Leading up to their game against the New York Jets, it was the Green Bay Packers defense getting most of the attention. Defensive coordinator Joe Barry found himself once again on the hot seat. A place where Barry should find himself. He has taken a talented unit and made them downright average (at best). But on Sunday, it wasn’t the defense that embarrassed themselves. The Matt LaFleur-led Green Bay Packers offense embarrassed themselves at home against the Jets in their 27-10 loss.
Green Bay Packers Offense Sinks to New Low in Home Loss to New York Jets
Six games into the 2022 season, the Green Bay Packers offense looks downright lost. Overall, the now 3-3 Packers look downright average, and really, average is being kind. Their best unit so far has been their special teams and that unit didn’t look overly effective on Sunday.
Heading into this season, LaFleur knew that the Green Bay Packers offense would need to be different. Gone was their standout wide receiver, Davante Adams. He was shipped to the Las Vegas Raiders for two draft picks. While losing Adams was a massive blow, they still had the reigning NFL MVP, Aaron Rodgers, as their starting quarterback.
Unfortunately, even the presence of Rodgers hasn’t been able to cover up the stench that has come from that side of the ball. The Green Bay Packers offense has been downright rotten and there are a lot of reasons why.
Heading into this season, it was discussed that LaFleur, his playcalling, and his offensive scheme could be an “X-Factor” for the Green Bay Packers offense. At the time, it was thought that the x-factor would be positive, but instead, it has been an anchor around their neck.
Under LaFleur’s play-calling the Packers offense has looked lost, a unit without an identity. Most believed that LaFleur would lean heavily on his starting running backs Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon. With Adams gone, and the Packers not replacing him with any proven replacements (more on that later), it seemed that LaFleur would call on Jones or Dillon early and often.
But so far, LaFleur has failed to do that. The run game, which LaFleur has emphasized since getting the head coaching job, hasn’t been an emphasis. At least not on a consistent basis. It can be argued that Jones is the Packers biggest weapon on offense. But instead of making sure Jones gets the required touches, on the ground and through the air, LaFleur has failed to do so.
Sunday’s game is a prime example of his failure. Against the Jets, Jones was given just nine carries and had just three receptions. For a team that doesn’t have a plethora of offensive weapons, it’s a travesty to give Jones that small amount of touches. That failure falls directly on LaFleur.
Offensive Success Hinges on Rodgers
In Rodgers post-game conference on Sunday, Rodgers said he has “got to raise my game probably a tick in order for us to come out on the winning side“. In Rodgers’ long stellar career, that might have been the biggest understatement he has ever uttered.
Once Adams was traded, and Rodgers got his new contract, the Packers offensive success fell on Rodgers. It’s nothing new that Rodgers has needed to carry the Green Bay Packers offense. He has done that throughout his career. But without a marquee pass catcher, and some suspect pass catchers around him, it is now more obvious than in seasons past.
The offensive scheme needs to work, but that scheme will only work if Rodgers is playing at an MVP level. So far, he isn’t doing that. When the Packers go into “backyard offensive football” and it depends on Rodgers, he hasn’t looked sharp. Part of that has to do with the lack of proven pass catchers. But the other part is on Rodgers, not being as sharp as he has been in seasons past.
For $105 million dollars, the contract Rodgers signed this off-season, he should be able to raise the talent around him. He has done it before, but this season, things seem different. Maybe age has caught up with him, although he still looks to have above-average arm strength. But something is missing. No matter what it is, it’s a part of the Packers offensive struggles.
If Rodgers continues not to play at an MVP level, the Green Bay Packers offense will continue to falter.
Offensive Line Going Through a Rough Patch
In recent seasons, the Packers offensive line has been one of the best in the NFL. Even when injuries depleted the starting unit, they still played at an upper level. But in the Packers six games, the offensive line has struggled and it has affected the Packers offense.
Elgton Jenkins suffered a season-ending injury halfway through the 2021 season. The fact that he came back so early this season from the injury is quite remarkable. But he has struggled since coming back. He has been called for multiple penalties and his play has been well below the standard he set before suffering that injury.
