Green Bay Packers: A Lot of Little Problems Add Up to a Struggling Offense
There is something wrong in Green Bay.
Well, a lot of things, really. It's led the Packers to a 2-3 record—something nobody could have foreseen before we started the season.
Yet here we are, and while you can cast the loss to the Seattle Seahawks at least partially at the feet of officiating, the truth is that the problems have been there all season long, were present in the loss to Seattle—refs or not—and were on full display in the collapse in Indianapolis.
Where is it going wrong, and how can they fix it?
Can they fix it?
Let's take a look and find out.
This is one of the two big issues right now, and it's one that nobody could have predicted.
Let's cut right to the chase: Rodgers is trying to do too much.
It shows itself in several ways, sometimes with him forcing throws into places they shouldn't go (such as against the Colts), sometimes holding the ball too long (as against the Seahawks) or just plain making bad choices (take your pick).
Now, on the one hand, trying to do too much is a sign of leadership. Rodgers wants to win and is willing to put the team on his back to do it.
However—and all great quarterbacks have struggled with this—there is a point where you start doing bad things while carrying that team.
Rodgers has entered that territory.
He needs to slow down and start seeing the field again, get back to basics on his progressions and make better decisions.
Take, for example, the interception during the Colts game this Sunday. As you can see, cornerback Jerraud Powers has very tight coverage on James Jones.
Nevertheless, Rodgers tries to force the ball in, and Powers—who seems like he's actually in better position than Jones to make the catch anyway—picks the ball off.
Maybe Jones could have done more to stop it, but Rodgers had already made a habit of throwing into double and triple coverage, so even if Jones had done so, it is still a poor decision.
Even with the likely return to "chuck it" football with Cedric Benson down for a long time with a Lisfranc injury, Rodgers needs to be pickier regarding where he throws the ball and get rid of it when there is nothing there. Stop extending the play for an eternity; your offensive line (which is already struggling) can only hold on for so long.
At some point, it's not going to happen, and either you need to toss it away or run. Ninety percent of the time, it's just better to throw it away.
Also—and this is a big one—sometimes you need to start throwing short. I know Rodgers (and the staff and fans) love that deep, vertical pass, but with Greg Jennings out, it just hasn't been there. Jordy Nelson is getting swamped in coverage, and waiting for him to break out is getting Rodgers killed.
He needs to start looking underneath more and firing off shorter, quicker passes.
The vertical game will come back, but forcing the ball downfield is just making for too many three-and-outs.
If Rodgers has to ease up on the throttle and throw underneath more—well, his receivers need to hold onto the ball.
I'm mostly looking at Jermichael Finley and James Jones, but truth be told, much of the offense has had the dropsies this season.
The last few games haven't had as many drops as previous ones, but they are still happening frequently enough to be a concern.
We should file, along with this, "run the correct route." That's not as predominant as the drops have been, but we get the occasional mistake like James Jones running the wrong route against the Bears.
The receivers have to hold onto the ball when it arrives, but of course they need to actually be there to get the ball in the first place.
Departure of Joe Philbin/New Offense
Most people didn't think that losing Joe Philbin to the Miami Dolphins would impact the offense all that much.
After all, Mike McCarthy is still the head coach, correct?
Well, maybe we're seeing a bit of a speed bump anyway.
Coupled with this are the natural rough spots you get when you install a new offense—even one which is just a variation on the old one.
One of these things might be quickly overcome, but both at once will take time.
We've definitely seen some growing pains here, and added to that was an effort to involve the run game more frequently into the offensive attack.
Just as they were getting it going, of course, Cedric Benson went down with and injury. Now the offense is left wondering how they will approach the ground game.
All of these things are important and impact what's going on to some extent. One thing, however, is the problem that may magnify—if not be the stem of—a lot of the other issues.
Offensive Line Woes
The offensive line has not played well.
Rather, I should say, most of the offensive line has not played well.
Really, all of the line has struggled at times, though guys like T.J. Lang and Jeff Saturday have held up better than the rest.
However, here is the ripple effect.
The line struggles in pass protection, so Rodgers has less time to choose his receivers, which causes him to throw faster and not read the field as thoroughly as he does with more time, which in turn makes for some badly chosen passes.
Some of these passes make it awfully hard for the receivers to hold onto the ball, and while often they should keep hold of it, enough balls thrown behind, above or low to the receivers will put them in a position to make some drops.
Also, the offensive line struggles to open holes for the running backs. This hurts the run game and—again—puts more pressure on the quarterback to pull first downs and touchdowns out of thin air, which leads us back to the mistakes Rodgers has been making by trying to do too much.
There isn't much depth either, so benching someone isn't much of a viable option.
More than all the rest, the line needs to play better. If that means guys like John Kuhn and Tom Crabtree have to stay in and block more, so be it.
All of these things are hurting the offense; no one thing will cure it. As a whole, the team needs to take careful stock of their weaknesses so far and plug the holes.
This is still a tremendous offense.
It just needs to remember that soon.
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