Despite SNF Win, Green Bay Packers Offense Has Yet to Find Its Rhythm

Brent Sobleski@@brentsobleskiNFL AnalystOctober 10, 2016

GREEN BAY, WI - OCTOBER 09:  Jordy Nelson #87 and Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers celebrate after scoring a touchdown in the first quarter against the New York Giants at Lambeau Field on October 9, 2016 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Dylan Buell/Getty Images

The Green Bay Packers offense is good, but it's not great. When a team has the NFL's best quarterback, its offense is expected to be great. 

While it's debatable whether Aaron Rodgers is still the league's best quarterback, there's no question he's counted among the game's top signal-callers. As such, the Packers should enter every contest with an inherent advantage. 

Instead, that automatic advantage appears to be nullified even despite Sunday's 23-16 victory over the New York Giants. During the contest, the Packers offense looked much like it has throughout this season. 

Entering the Sunday night affair, Green Bay's offense didn't rank among the league's top 10 in any of the major categories. Rodgers' crew ranked 11th in points per game (25.0), 16th in rushing offense (100.3) and 29th in both passing (193.3) and total offense (293.7). 

The Packers boosted those numbers in their latest victory, where Rodgers passed for 259 yards and the backfield ran for 147 more. But Rodgers' offenses finished outside of the top 10 in total yardage only once from 2008-14. The group sat at 29th overall through its first three contests. 

Despite a 3-1 start, there's added concern about a lack of complete performances, as Sports Illustrated's Greg A. Bedard alluded to: 

The Giants have their own set of problems, but Green Bay needs to play a full four quarters offensively. 

After scoring two touchdowns within the first 24 minutes, the Packers became stagnant. The group moved the ball but couldn't find the end zone in the second half.

"We've got to do a better job in the red zone," Rodgers said, per the team's official Twitter account. "We had some opportunities, we've got to cash those in."

This isn't the first time this season that the Packers sputtered after a strong start. Two weeks ago, the entire unit returned to form in the opening half against the Detroit Lions only to score three points in the second half and hold on for a seven-point victory. 

What's even more surprising is the fact Rodgers threw a pair of interceptions against the Giants almost a year to the day of his last game with two or more picks. A player once considered infallible on his home turf of Lambeau Field made multiple mistakes and missed throws. 

The Green Bay quarterback is a victim of circumstance, though. 

"No other quarterback is held to the standard he is," an anonymous general manager told Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman nearly three weeks ago. "Not even Tom Brady."

Great quarterbacks make those around him better, but he can't do their jobs for them. Packers receivers haven't been as effective this season, dropping a number of catchable passes. Randall Cobb excelled against the Giants with nine receptions for 108 yards, but Rodgers targeted Jordy Nelson 13 times and only connected on four.

Sunday Night Football color commentator Cris Collinsworth mentioned during the telecast that Rodgers believes his team has less speed to exploit mismatches outside the numbers. As a result, he only completed 52 percent his passes beyond that point since the start of the 2015 campaign. 

This seems to be a false assumption considering Nelson and Cobb's previous career success. Plus, the team could rely on rookie Trevor Davis if it wanted to be faster. The Cal product ran a 4.42-second 40-yard dash at this year's NFL combine in Indianapolis

A lack of continuity seems to be the primary issue plaguing Green Bay's offense at the moment. 

Nelson is now four games back from major reconstructive knee surgery. Even as good as the former Pro Bowl receiver is, he's not going to be the same player today that he was before he tore his ACL. Nelson should continue to get stronger and improve throughout the season, which will help bolster his rapport with Rodgers. 

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb after a reception against the New York Giants.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb after a reception against the New York Giants.Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Cobb, meanwhile, wasn't nearly as explosive last year when asked to do more without Nelson in the lineup. He's rounding back into form now that head coach/offensive play-caller Mike McCarthy can use him in multiple roles. 

Also, after a strong start to Sunday's contest, running back Eddie Lacy suffered an ankle injury in the third quarter and did not return. Prior to the injury, Lacy ran the ball 11 times for 81 yards behind an offensive line that dominated the Giants defensive front. 

"Eddie ran the ball really well," Rodgers said, per the team's Twitter account. "The offensive line was outstanding. Other than that, we've got some stuff to clean up."

Rodgers was presumably referring to the Packers' inconsistent passing attack. Green Bay's offense is a high-performance engine in desperate need of a tune-up.  

"It's been ugly at times, but we'll take it," the quarterback added. "It's tough to win in this league."

It is tough even with an elite quarterback. Being just good enough allows teams to win ugly games, but greatness is required to compete for a Super Bowl. 

The short-term goal in Green Bay should be to establish a symbiotic relationship between head coach and quarterback. From that point, the entire offense can blossom.

McCarthy has his fingers all over the scheme. Rodgers can make every throw, even when everything falls apart. Nelson and Cobb need some time to build upon what's being asked of them again this year. And Lacy is certainly capable of being a workhorse too. Coupled with strong offensive line play, it should be only a matter of time before the Packers offense develops a rhythm not seen in nearly two years. 

But it takes time. Trust needs to be rebuilt with a full complement of healthy participants. Once this occurs, the Packers offense has all of the pieces in place to return to its former glory. 

   

Brent Sobleski covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @brentsobleski.

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