It wasn’t 7 days ago that I was composing an article about what factors were fueling the Packers solid 4-1 start. In the time since, we have seen the Packers loose their elite Quarterback to a collar bone injury to his throwing shoulder. With Rodgers all but ruled out for the remainder of this season, the Packers offense will feature Brett Hundley at starting quarterback. Yes, Brett Hundley, not Tony Romo, not Colin Kaepernick, and certainly not Brett Favre.
The Packers faced almost an identical situation in 2013, but in that scenario Rodgers was a go to come back by the end of the season. While this team will not have the benefit of Rodgers return, they do have a much more capable starter on the roster now than they did in 2013. Brett Hundley will outperform anything Seneca Wallace and Scott Tolzien showed that season. It remains to be seen if Hundley can best what Matt Flynn did as a replacement in 2013, but I would put my money on Hundley as the better quarterback when it is all said and done.
In this article I will outline how I think the offense led by Brett Hundley will look, and what it will have to do to be successful. I’ll also include some things the defense will have to accomplish for the team to be successful as a whole.
Brett Hundley’s Play
We all remember Brett Hundley’s start to his career in the preseason. Hundley had a poor camp, but then surprised everyone with outstanding performances in the preseason. Hundley’s passer rating of 129.6 led the entire NFL in preseason passer rating. His best single game performance came against the New Orleans Saints of all teams. Hundley completed 16 or 23 passes for 236 yards, 4 touchdowns a 142.4 quarterback rating. Those flashes of brilliance made us all confident in him as a backup going forward. Hundley has quietly sat behind Rodgers for since the 2015 season, until now.
Brett Hundley is no Aaron Rodgers, but he is a capable of winning games as the starting quarterback. This team is much better off at backup quarterback now than they were in 2013. Brett Hundley is in his 3rd year and this system, he has been preparing for this potential situation since he got here in 2015. We certainly saw some outstanding throws by Hundley in last weeks game, which inspires some hope in the season. Hundley’s overall performance was poor, but don’t look too much into that. Being thrust into a game against a stout Vikings defense is not exactly an ideal situation to play your first meaningful game. This upcoming game will be our first real look at what Hundley can do.
Hundley can make all the throws. He is athletically gifted. There is no reason he could not lead this team to a division title if he plays well. Unfortunately at this point in time we do not have a good sample of Hundley’s play to refer to. He will face a poor pass defense against the Saints this week. The Packers will also likely have an easier time establishing the run this week. A home game against a lower caliber defense will be the perfect situation for Hundley’s first start. We will know much more about what we have in Brett Hundley after this game.
The New Look Packers Offense
The Running Game
For obvious reasons, the Packers offense will take on a drastically different look for what will probably be the remainder of the season. The offense will need to be adjusted to better fit Brett Hundley’s skill set. That could be done in any number of ways. They could try to run a quick rhythm passing game. They could try to take some shots deep. One thing is for certain, they will need to run the ball more often and more effectively.
The team cannot simply lean on Aaron Rodgers to gain all of the yards for the offense anymore. Running the ball effectively would take a lot of pressure off of Brett Hundley. The Packers are still in a running back by committee situation with Ty Montgomery and Aaron Jones. From my perspective, Jones is the better runner. Montgomery is the bigger threat as a pass catcher. Jones got about twice as many snaps at running back as Montgomery did last week, which could have had something to do with the rib injury Montgomery is playing through.
Regardless of who is taking the carries, the team will have to figure something out to gain yards on the ground. A major component of the 2013 team reaching the playoffs without Rodgers for 7 games was the running game. Eddie Lacy ran the ball very effectively as a rookie (284 carries for 1178 yards and 11 TDs) which bailed out starting quarterbacks Matt Flynn and Scott Tolzien on multiple occasions. Some people would tell you that Jones and Montgomery could not handle the volume of carries that Lacy was getting in 2013, but that remains to be seen.
It is no secret that the Packers offensive line has not been healthy this season. Elite caliber Left Tackle David Bakhtiari has yet to play 2 full games this season. Bryan Bulaga has been in and out of the lineup. Lane Taylor is now out with an ankle injury for an undetermined amount of time. The offensive line absolutely has to get healthy for this team to be successful without Rodgers. Brett Hundley does not have the pocket presence of Aaron Rodgers, and therefore it would be huge for him to have elite pass protectors at the tackle position. Having the 5 starters healthy on a regular basis would be huge for the running game as well.
Getting Creative With Play Calling
Mike McCarthy will need to reach into his bag of tricks to keep this offense moving. You may see an increase in Jet Sweeps, Screen Passes, End Arounds, and other types of trick plays. Randall Cobb is a player who can gain yards on jet sweeps and screen passes, and would clearly see an increased role in that scenario. The Saints are a team that blitzes a lot, so we may see a few screen passes this week.
Before the injury, the defense was the clear weak side of the team. Currently ranked 18th in points allowed per game, the defense absolutely has to play better for the team to make the postseason. With the offense taking a step back, the defense will need to stall the other team on offense on a more consistent basis. An increase in interceptions, forced fumbles, and sacks is just what the new offense needs to score more points. Short fields are a blessing to a backup quarterback, you saw the team score points off of 2 turnovers last week against the Vikings.
The defense has also dealt with its fair share of injuries. If the team can get players like Morgan Burnett, Nick Perry, Davon House, and Ahmad Brooks on the field completely healthy, it is not crazy to think that this defense could win games for this team. The injury to their star quarterback may be what lights a fire under this defense, propelling it to a higher level.
The team has two rookies playing major snaps in Kevin King and Josh Jones. The two rookies have plenty of room to get better and their progression throughout the season could be a major factor in the improvement of this defense. Another bring spot on this defense is the play of Kenny Clark. Clark is a star player for this defense, period. At just 22 years old, some of the plays he makes on tape prompt me to wonder just how high his ceiling is. If Clark continues to progress, the Packers will have possibly the best duo at interior defensive linemen in the league between he and Mike Daniels. Haha Clinton-Dix hasn’t played his best football this season. If he could make some improvement on his play, the pass defense would be that much better.
How do you think this offense will operate? Let us know in the comment section or tweet at us @PTTF_Podcast. You can also interact with me directly @TrackOnPack. We’d love to hear from you! Thanks for reading and as always, Go Pack Go!