Whether it be football or really in anything where we encounter a problem, we always want to find the one thing that is causing the issue so we can fix it. Unfortunately, there often isn’t just one thing causing that problem. This rings especially true for the 2022 Green Bay Packers.
A lot of time has been spent this season pontificating on how this team can turn it around. The issue, however, is that there are what feels like a dozen different things that go wrong each game, and those issues will then vary from week to week.
These mistakes compound, especially when not corrected right away, and like a snowball rolling down the mountainside, the problems become bigger and more challenging to overcome as the Packers season has gone careening out of control.
Now at 4-7 and following another disappointing loss as eventual playoff elimination feels like an almost certainty at this time, let’s look back at what exactly has gone wrong for the Packers this season.
Admittedly, there are likely some items that will be left off this list — there are just too many to count — but these are the big-ticket items–and there are a lot of them. I suppose I could have saved some time and just put “everything,” but let’s dive in anyways.
– Obviously, there is the performance aspect of it, but far too often, this Packers offense doesn’t look like the unit we saw in 2020 and 2021 from Matt LaFleur. There has always been a marriage between LaFleur’s system and what Aaron Rodgers wanted, but it’s as if that pendulum has swung too far away from LaFleur, and this Packers’ offense looks like the 2018 version. There have been fewer snaps under center, fewer bunch formations, less motion, the usage of the run game and play-action has been sporadic, and there’s been a lot more of the Packers receivers simply having to win their one-on-one matchups. In short, everything feels stagnant, and that makes little sense given the personnel that they have at receiver. This is an offense with no identity.
– A moment of hesitancy from a quarterback can wreck a play instantly, and there have been a number of those moments for Rodgers. I believe it stems from a lack of confidence in his offensive line and receivers.
– Too many simple mistakes. While we can all be frustrated with the play calls and designs, many times, the execution hasn’t been there offensively. The Packers have been one of the most penalized teams in the NFL. Dropped passes along with receivers running the wrong routes and stems have been issues as well. On top of that, there have been missed blocks, and Rodgers has been uncharacteristically inaccurate. If the Packers can’t do the little things right, not much else matters.
– Speaking of inaccurate throws, when Green Bay signed Rodgers to his extension, the expectation was that he was going to have to continue playing at a very high level. This became even more true when Davante Adams got traded. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened. While we can see with our own eyes that Rodgers has been off, two key stats from a clean pocket help illustrate that as well. According to PFF ($$), when not under pressure, Rodgers ranks 22nd in completion percentage and 25th in yards per attempt.
– Injuries — while not an excuse because every team deals with them — haven’t done the Packers any favors either. There have been only two games this season where the Packers have had their trio of veteran receivers all available. Meanwhile, Romeo Doubs and Christian Watson have played only 52 snaps together all year. Along the offensive line, the Packers have already utilized nine different combinations as they deal with injuries, which leads to movement. Although better in recent weeks, the offensive line play greatly impacted the Packers’ playbook. Tight ends have been asked to chip, the quick passing game has been very prevalent, and there have been times when LaFleur and Rodgers seem unwilling to run the ball because of the uncertainty up front.
– The lack of a deep ball. Not until Christian Watson’s recent emergence have the Packers had a true deep threat. This has allowed defenses to shrink the field, making it more difficult to run and lean on the quick passing game with extra defenders near the line of scrimmage. Opponents were also really pressing the Packers receivers at the line of scrimmage as well, something this group has not been equipped to handle.
– Aaron Jones is the Packers’ best playmaker, but for whatever reason, LaFleur and Rodgers don’t always utilize him in that capacity. There have been seven games this season where Jones hasn’t hit the 15-carry mark. In four of those games, he hasn’t even hit 10. He also has only three games with more than three receptions. Regardless of how the defense is lined up, Jones needs, at a minimum, 20 touches per game. He’s just that good.
– Like injuries, you can’t blame the schedule for the Packers’ performance, but it hasn’t been easy on them. From Weeks 5 through 9, the Packers played in a different stadium every week, including a trip to London and three straight road games. Green Bay’s opponents through the first 11 games are a combined 66-46, and they’ve faced several of the league’s top defenses. Given how the season has played out, LaFleur has questioned whether it was the right move not to take the bye week following their trip overseas.
– Too many late adjustments by Joe Barry. I guess if you want to give Barry some credit, he has adjusted–which I’m not sure we can say about the offense. But why did some of these adjustments take so long? It wasn’t until five or six games into the season that we saw the Packers playing more press-man–and it still isn’t something they do regularly. It wasn’t until after that where we saw them blitz more. Why has Jaire Alexander taken only 16 slot snaps all season? Why did it take the signing of Johnathan Abram to move Darnell Savage to the slot? And somehow, 11 weeks into the season, miscommunications on the backend are continuing to get worse.
– The Packers haven’t been great at generating quarterback pressures, but they’ve been okay. However, while their pressure numbers look fine, they have the eighth fewest sacks in the NFL. Oftentimes, many of the Green Bay pass rushers seem to be a half-step shy of truly wrecking the play. The pass rush has also really struggled since losing Rashan Gary. It’s going to take more blitzes and stunts from Joe Barry moving forward to help manufacture those pressures.
– The Packers’ inability to play complimentary football this season has been mind-blowing. When the offense is finally able to move the ball, the defense can’t get stops. When the defense is finally forcing punts, the offense can’t score. The most recent game against Tennessee is a perfect example of this.
– Green Bay’s run defense ranks 21st in yards per carry allowed and 29th by DVOA. This is a defense where priority No. 1 is to take away the pass, which can leave them susceptible against the run with lightboxes. However, this defense — despite the talent on paper — hasn’t been able to take away either consistently, and that, of course, is a major problem.
– The turnover battle is one area where the Packers have pretty much won on a weekly basis over the years with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback. But not this season. The Packers currently sit with the third-worst turnover differential in the NFL at minus-four. In the rare instance when the defense does come away with one — and one reason that they haven’t done this regularly is that they aren’t always put in a position to make plays on the ball — the offense can’t take advantage.
– The Packers’ offense is an average third-down team. However, they have been abysmal on fourth downs. In fact, the discrepancy between their third-down success and fourth-down success makes little sense. Green Bay is 4/18 on fourth downs this season. The Packers are also a below-average red zone team on offense. Not a great recipe for success for a team that already has fewer than three red zone trips per game on average.
– Lastly, there are too many players simply underperforming. Go through this team position by position, and you will be hard-pressed to find someone who is playing above expectations. Ultimately, this falls on coaching, but the players are responsible for the poor play on the field as well.