Could Packers Offer a New Look On Offense?
by Mike Conklin
August 19, 2013
Training camp and exhibition games do not always offer solid evidence about what to expect from a team in any given year. Historians often point to the fact that one of the most dominating teams of all time, the 1985 Chicago Bears, only managed a lackluster 1-3 record that August.
Even so, the past two weeks may have offered some clues that could point to some possible changes in the Packers offense.
The first clue came in the form of two plays against the Rams on Saturday night. Although these plays may have only taken place during a meaningless preseason game, something the Packers were able to do may portend well for the future of coach Mike McCarthy's squad.
In his first live NFL action, Eddie Lacy gave some scouts reason to think that the Packers may have found a steal in the second round of this year's draft. He pounded, lunged, and spun his way to 51 yards of total offense in limited first-half snaps.
And while Lacy may not have been the beneficiary of two of the most explosive plays of the evening for the Packers offense, he certainly played a role in both of them.
On their first offensive drive, the Packers gave the ball to Lacy on a first down. The bruising back battled forward for seven hard-earned yards.
On the following play (2nd and 3), quarterback Aaron Rodgers faked a handoff to Lacy, which stopped Rams linebacker Alec Ogletree in his tracks. Rodgers then calmly tossed the ball to Jermichael Finley on a short pass over the middle that Finley broke into a 25-yard gain.
On another drive early in the second quarter, Lacy was given back-to-back carries and picked up a combined 13 yards. On the next snap Rodgers once again faked to Lacy, but threw to Finley again on a quick-hitting play just a few yards past the line of scrimmage. Finley was able to ramble for 33 yards on that play, putting the Packers in scoring position.
If such a trend continues, it appears that for the first time in several years the Packers may have a chance to keep teams off balance on a regular basis on the strength of their running game.
Aaron Rodgers is coming off of two of the best seasons for a quarterback in NFL history, and was able to do so without much of a running game.
What could Rodgers accomplish if defenses have to contend with a consistent threat on the ground?
As we have written previously, it appears the Packers are serious in their approach to run the football more effectively. But to ensure that the ball is not taken out of the hands of arguably the league's best signal caller, they may have another offensive wrinkle up their sleeve.
During the first preseason game against the Cardinals, James Jones was interviewed after he finished for the evening. It was one of those lighthearted sideline interviews, a rite of summer that happens every year during a team's broadcast of their own exhibition games. Softball questions are often lobbed for players, and it is not usually a forum for hard-hitting journalism.
But in this particular interview, sideline reporter Rod Burks asked James Jones what he was expecting out of the offense this season compared to last year. Jones' answer may have been revealing.
"Adjust the tempo," Jones answered. "We want to be a lot faster in and out of the huddle when we go no-huddle, and when we go regular standard offense.
"We want to speed it up a little bit. We're a fast-paced offense, and hopefully when we get down into the red zone we'll score some more points."
Is it possible that James Jones was giving a glimpse behind the curtain of what Mike McCarthy and the Packers are planning this season?
Every year, coaches do an in-depth self-evaluation of their own team. And every year, coaches make strategic adjustments.
Last year, one major adjustment was the evolution of Randall Cobb's role in the offense. The coaches would not talk about it during the offseason, and if reporters saw anything in closed-door practices they were instructed to keep their silence on the topic. Even so, the signs were there for those who observed closely.
Sure enough, when the season rolled around Cobb was featured heavily. In the first week alone he had nine receptions, after garnering only 25 receptions during his entire previous season. Cobb went on to become only the seventh receiver in team history to finish a season with 80 receptions.
Because coaches are so careful to protect their competitive advantage, it is often the players who make statements that allow room for interpretation. This may be the case with Jones' comments a week ago.
If the Packers are indeed planning to increase their tempo substantially, and at the same time carry through with the promise of an improved running game, the offense may have a surprisingly different look than what has been seen in Green Bay in recent years.
Photo Credit: Reuters