Having lost three consecutive games – including a first loss to the Lions at Lambeau for over 20 years – under Aaron Rodgers for the first time since 2008, Green Bay’s campaign is in real trouble. So what went wrong? And how can the Packers fix it? Green Bay’s struggles go beyond injury problems. The Packers haven’t had a good game across all three phases since Week 3 against the Chiefs. There are major problems on both offense and defense.
After losing Jordy Nelson in the preseason to a torn ACL, Green Bay seemed to have an offense stocked to replace him. But after three straight losses in which Aaron Rodgers and the offense have struggled, it’s clear that losing Nelson was a huge blow. James Jones – the veteran re-signed to replace Nelson – has disappeared in recent games.
Jones hasn’t had more than two receptions in a game since Week 4. Randall Cobb looks overmatched in an increased role after primarily being a slot receiver over the past few seasons. Davante Adams hasn’t had the breakout season that the Packers hoped for, and rookie Ty Montgomery has struggled with injury. Meanwhile, neither Eddie Lacy nor James Starks can generate a running game. In Green Bay’s three losses, Lacy and Starks have combined for just 138 yards on 46 carries. That’s an average of 3 yards per carry. The offensive line hasn’t opened lanes for the running game and hasn’t protected Rodgers well. Last year’s MVP had to run for his life against Detroit’s pass rush, and was sacked three times. As a result, Rodgers hasn’t looked confident at times this season, missing throws and lacking trust in his receivers, offensive line, and the running game. Some of Green Bay’s play-calling hasn’t helped. Against Carolina, the Packers tried a short West-Coast style passing game in the first half and couldn’t make any headway.
In the second half, they reverted to a deep style attack and managed to attempt a comeback. Head coach Mike McCarthy has stepped away from calling plays this season, leaving assistant head coach Tom Clements to take over. The Packers led the league in scoring twice over the past four seasons, but rank 11th this season. The defense has had some good performance, but plenty of mixed and bad ones too. The Packers allowed Philip Rivers to throw for 503 yards at Lambeau in Week 6. Todd Gurley ran all over them in Week 5. Green Bay has had a good pass rush with Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers, but struggle in most other areas. They have allowed 371.6 yards per game, ranking 21st against the pass and 24th against the run. Despite ranking sixth for interceptions and 10th in sacks, the Packers have struggled to shut down opposing offenses.
The Packers allowed a struggling Denver offense to have its best game of the year in Week 8. Peyton Manning threw for 340 yards after averaging 254 yards per game, while the Broncos had 161 yards on the ground after averaging 83.8 in the first six weeks. In that game, Aaron Rodgers threw for just 77 yards. So what can the Packers do to salvage their season? Here are three things that could turn things around:
1. Take play-calling duties away from Clements and back to McCarthy
The Packers have struggled with Clements calling the plays. If McCarthy takes back control of the plays, Green Bay could find some form. McCarthy knows Rodgers well, and knows how to get the best out of him.
2. Fix Eddie Lacy
Part of the reason why the Packers made a run at the NFC title last season was that Lacy was able to support Rodgers with a strong run game. Lacy ranked 7th in rushing last season with 1139 yards, and the Packers averaged 119.8 yards per game. This season, they have averaged 108 yard per game. Lacy’s playing weight last season was 230 lbs. This season, he is up to 234, but has looked sluggish and slow at times. If Lacy gets his weight down, he could return to last year’s form and give Rodgers some much needed support.
3. Stick with the deep passing attack
In the first half against Carolina, with a short passing attack, the Packers had 133 yards. In the second half, when they switched to a deep-shot attack, they gained 262 yards. If the Packers stick to the deep-shot offense, that should help Rodgers put together a better attack. With the Vikings currently ahead in the NFC North, the Packers are still the division’s best team. They just need to make a few changes and they can turn things around. R.E.L.A.X Packers fans…