The Packers offense is out of sync. There’s no two ways around it. By now you definitely don’t need me to point this out, but NFL writer Ian Kenyon summed up the offensive struggles with this tweet:
If you remove the Packers' three hail mary plays (DET, 2x ARI) over Rodgers' past 10 gms… 231/406 (57%), 2275 yd, 5.60 YPA, 15 TD, 7 INT,
— Ian Kenyon (@IanKenyonNFL) September 20, 2016
While that is a concerning 10 game stretch for the Packer offense, I still think it is far too early to be hitting the panic button for 2016. In reviewing the current state of the team it’s important to point out that the Packers have spent the last month on the road (including the last 2 weeks of the preseason). For an offense that is still searching for its rhythm, it shouldn’t be a surprise then that they struggled against an elite defense in Minnesota without yet having an opportunity to get their feet under them in 2016.
But that is now set to change. Including the forthcoming week 4 bye, the Packers will spend the next five weeks at home. This is their opportunity to right the ship, starting with their home opener against a depleted Lions team (1-1) that will be missing star pass rusher Ziggy Ansah, among others.
Rather than lamenting A-rod’s continued struggles with fundamentals, I’d rather focus on the positives heading into this matchup with Detroit.
First and foremost, the Packers are #1 in the NFL in defending the run with 78 yards allowed and a 1.6 YPA (!) average through 2 games. This isn’t a smokescreen either; this is after facing two teams in their house that desperately tried to run the ball for four quarters and failed. Considering the depth concerns along the defensive front to begin the season, this is a tremendous start.
Secondly, the pieces that were meant to make the biggest difference for this year’s team are still a work in progress. Nelson is getting close but he’s still not quite at 100%. Cook has passed the eye test but he’s still building chemistry with Rodgers. Fans are obviously antsy given how similar this offense feels compared to last season, but I think a bit of patience is certainly warranted given these circumstances.
Lastly, the team is 1-1 after two difficult road games and were perhaps a few plays away from being 2-0. That is a damn fine start to the season after what may end up being the two most difficult road games for the Packers all season. With injuries galore in Minnesota, Detroit, and even Chicago, Packers fans should be grateful for the position the team is in, both health and record-wise, going forward.
Of course, all this angst will be a distant memory if the offense can show signs of life in the friendly confines of Lambeau Field against a mediocre Lions defense. Here are the match-ups that will play a major role in this game.
The Packers got Cook more involved last week in Minnesota, but still not nearly enough, as he finished with 4 catches on 6 targets for a Richard-Rodgers-esque 31 yards. This week the Packers will have a massive opportunity to attack the middle of the field with conviction, however. The Lions have already been without their top LB Deandre Levy, and have now lost LB’s Kyle Van Noy and Antwoine Williams to injuries suffered in week 2. That leaves Tahir Whitehead and Thurston Ambrister as the only active LB’s on their current roster. Needless to say, it will be extremely disappointing if Cook ends up with less than 10 targets in this game.
Assuming Sam Shields is out again with his concussion, Randall will have another difficult matchup on his hands after having the worst game of his young career last week. Jones has emerged as Stafford’s new #1 target this season after signing a massive 5-year, $40M deal this past offseason. While he’s no Calvin Johnson, he’s earned his money so far with 12 catches and 203 yards through 2 games. The post-Megatron version of Stafford spreads the ball around to all his receivers and backs, but Jones is the downfield playmaker Green Bay will need to work hardest to contain.
I’ll admit I’ve continued to be a Davante apologist through all his struggles. I didn’t think it was fair to write off a young receiver last season in a year when the entire offensive unit was in a funk. But the time for excuses is starting to run out. Despite carrying 7 receivers on the 53-man roster, Coach McCarthy has opted to keep things simple through 2 weeks with Nelson, Cobb, and Adams all receiving a 90% share of the WR snaps. Adams has continued to do very little with the opportunity however, as he’s caught only 6 of his 14 targets and failed to secure multiple contested deep balls. Coming out of college, this is where Adams was supposed to excel, as he was never going to win in the NFL with speed and separation. If Adams struggles again against a subpar corner in Lewis, I would expect the Packers to come out of their week 4 bye with Ty Montgomery and Jared Abbrederis taking a significant share of his snaps/targets going forward. His season-long role could truly be on the line in this game.
As for my week 3 game prediction, I think the pass defense struggles without Shields and a hobbled Morgan Burnett, but Rodgers silences the critics a bit with a 31-27 victory.