Packers passing game will be challenged by Jets ball-hawking secondary

New York Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner (1) catches the ball during warmups before a preseason game at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, August 28, 2022.Nfl Giants Vs Jets Preseason Game Giants At Jets
New York Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner (1) catches the ball during warmups before a preseason game at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, August 28, 2022.Nfl Giants Vs Jets Preseason Game Giants At Jets /

The Green Bay Packers’ inconsistent passing game will be tested on Sunday against the New York Jets’ ball-hawking secondary.

Green Bay’s passing game has been at its best when the ball has come out of Aaron Rodgers’ hands quickly. He has been very efficient, completing 78% of his 104 attempts at 7.4 yards per attempt with seven touchdowns to one interception per PFF ($$).

The Packers’ pass catchers have also been among the best in the NFL at generating yards after the catch–a big reason why they still rank well in big pass players created this season.

Contrary to the quick passing game, Rodgers and his receivers have struggled to connect when pushing the ball downfield. This season, Rodgers is just 6-for-22 on such passes, including going 0-for-6 against the Giants this past Sunday. By several metrics, Rodgers has been a below-average quarterback on passes of 20-plus yards.

Rodgers mentioned on Wednesday when speaking with reporters that a lot of the chunk plays that have been created have come off schedule. Instead, the offense has to do a better job of creating those opportunities from the pocket.

Many of the issues, as described by Rodgers, have come from the little details on some of the routes, resulting in him and the receiver not being on the same page. Rodgers added that there is the playbook and then what actually takes place on the field, and right now, those instinctual adjustments just aren’t there.

Any sort of miscues, or Rodgers and his receivers being even slightly off, could present this opportunistic and aggressive Jets’ secondary with the chance to capitalize.

New York will enter Sunday’s game with seven interceptions, tied for the second-most in the NFL. They also have forced 15 pass breakups, which is good for the third-best mark this season.

The thing about this Jets defense is that there is no one or two players who are creating these turnovers or knocking the ball away–everyone is getting in on the action. Six different players have at least one interception, while Sauce Gardner leads the way with four pass breakups, but nine players in total have recorded at least one.

"“(It’s) a group that’s around the football, making plays on the ball,” said LaFleur on Wednesday. “All of those guys have really good ball skills, so it’s going to be really important that, first and foremost, that we protect up front, but also that we get guys in the right area, and our quarterback is going to have to do a great job of progressing through his reads in the timing of the play.”"

As LaFleur laid out for us, there are three keys when it comes to facing this Jets’ secondary. The first is giving Rodgers time in the pocket, which won’t be an easy task as the Jets currently rank fourth in pressure rate this season.

Green Bay’s receivers will need to be in the right spots and at the right time–something that has troubled them at times this season. If you go back and watch the Giants game, there were a few instances where a pair of Packers receivers were right on top of each other. “The most important thing for a receiver is to be open on time,” Rodgers said on Wednesday.

Lastly, Rodgers will need to play on time and really make sure that he is progressing through his reads. Rodgers would also stress the importance of this, complimenting the New York secondary on their vision along with the challenges that can provide him.

"“Any time you play against this defense that kind of started out of the Seattle system, it’s predicated on guys flying to the football and guys having vision of the football. So you gotta have really good eye discipline, you gotta be able to look guys off, throw to windows, anticipate throws. When you got that many guys with vision to the football, naturally there is probably going to be more opportunities for interceptions.”"

The Packers’ recipe for success on offense consists of the quick passing game and the run game–just as we saw in the first half against the Giants. However, pushing the ball downfield is still an important element to this offense, as it creates room underneath, along with fewer heavier boxes to contend with, but it’s also something that has been missing in 2022.

There have been numerous instances this season where the Green Bay passing game has just been slightly off, but that’s also all it may take for this Jets secondary to take advantage.