Welcome back to The Passing Chronicles. If you’re here it’s because you:
a. Liked what I did last week
b. Didn’t see what I did last week but were curious for this week
c. Stumbled across by accident
d. Came here to mock me
Whatever the reason, I’m certainly glad you’re here. Come with me as we walk through some things I liked and some things I didn’t like about the passing offense last weekend.
What I Didn’t Like
I am extremely happy to report that, out of the 41 plays I tracked, there were only 4 that ended up with this label. That’s good! Beyond that, the ones I didn’t like still weren’t terrible: there were just some tweaks I would like to see. Still, after a relatively shaky Week 1, it looks like the Packers are heading in the right direction.
3rd & 6, late in the 4th quarter. The first thing you will likely notice is the unfamiliar sight of David Bakhtiari  getting bulldozed off the edge by Everson Griffen . But what about the routes?
We’ve got three routes heading to the middle: dueling slant routes and a pivot route from the right slot running behind the slant. I don’t hate the pivot behind the slant – the slant clears out space in the middle and a well-run pivot route can help shake his defender and run into the space created by the slant – but I don’t love the idea of three guys ending up in the same spot. There is no attempt made to create a natural pick between the routes: against man coverage, all they’re doing is dragging their defenders to the same spot.
Here is what I would like to see: turn the Jimmy Graham  slant from the right side into a post route. Providing depth from that route does a couple different things:
1. It forces the safety to commit to the post, taking him away from the go route on the outside. That ensures a man-to-man match-up up the sideline with no safety help.
2. It drags his follow defender with him down the field. Should the throw go to either Allison or Randall Cobb , there would be less traffic in that spot in the middle which allows for more yards after the catch.
Just look at the space between Graham and the safety. There’s a ton of unused field right there. Graham pushing up the field could help open a lot of things up.
On the last play, I wanted more depth in a route. On this play, I want less depth. I’m a complicated man and no one understands me but my woman.
Like the play above, I don’t hate this, but there is one thing I would change about it. We’re looking at dueling post routes that break around the same place. With three receivers on the right side, there is quite a bit of action to that side. I’m a pretty big fan of the out-and-up route from Randall Cobb  up the right sideline. If he fools the man to that side, it has big play potential. If nothing else, it draws the attention of the deep man in that zone. Also, Cobb lights him up pretty good, which is fun to see.
Back to the post routes. With all the attention on the right side, I’d love to see the left post cut to a dig route. That would provide a free path for the post route from the right side to run over the top. The dig route would take a defender to that side under the route of the post. With attention being paid to the right side, the deep defender to that side may not break on the post as he should. It could help open up a nice empty space of field for the post receiver to run. Provided he gets inside position on his man, all the quarterback has to do is put it out in front of him, and possibly even a little short. That one little change could help open this up for a big play. I wouldn’t be shocked if we see this in a future week and they do exactly that.
What I Liked
This play ends in a touchdown to Davante Adams  on the left – eating Xavier Rhodes’  lunch – but let’s look to the right side. We’ve got Randall Cobb  and Geronimo Allison  running dig routes from the outside while Jimmy Graham  runs a corner route from off the end of the line. I like the stacked depth from Cobb and Allison, with Allison running a few yards deeper on his route than Cobb. Trae Waynes  plays it well here, but I like the idea. If that deep outside defender bites on the route of Allison – which crosses right in front of his face – the corner is open for the tight end.
This was likely a pre-snap read for Aaron Rodgers . On the right side he has three defenders on three receivers, with a fairly deep defender. On the left side he has his #1 receiver on an island against a defender lined up 6 yards deep. It’s first down, so Rodgers know he can pick up yards, and he gives his receiver a chance to make a move to get into the end zone. Davante Adams being Davante Adams, he made a few moves and hit paydirt.
This has to be a quick throw either way and he liked his match-up to the left. It was a good call. Still, I like the action on the right.
Post/wheel combo on the left side. The post route drags the outside defender to the middle, leaving the sideline open. Jimmy Graham  runs the wheel route into the open space and Aaron Rodgers  hits him.
I would like to draw your attention to Randall Cobb  in the backfield. He’s running an angle route. Personally, I think he’s one of the best in the league at these and this showcases just how important that is. Watch how he sells the outside release before jamming his foot in the ground and cutting hard inside. Now let’s see how that plays into the success of this play:
Just keep your eye on the slot defender. Cobb sells the outside release so well that he is forced to stay in place for an extra beat. Once Cobb cuts towards the middle, the defender bails, but the route by Cobb buys Graham a step or two before the defender can shadow. That makes a huge difference on this play.
Through two games we’ve seen what a fully healthy Cobb can contribute to the offense. As a longtime fan of his, I’m thrilled with how this season is starting for him.
