7 Adjustments for Packers to make coming out of bye week

Nov 27, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur on the sidelines against the Philadelphia Eagles during the fourth quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 27, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur on the sidelines against the Philadelphia Eagles during the fourth quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports /

The bye week provides the Green Bay Packers with the opportunity for a mini-reset by self-scouting and making changes on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.

They’ve been able to build some momentum on offense as of late behind good offensive line play, a strong run game, and Christian Watson. In three of the Packers’ last four games, they’ve posted their three highest-scoring games of the season, tallying at least 28 points in those outings. The defense, however, remains wildly inconsistent, as we saw against a not-so-good Bears offense, where they either allowed a big play or forced a stop or a turnover.

While not likely, the Packers still do have a path to the playoffs this season, and it all begins with them winning their final four games and making these seven adjustments coming out of the bye week.

More snaps for Kenny Clark away from the interior

Kenny Clark lining up in the A or B-gaps has always been his primary responsibility. But in 2021, he took the most snaps of his career in a single season lined up as a defensive end, and not coincidentally, he had one of the most productive seasons of his career in terms of pressures. This year, he is on pace for fewer snaps away from center, and that needs to change.

Clark hasn’t been as disruptive this season, which is due to inconsistency on his part, as he told Tom Silverstein recently, but with lining up inside, he also faces a lot of double-teams, and that has become more true with Rashan Gary sidelined. Moving Clark to defensive end for some additional snaps each game will provide him with more one-on-one opportunities to get after the quarterback. This will provide the Packers’ defense with an added pass rush presence — something they greatly need at the moment — and maximize Clark’s impact.

More snaps, in general, for Devonte Wyatt

It’s been clear that the Green Bay Packers don’t believe Wyatt is ready for significant playing time and needs to be developed, as he has played only 125 snaps through their first 13 games per PFF ($$). However, he’s a first-round pick, and the Packers really need to begin finding out what they potentially have in him. It’s not as if Dean Lowry and Jarran Reed are playing at really high levels, and playing time is hard to come by–have Wyatt take a handful of snaps from them in each of the remaining games. If Clark does see more opportunities outside, give Wyatt those snaps in the B-gap. There, of course, will be ups and downs, but in trying to build momentum towards 2023, there is no experience for a young player like live-game action.

More downfield passing opportunities for Aaron Jones

With the emergence of Christian Watson, this has become less of a need for a passing game that is finding its stride a bit, but more downfield passing opportunities for Aaron Jones would still provide a ton of value for the Packers’ offense. As expected, Jones has been a major factor in the passing game, currently with the second-most targets on the Packers. However, his average depth of target is -0.6 yards–meaning he’s catching the ball behind the line of scrimmage.

As we all know, Jones has the ability to create for himself in those situations, but when running actual routes, he can really stress opposing defenses with the mismatches he creates or by creating opportunities for others with the attention he draws. As Matt LaFleur has pointed out, there aren’t many running backs that can affect the passing game quite like Jones can.

Green Bay’s game against Philadelphia a few weeks ago was a prime example of this, with Jones’ average depth of target that week at 11.0 yards, while he averaged 18.7 yards per catch with a touchdown. Jones is a playmaker; let’s see the Packers put him in more situations to create big plays.

More playing time for Josiah Deguara

As I wrote recently, the tight end position for the Green Bay Packers has very much underwhelmed in the passing game this season. When it comes to Josiah Deguara, he’s just simply not had many opportunities for whatever reason, with only 13 targets on the season. Deguara has been a very sound blocker, and while not overly dynamic by any means, there’s been a few instances where he has proven to be very capable with the ball in his hands.

In addition to the passing game, Deguara’s versatility provides this Packers offense with immense flexibility and can really keep defenses guessing with his ability to affect both the running and passing games while lining up just about anywhere. We have often heard LaFleur discuss the “illusion of complexity,” and Degura’s presence helps achieve that.

More variety on defense

I’m not sure how this Green Bay Packers defense turns things around. In fact, they probably can’t. We are 13 games into the season; this is just who they are at this point. With that said, I want to see more variety and aggressiveness from Joe Barry. According to PFF, the Packers have one of the most predictable coverage schemes in the NFL, rarely deviating from their base cover-2 look. On top of that, Barry isn’t one to blitz or utilize twists all that often, with the defensive front expected to win their one-on-one matchups, which becomes a lot more difficult without Gary.

I’m not saying that Barry has to load the box and put his cornerbacks in press coverage and on an island every play, but how about we mix things up a little? Throw in some movement within the front seven. Run more blitzes, stunts, and twists. Trust your cornerbacks and switch up coverages. Just do something different.

Continue to lean on the run game

This isn’t so much of an adjustment as it is something to continue doing. As already mentioned, the run game has been a big part of the Packers recent ability to put up points. Jones and Dillon have totaled over 400 rushing yards at over five yards per attempt in their games against Dallas, Philadelphia, and Chicago. The Tennessee game is a prime example of how much more challenging things become for this offense when running the ball is a challenge.

When effective, the run game creates play-action opportunities, where Rodgers has been very efficient, and opens up the passing game in general, along with the playbook for LaFleur. With Rodgers at quarterback, I’ll never expect a 50/50 split between the run and passing games, but being relatively balanced is important along with leaning into other core LaFleur concepts, such as motion, being under center, and bunch sets.

As Adam Stenavich told us recently, when you have a run game to lean on and a player like Watson on the outside, running an effective offense can be that simple. However, he also added that any success begins on the ground.

More touches for Christian Watson

Whether it be downfield, the quick game, jet sweeps, or preferably, all the above, Christian Watson is a star in the making–get him the ball. Watson has been incredibly efficient with his opportunities over the last month, totaling over 300 receiving yards and eight total touchdowns while averaging just over four touches per game. He had a career-high of eight targets against Dallas and then six in each of the last three weeks. Let’s pump those numbers up.

Honorable Mention: If eliminated from the playoffs, let’s see Jordan Love

I get wanting to stick with Aaron Rodgers until the Packers are eliminated from the playoffs, and while there is still a faint glimmer of hope at the moment, when that time inevitably comes, let’s see more of Jordan Love. Recently, GM Brian Gutekunst told reporters that the Packers didn’t need to see more of Love in-game action to make a decision on his fifth-year option. However, he would also add the caveat that in-game experience is still incredibly valuable for him.

In that fourth quarter against Philadelphia, Love looked much improved from when we had last seen him in regular season action against Kansas City and Detroit in 2021. Let’s see if he can build upon that performance. We do not know what the future holds for the Packers at the quarterback position (although I believe both Rodgers and Love will be back in 2023), and with that uncertainty, Green Bay needs to be prepared for all scenarios.

With that said, if Rodgers and the Packers have a conversation and come to the conclusion that he will be back in 2023, then there is value in keeping him as the starter. As already alluded to, there is no replacement for in-game experience, and that goes for the rookie receivers as well, who can continue to build that trust and rapport with Rodgers in the remaining games.