It is old news by now that the biggest flaw on the Green Bay Packers is the offensive line. They have allowed 37 sacks on quarterback Aaron Rodgers, including five last week against the New York Giants. However, there are some steps that can be done to help keep Rodgers up on his feet that haven’t been taken by head coach Mike McCarthy.
The first thing Green Bay needs to do is have extra blockers in to protect Rodgers. Teams are able to regularly beat the Packers offensive line with just a standard four-man rush, so someone like tight-end Jermichael Finley should be left to help block the edge rushers; or, have fullback John Kuhn in the backfield for extra protection.
Lately, the Packers have been establishing the running game even though it has not been effective, so that is making defenses respect the fact that Green Bay might run the ball on any given play. This will open up play-action passes for the offense along with the extra protection of a fullback or a tight end. That would provide Rodgers the few extra seconds he needs to find his open receiver and make the down the field play.
Last weekend against the Giants, the Packers only touchdown of the game came off of a play-action play that had an eight-man protection. Jordy Nelson then made a double-move and was able to score a touchdown. Packers offensive coordinator Tom Clements knows that though the extra protection will help Rodgers, he also knows the downside of it as well.
“It’s a trade off,” Clements said. “You’re getting more protection, but you may not get as many receivers out and they may not get out as quickly.”
Clements is right in theory – more protection will mean more defenders to cover the receivers. However, going back to the Nelson touchdown last weekend, the Packers had eight men blocking for Rodgers, and Nelson was still single-covered. The Giants were in a man defense and they all had to wait on their assignments, whether it be the tight end or the running back. This allowed Nelson to go down the field with one-on-one coverage.
When Green Bay isn’t using extra blockers, they need to utilize the short passing game. The Packers run the west coast offense which specializes in short passing plays. While the Packers are known for their down-the-field capabilities, the short passing game in effect can be used as their running game. Both Alex Green and James Starks have not been productive this season and screen plays and quick slants need to be called more by McCarthy to help Rodgers get the ball out of his hands quicker and have him stay on his feet.
With Greg Jennings coming back from his groin injury this weekend, this will give the Packers three receivers who are great at catching short passes and getting plenty of yards after the catch in Jennings, Nelson and the emergent Randall Cobb. The Minnesota Vikings have one of the best pass rushes in the NFL, but just like the Chicago Bears showed everyone last week, they are capable of getting beat through short passes. Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier knows that the Packers might use that same strategy.
“They went to a short passing game and it was effective for them. They did some things to offset our rush. They had a good game plan,” Frazier said of the Bears.
When asked about the Packers and if they would try using the same game plan, the coach said he wouldn’t be surprised if they did.
“I wouldn’t be surprised,” Frazier said. “I’m sure they’re working as hard as they can not to fall into the situation they were in.”
The Packers need to make some changes to their offense if they want Rodgers to stay healthy all year and to give the team a better shot at winning the Super Bowl. If they can start executing a new game plan of short passes or adding extra blockers, the offense should be close to unstoppable.
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