The list of what went wrong in the Green Bay Packers season-opening game is long. So much so, there probably isn’t enough space in this article to list all of them. The items on that list all were factors in why the Packers lost 38-3 to the New Orleans Saints in Jacksonville. However, out of all those items, there is one that stood out the most, one that played a part in both the offense as well as the defense failing. The failure of the Green Bay Packers rushing attack played a major part in the loss on Sunday
Green Bay Packers Rushing Attack Biggest Key to Week 2 Victory
Benefits of Establishing the Run
When Matt LaFleur was hired as the Packers head coach, one of the first things he discussed was the importance of the Packers rushing attack. His offense is built around the run game. That is saying a lot when you factor in that Aaron Rodgers is your quarterback.
LaFleur runs a system that is similar to what former NFL head coach Mike Shanahan ran when he coached. That system, which utilizes a zone-blocking scheme, requires that he establish a run game first and foremost. An effective run game in the Shanahan-LaFleur system is a weapon all by itself. But the ground game also opens up the passing attack, making play-action passing more effective. Running the ball is the centerpiece of the offense.
Unfortunately, on Sunday against the Saints, the Packers rushing attack was non-existent. In fact, as LaFleur stated at his post-game press conference, he failed to even try to establish it. With so much linked to the Packers rushing attack, and failing to establish it, the offense was doomed.
Without a run game, the Packers offense became one-dimensional. Knowing that it failed, even with having Rodgers and wide receiver Davante Adams, illustrates how important the Packers rushing attack is to the overall offense. That is why heading into their matchup on Monday night against the Detroit Lions, it is essential that the Packers rushing attack gets established early.
Getting Jones Involved
Against the Saints, the Packers rushed for 43 yards on just 15 carries. LaFleur, who calls the plays for the Packers, didn’t establish the rushing attack early. Before they knew it, they were down 17-3 going into the second half and were forced to abandon the run and rely solely on the passing game.
One of the biggest offensive weapons for the Packers offense is running back Aaron Jones. Not only is Jones a weapon on the ground, but also as a pass-catcher. But even with Jones being such an integral part of the Packers offense, he was invisible on Sunday against the Saints.
Out of the 43 yards the Packers rushing attack gained, Jones only rushed for nine of those on just five carries. Jones wasn’t as much of a factor in the passing game either. He caught just two passes for 13 yards. It was also curious that when LaFleur feebly tried to attempt to run the ball, he tried to do it with AJ Dillon instead of Jones. Dillon finished the game as the Packers top ground gainer with 19 yards.
Dillon is a very capable running back. He showed some glimpses last season that makes the Packers believe he will be a very good running back. However, if the Packers are going to have a successful rushing attack, they need to feed the ball to Jones.
This off-season, the Packers gave Jones a new big-money deal. It is a contract that represents not only what he has done, but what he is capable of doing for the Packers offense. If the Packers offense is going to bounce back after an embarrassing showing, they will need to get the ball into Jones hands. Not only on the ground but through the air.
Improvement from the Offensive Line
Just like every other Packers unit, the Packers offensive line didn’t have its best day against the Saints. Besides giving up two sacks, the offensive line failed to create holes for the Packers rushing attack.
Rookie offensive linemen Josh Myers and Royce Newman were no doubt hoping for a better showing in their first games. While they did do some things well, overall, they could have been better. If the Packers are going to get the rushing attack established early, they will need to play better.
Starting left guard Lucas Patrick will also need to step up his play. Patrick was shifted to the left side in training camp after Newman outperformed him. He is on shaky ground after his performance on Sunday. Even with Elgton Jenkins playing a different position, Patrick has the benefit of lining up next to the Packers best offensive lineman.
The Packers next opponent, the Lions, gave up 131 yards rushing against the San Francisco 49ers in their season opener. Eli Mitchell, who stepped in for an injured Raheem Mostert, rushed for 125 yards on 19 carries. If the Packers rushing attack is going to have a bounce-back game, the Lions are a perfect opponent to do it against.
Taking Pressure off the Defense
The Packers rushing attack not only can help the passing attack, but it also can help take pressure off the defense. As discussed, the Joe Barry-led defense had a downright horrible debut for the Packers.
The Packers defense failed to create pressure, was dominated in the trenches, and was picked apart through the air. If something could go wrong for that unit, it did. However, they weren’t done any favors by their offense.
Having a ground game not only opens up the offense but also takes the pressure off the defense. With no ground game, and the passing attack failing to achieve first downs, it caused the Packers defense to stay on the field for long periods of time. When the Packers rushing attack is playing at a high level, it eats away the clock. That would have come in handy on Sunday when the defense was getting torn to shreds.
This week, many have been questioning if Joe Barry is the right man to lead the Packers defense. If LaFleur is going to protect his new defensive coordinator, he will need his offense to be much better. One way is by running the ball and keeping the defense off the field. The Packers rushing attack is not only important for the offense’s success, but also for protecting their much-maligned defensive coordinator.
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