The Green Bay Packers offense is trending backwards in the last few games. Here is a closer look at what specifically has gone wrong this season and what has to be fixed.
To say that the first five games of the season for Jordan Love and the offense have been a rollercoaster ride is a bit of an understatement. After a 2-1 start that included a 38-point performance against Chicago and a come-from-behind victory against New Orleans, the offense has barely been able to move the ball or put up points these last two weeks.
Against Detroit and Las Vegas, the Packers are averaging just 16 points in total, with only six total points being scored in the first halves of those games. The struggles on offense result in a lack of complimentary football and putting more stress on a defense that has had ups and downs of its own.
What the Packers have right now is an offense that doesn’t seem to have much of an identity. When they need a big play, need a first down, or have to work their way out of a slump, there isn’t that one player or one core concept that they can lean on to provide that spark.
Unfortunately, very rarely in football is there ever just one thing that contributes to a team’s issues. It’s often a culmination of several, or sometimes many things. So with that in mind, here are eight factors that have played key roles in the Packers’ performance on offense this season.
Jordan Love’s deep ball accuracy
Jordan Love has been willing to push the ball downfield this season. His 24 pass attempts of 20 or more yards are tied for the fourth-most in football. However, he and his receivers have been in effective at connecting on them. Love’s completion rate of 25 percent on those pass attempts ranks 31st in the NFL. When defenses don’t fear getting beat over the top, they are able to shrink the field, playing closer to the line of scrimmage and muddy things up over the middle. This makes moving the ball in the run game or on underneath routes more challenging with less space to operate in.
An ineffective run game
The Packers have struggled to move the ball on the ground all season. Green Bay currently ranks 26th in yards per carry with 3.5, but even that number is a bit inflated due to some big gains from Love on scrambles. Of course, having Aaron Jones back will help, but that isn’t going to solve all these problems. With how poor the blocking has consistently been, even for a playmaker of Jones’ caliber, picking up yards won’t be easy.
When unable to pick up yards via the run game on early downs, it puts the offense behind the sticks and in predictable passing situations. The defensive front is now able to pin its ears back, and the defense as a whole is able to get into favorable matchups–making moving the ball through the passing game all the more difficult. This leads to short drives, quick punts, and more snaps for the defense to absorb.
The inexperience at wide receiver is showing
Love’s low completion percentage falls on his shoulders, but there have been plenty of times when the youth at tight end and receiver have contributed to that low figure. Overall, there is a lack of attention to detail on their routes, which alters where Love expects the pass-catcher to be and when he expects them to be there. These young pass catchers have also struggled to make contested catches, they’ve let physical coverage disrupt the timing of their routes, and as Love mentioned prior to the Las Vegas game, unscouted looks the defense throws their way have caused issues as well.
Schematically, the Packers are limited right now
Not to absolve Matt LaFleur from the offense’s early struggles – at the end of the day, he’s the head coach and play caller – but to a degree, he’s limited. Because the Packers don’t have a run game to lean on or the ability to connect on downfield pass attempts, defenses really have nothing to fear. As mentioned previously, right now, defenses can muddy things up over the middle and take away quick throws and opportunities for pass catchers to get in space. There’s only so much LaFleur can dial up right now, with limited space to work within. Also, the overall execution by the players on the field has been inconsistent at best. It’s a vicious cycle the Packers find themselves in and until they can connect more regularly on those deep balls to create better spacing or be effective on the ground to open up passing game opportunities, they’re going to be limited.
LaFleur needs to go back to the basics
When things aren’t going well in spots, oftentimes, going back to the basics or fundamentals is a step in the right direction. That’s what the Packers need to do over this bye week–what, at its core, is the LaFleur offense trying to accomplish, and then executing on those details correctly. In an effort to create opportunities for the players, at times, what’s being asked of this offense feels overly complex for a unit that is struggling to execute on the routine details regularly.
An example of this comes in the run game. Green Bay can’t consistently create running lanes in outside or inside zone runs – core concepts of the LaFleur offense – so asking them to execute an end-around against the Raiders where six or seven blocks have to be executed perfectly while on the move in order for the play to work out isn’t the best option. The players need to be put in the best positions to succeed.
Early on in LaFleur’s tenure, we heard a lot about the illusion of complexity, which in short, helps keep concepts relatively simple for the offense but can keep the defense guessing. This is accomplished through motion, running a variety of plays from just a few personnel packages to create mismatches and limit the defense’s ability to substitute, along with running like-plays, that begin similarly but end quite differently. That is what this offense needs to go back to–let the scheme do some of the heavy lifting with concepts that build off of each other.
Injuries have not been kind to the Packers, specifically on the offensive side of the ball. Aaron Jones has played in only two games, one of which he was limited and the other he was unable to finish. Christian Watson didn’t make his appearance until Week 4. On the offensive line, David Bakhtiari is out for the season, Elgton Jenkins missed roughly two-and-a-half games, while Jon Runyan and Zach Tom have been banged up as well. There still hasn’t been a game this season where Love has had both his preferred five starters on the offensive line and his full complement of skill position players.
A lack of timely adjustments
The Packers have been one of the best scoring offenses in football in the third quarter, showing that whatever adjustments they make at halftime are working. However, it can’t take until halftime for things to turn around. By that time, they were down three scores to both New Orleans and Detroit and should have been down multiple scores to Las Vegas.
With Jones being such a late scratch against Las Vegas, it’s not as if LaFleur could scrap the whole game plan and start over. To a degree, he had to work with what had been established throughout the week. But with that said, Patrick Taylor had more targets at halftime than Romeo Doubs and Christian Watson combined. My guess is that those targets were meant for Jones in the game plan. As LaFleur said following the Detroit game, they have to do a better job of getting the ball into the hands of their playmakers, even if that requires manufacturing those touches.
These lack of timely adjustments, of course, falls on the coaching staff, but for some of the reasons already discussed, such as the attention to detail and issues with unscouted looks, the inexperience on offense limits the Packers in this capacity as well.
Pass-blocking the last two games
After being one of the best pass-blocking units in football for three weeks, the Packers offensive line has done a 180-degree turn in recent weeks. According to PFF, Love was pressured on nearly 50 percent of his dropbacks against the Lions, while Raiders edge rushers Maxx Crosby and Malcolm Koonce pressured Love on about one-third of his dropbacks.
It’s not a coincidence that in Weeks 1 through 3, Love through six touchdowns and just one interception when the protection was good, and now has thrown five interceptions over the last two games. That time in the pocket allowed him to be patient and go through his progressions, giving the young pass catchers additional time to work their way open as well. But now, Love’s internal clock has had to adjust. After dealing with little pressure early on, we’ve now seen a quarterback more willing to take risks and putting the ball where he shouldn’t be.