While Jenkins has a reason for his rough start, the same can’t be said for starting center Josh Myers and starting right guard Royce Newman. The interior of the Packers offensive line has struggled and both Myers and Newman have been the ones allowing those struggles. Myers, a former second-round pick of Brian Gutekunst, hasn’t played well. In fact, there have been more than a few plays he has been blown up after snapping the ball.
Newman has been the weakest part of the Packers offensive line, this season and last. He doesn’t have the speed required to adjust to stunts, something the Jets did perfectly on Sunday. The Jets took advantage of it on Sunday and was able to get to Rodgers due to that. Newman was eventually pulled but was replaced by an ineffective Jake Hanson.
David Bakhtiari seems to be getting stronger every week since missing almost two seasons while recovering from a 2020 knee injury. The Packers also found a capable backup left tackle in Yosh Nijman. Jon Runyan Jr. has held up, but even he had a tough showing on Sunday.
LaFleur has said he wants an offense that can run the ball and utilize that to make plays with play-action passes. But if the offensive line can’t control the line of scrimmage, the Packers offense will struggle. Which it has so far in 2022.
Lack of Weapons at Wide Receiver
Leading up to this season, Twitter was full of tweets commending the job general manager Brian Gutekunst had done with this roster. Many claimed he was a “beast” for his work and that the Packers had the talent to make another Super Bowl. Apparently, those Twitter users never looked at the Packers offensive roster.
Gutekunst and his staff have done a good job getting talent for the offensive line and the running backs. However, they have done a miserable job when it comes to surrounding Rodgers with proven talented pass catchers.
After he shipped Adams to Las Vegas, the only major additions Gutekunst brought in were veteran Sammy Watkins and rookies Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs. Doubs, a fourth-round selection, has had some positive moments. But he’s a fourth-round rookie, he will have more downs than ups. At the same time, he is trying to earn the trust of Rodgers.
Watson, who Gutekunst traded up for in the second round, hasn’t done anything to contribute to the Packers offense. His only contribution has been a couple of jet sweeps. Through the air, he has done nothing. He is now dealing with a hamstring injury. In most seasons, the Packers could allow him time to develop. But with the lack of talent at wide receiver, the Packers don’t have that luxury.
Watkins played in just two games before once again being injured. The Packers knew when they signed him that he had a history of injuries. But that didn’t stop Gutekunst from making him the only veteran wide receiver the Packers signed after losing Adams.
That leaves Aaron Rodgers with Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb. Lazard is a nice complimentary piece but isn’t a true number-one option. Cobb has played well, but at 32 and having a recent history of injury, you can only expect so much from him. He left the game with an ankle injury on Sunday. Amari Rodgers, a player Gutekunst traded up in the third round to select in 2021, has done nothing for the Packers offense as well.
Tight End Lacking a Playmaker
In 2020, Robert Tonyan became the top pass-catching tight end in the Packers offense. But when injuries hit the Packers offensive line in 2021, he was asked to do more blocking than route running. Then, he suffered a season-ending injury.
Tonyan has returned to the starting lineup, but similar to Jenkins and even Bakhtiari, he is still working his way back. But even knowing that it would take time for Tonyan to get back up to par, Gutekunst chose to do nothing to increase the depth at tight end this off-season.
Behind Tonyan are Marcedes Lewis, Josiah Deguara, and Tyler Davis. Lewis is on the roster for his blocking ability, but that appears to have slipped so far this season. If he can’t be the blocker he has been, he really doesn’t serve a purpose on this roster. He brings nothing to the passing game.
Deguara is the only tight end on the Packers roster that has the ability to line up in different spots. But LaFleur hasn’t utilized that ability as he should. Because of that, Deguara hasn’t contributed to the offense.
Tyler Davis had one of the worst training camps an NFL player has ever had. But even with that, he still made the roster. At this point, the only thing he brings to the roster is his ability to play on special teams.
An Up Hill Road to Climb
LaFleur can’t do much about the hand Gutekunst has handed him in regard to the lack of playmakers. But he still has Rodgers, one of the best running back combinations in the NFL, and talent on the offensive line.
If the Green Bay Packers offense is going to contribute anything, LaFleur is going to need to get the most out of Rodgers. That means getting Rodgers to buy in and also establish the run. If he can’t do that, things are going to get a lot worse.
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