The Green Bay Packers fell to the Detroit Lions 31-23 Sunday, bumping the Packers’ record down to a disappointing 2-2-1. There were a lot negative things throughout the game that fans took note of. The offense again came out to a slow start and was playing catch-up the entire game. Despite 521 yards of offense, there were 3 turnovers, over 100 yards in penalties (both offense and defense), and the offense went 3-10 on 3rd downs. After a game like this I want to focus on some of the positive things. Although it may not feel like it now, after I turned on the film I did take some positive things away from it.
I really wanted to pay close attention to the run game. There has been a lot of buzz surrounding Packer fans about the running back position. I think I speak for many of us when I say that we are baffled that we’re not seeing more carries from Aaron Jones. Jones did get a bulk of the carries against Detroit. He ran the ball 7 times for 40 yards. Jamaal Williams had 6 carries for 33 yards and Montgomery had 4 carries 15 yards.
Mike McCarthy has noted several times this season that he wants to get a good rotation at the running back position. I understand what he means. Each back has their strengths. Ty Montgomery is a shifty player who does well in the zone run game. He can see a cutback lane and hit it. Jamaal Williams is more of a downhill power runner who can pick up a first down in short yard situations. Aaron Jones seems like a combination of the two. He is a powerful runner who is shifty in the open field and can make guys miss.
The proof is always in the tape. Time to breakdown the run game from week 5!
Lets start things off by taking a look at what Aaron Jones did well on Sunday. In the above clip you will see a powerful run by Jones, picking up a first down. This was probably my favorite run of the day. Jones shows his power and his grit to pick up the first down and move the chains. Its a simple dive play but he hits the line of scrimmage at full speed. That is one of the things I love about Aaron Jones. When he runs the ball there is no hesitation at the line of scrimmage, no dancing around, no stutter step..he just lowers his pads and gets the yards he needs.
Not only does Jones hit the line of scrimmage well when lined up directly behind Rodgers, but he also does well when lined up in an offset position in the shotgun. This is a simple inside zone run but look at the acceleration he has here. Watch how Corey Linsley picks up the playside linebacker and Jones stay tight to the block and squeeze through a small opening. He always does well following his blockers and knowing when to cut. I like how he lowers the pads on this run and picks up some tough yardage.
Now lets take a look at Williams. Again here is another inside zone play. The Packers went with this run concept throughout most of the game. Any time the Packers offense is in the shotgun you can almost bet that it will be a zone run concept.
Williams uses good vision on this play to see the cutback off of Lane Taylor’s block. The most successful backs running this type of play always have great vision. When the defense reads a zone step off of the offensive lineman they have a tendency to over-pursue a play. That is when the cutback should occur. The run isn’t for much but each yard counts. I want to see this offense wear down defensive fronts with their ability to run the ball. When the defense decides to stack the box that is when you go to the air.
Not all runs out of the shotgun are zone run. Here is a beautifully executed trap play. The idea behind the trap play is to pull the guard and have him block the first down lineman past the center. Byron Bell gets a pretty good pull here and a kickout on the 3 technique. He takes a good, powerful first step, plays down the line, squares up and gets a good shot on the defender. Williams has good footwork in buying a split second extra time to make sure the timing on this play works. If Williams approaches the line of scrimmage too quickly he could run into Bell and the 3 technique player would tackle him in the backfield.
Lane Taylor especially gets a good block up front on the linebacker. He scoops in just far enough to get on the linebackers inside shoulder and drives him out. The key to having a successful trap play really begins and ends with the center and both guards. Everything has to be a quick hit in those interior gaps. Williams has a huge gap to run though and he picks up the first down. The offensive line did a fairly good job in their run blocks against Detroit.
I would like to see Mike McCarthy have more trust in his run game. Fans grow restless when we see the run generating some success only to see him go to the air. I think what a lot of us want is consistency in the play calling. I understand not wanting to become too predictable, but there were certain times throughout this game when I thought the run should have been relied on more. The Packers aren’t establishing a strong run game early on which makes the pass game suffer. We still haven’t seen much rhythm with this playcalling.
The 2011 and 2014 offenses seem like ages ago. Around the time the Packers won Super Bowl XLV, they were known as an offensive juggernaut. We all want to see this side of the ball get back to that. The good news it we aren’t far enough in to the season where all hope is lost. Granted, the Packers had over 500 yards of offense in this game, but they aren’t capitalizing when they should be. We can’t look at the stat sheet and get complacent. That is what I want to see when the 49ers come to town on Monday. Take advantage of each drive and set the tone for the game with a quick striking offense. The run game is a big part of that.
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