The Packers are facing 2nd and 18 with about 9 minutes left in the 3rd quarter. I don’t have a ton to say about this particular play – it’s a quick out by Geronimo Allison  that picks up 7 yards – but I wanted to talk about playcalling. They didn’t blaze any new trails with this: Allison had off-coverage and the Packers needed to pick up a few yards to make 3rd down a bit more manageable. It’s as simple as that.
Before I move to the next play, I wanted to look at the huddle for this play. The Packers obviously liked their match-ups, so they had a little sugar-huddle, with nobody straying too far from their positions. It helped prevent the Vikings from mass substitutions and kept the match-ups in the Packers favor.
Let’s look at the very next play.
By picking up 7 yards, the Packers put themselves in a better situation. Granted, 3rd and 11 isn’t amazing, but it’s a better situation than 3rd and 18.
Randall Cobb  motions across the formation, dragging Trae Waynes  with him. signaling man coverage. Cobb runs a curl from the inside, Geronimo Allison  runs a crosser from the middle and Davante Adams  runs a dig from the outside. You can see what all that does for the spacing. The curl holds a defender to the outside, the crosser drags a defender away from that area and the dig hits the space created by those routes. It provides a huge window to throw to, and Aaron Rodgers  is able to hit Adams for a 16 yard gain.
Plays are not made in a vacuum. The Packers made that 2nd down call knowing it wouldn’t pick up the 3rd down. They had a nice follow-up play and it paid off.
On the right side, we have three receivers. The man off the line is running a deep curl, the man on the outside is running a deep curl, and the slot man is running a post/corner. The curl in the middle holds the linebacker in that zone, while the curl on the outside holds the defender short of the goal line and to the sideline. That gives the slot receiver a lot of field to work with on the corner route.
Watch Randall Cobb  sell the post route. That’s huge for the success of this play. Space has been created, but Cobb still needs to run a good route, and he does exactly that. He turns and sells his route up the field, before cutting sharply to the back pylon.
You can see the safety start to break on the post, putting him out of position to recover on the corner route.
If this ball comes out as Cobb is breaking, it’s an easy touchdown. I really like this look.
Let’s look at another corner concept. On this play, we’ve got the outside receiver getting inside position and running a skinny post, dragging his defender down the field and holding the safety. We also have a tight end off the end of the line running a flat route, pulling his defender towards the sideline and closer to the line. The skinny post also helps to act as a natural obstacle for the defender of the flat.
We also have Randall Cobb  running a wheel/corner. His wheel out of the backfield draws the attention of Anthony Barr , who briefly steps out towards Cobb before falling back to take the drag. Cobb comes off the hip of Barr still running straight, which pulls the safety up. That puts him slightly out of position for when Cobb cuts to the corner.
The safety doesn’t bite too hard so this would have been a tougher throw than the last play, but it’s still on the table.
With the receiver on the other side running a corner, that safety is out of the picture. I can see a variation of this where Cobb fakes the corner then hits the post route. If the Packers have this tendency on tape, the safety may be leaning towards the corner. In a big moment late in the year or in the playoffs, it’s something to watch for.
Last but not least, let’s look at this, one of the strangest things I’ve seen. It’s not about the play itself: it’s more about the pre-snap movement from Randall Cobb . He basically runs a circle around Aaron Rodgers  and ends up catching a ball in the flat. I liked seeing this, but more for what it could possibly mean down the line. Like I said above, it’s about giving looks and setting up tendencies, then hitting a counter to that for a big gain in a big moment. So dream with me for a minute, will you?
This is a rough sketch of what we got this past Sunday. Let’s say the Packers run that a few times, always doing the same thing. Where do we go from there?
The defense has seen this and keys in on it. They lean a little more pre-snap and break a little harder towards Cobb after the snap. Only this time, Cobb drifts a little further back. It’s not a flat pass: it’s a lateral. And the receivers fake their blocks on the defenders looking to lay-out Cobb and release upfield. Since Cobb is left-handed, it would make more sense to flip this play and have the throw come from the left, but the idea is there. Get the defense biting hard on the possible throw to Cobb then hit them over the top.
Maybe you don’t want Cobb throwing a pass. That’s fine, too. We can still play off those tendencies. Put Cobb in motion and get the defense leaning and crashing. Then hit them with some downfield routes. We’ve got a pivot/corner on the right, an angle route out of the backfield and the tight end running under the line and coming out the other side on a wheel. If the defense is looking to crash on Cobb, there is some serious big-play potential in something like this.
That seems as good a time as any to stop. I’ve got more plays to look at, but I’ll be doing it over on Twitter.
After a somewhat inspiring Week 1 showing from the passing offense – in terms of overall schemes and concepts, anyway – this was an encouraging look. Can’t wait to see what they do next week!
Albums listened to: Manchester Orchestra – Black Mile To The Surface; The Raveonettes – 2016 Atomized; The Tallest Man On Earth – When The Bird Sees the Solid Ground EP; Emma Ruth Rundle – On Dark Horses; Ruen Brothers – All My Shades of Blue; Death Cab For Cutie – Thank You For Today; Eels – The Deconstruction