing. Along with that, there have been times that he hasn’t seen open receivers. Instead of taking what the defense is giving to him, he is still holding onto the ball, waiting for the big play to develop.
Maybe it is time Packers fans come to grips. Rodgers is now 36 years old and possibly Father Time is catching up to the leader of the Packers offense. Still, if the Packers offense is going to finally mesh in the playoffs, it will be up to number 12. Rodgers has carried this organization throughout his starting career. It won’t be any different in the playoffs either.
While Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst bolstered the Packers defense this off-season, he didn’t do much to improve the passing attack of the Packers. The Packers offense will still revolve around Rodgers. That is why Rodgers current play, which most NFL teams would die for, will need to get back to the standards he has set.
Jones, Adams, and the rest of the Packers offense will need to step up to take some weight off of 12’s shoulders. If that happens, the likely product will be an in sync Packers offense. If they don’t, the Packers once again will have to be carried by Rodgers. The question then will be, can Rodgers do it again.