Over the past eight seasons, only two NFL teams have made the playoffs all eight times – the Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots. For several months now, we’ve heard Aaron Rodgers’ praise of Tom Brady and adoption of Brady’s nutritional habits. Both teams’ head coaches are tough in their own way and have proven their strategic acumen en route to a total of four Super Bowl appearances in those eight years. Unfortunately for the Packers, only one appearance belongs to them. So the free agent acquisition of the Patriots’ leading tight end from 2016 should not totally shock us. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. However, it seems that the Packers offense might promote more than just a common impact player; it might be following a parallel path altogether.
As we have discussed for months now, the Packers have signed two athletic veteran tight ends while losing two starting members of the offensive line and their power running back. In August 2014, the Patriots cut Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins yet still thrived with two dynamic tight ends and short passing game using quick receivers. They also utilized a whole host of variously sized and styled running backs to churn out long and efficient touchdown drives. New England currently seems to prepare for each game with offensive outlooks that are almost impossible to prepare for.
Mike McCarthy has often spoken of the advantage of a super tight end duo. This might just be the year. The last two New England Super Bowl berths have displayed how long offensive drives can wear down fast defenses while keeping their own off the field. In turn, they can make defensive stops and turnovers down the stretch. I’m not convinced that Green Bay has the defensive pieces to win the Super Bowl this year, but let’s picture their changing offensive line-up and how it might stack successes.
We’ve all been wowed at Aaron Rodgers’ ability to buy time in the pocket and make plays out of it. I’ve begun to tell people that he essentially has no pocket. That has been a scary strength of his game since at least 2011. It seems that Aaron has many more years of top performance ahead of him. However, Father Time has a way of catching everyone and the Packers might just want to slowly start the transition. New England has seemed to be making this transition for several seasons as Brady reaches “old age” in quarterback years.
The first step for the Packers is to create reliable variety in the passing game. With Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks (hey, don’t forget Richard Rodgers’ great hands), Aaron and Company will hopefully dominate the middle of the field. Aaron Rodgers has had seasons (like 2015) where fans went berserk when he held onto the ball and took too many sacks. In 2016, that seemed like a good strategy for wearing out the opposing secondary until our receivers could find a hole.
With a very talented and experienced receiving corps, we could see many 10-15 yard routes in all directions. Quick slants to Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams, and the two new tight ends on mismatches could work all day. Keep in mind, also, that Ty Montgomery is a wide receiver turned running back. So picture him doing what James White did in Super Bowl LI. Aaron Rodgers is deadly accurate, and if he can get himself to make quick throws more often, then he will add another Brady parallel to his resumé.
Going forward, what other pieces do the Packers need if they truly want to follow in New England’s footsteps? Well, they drafted three RBs – all with different body and running styles. Jamaal Williams should serve as an updated and improved James Starks-style runner. Aaron Jones apparently has home run ability. Devante Mays can break off long runs as well despite a 230-pound frame. We have seen New England utilize quite a few running backs during a season. This past year was one of their best ground game examples while not actually have a bona fide star in the backfield.
Mike McCarthy has his work cut out for him this offseason. Let’s hope he and Ted Thompson have a clear plan. From the number of free agents leaving Green Bay, the Packers will score heavily with four 2018 compensatory draft picks. Let’s hope those extra bodies aren’t only brought on board to find scattered pieces of Aaron Rodgers after a rough 2017 season. Figuring out how to peak in the playoffs is the now the task at hand. Returning to the Super Bowl will once again fall on the shoulders of the offense. If they want to mimic the New England Patriots offense, they are well on their way. Let’s hope their success is part of the parallel.