Packers: What’s Ailing Aaron Rodgers and the Offense?

The Green Bay Packers have never been a perfect football team, ever. But, most of the time, they are able to overcome their inadequacies because of the great play of Aaron Rodgers. Yet in the last few weeks that player has been non-existent.

And consequently, the Packers have dropped three consecutive games with Rodgers starting at quarterback for the first time since 2008, his first season at the helm, a season in which Green Bay went 6-10.

The Packers aren’t going 6-10 this season, but despite holding a two game lead in the NFC wildcard race, their season may be on the brink soon if number 12 and the offense can’t turn things around in short order. So the question is what is going on with Rodgers and the Green Bay offense? And, can it be fixed in time to save the season?

It’s hard to pinpoint the Packers’ recent slump of any one player, but the guy who is responsible for getting Green Bay out of it is Rodgers. All the talk right now is about what is wrong with him and it’s a great question. From this perspective, it seems that he is hesitating with the football and at times worrying more about the pass rush than what is happening down field. At times, there are wide receivers open and Rodgers simply isn’t hitting them.

Take the fourth-down play in Carolina as an example. Rodgers said he got “scared” by something on the play, which caused him to look away from a wide-open Randall Cobb for what could have been a game-tying touchdown. And Sunday, against Detroit, it seemed that the rush again got into the head of Rodgers again.

For three quarters, the lowly Lions defense stifled the two-time MVP and entering the final 15 minutes of football, he had not completed a single pass of more than 20 yards. For a player that was once made explosive pass plays seems routine, that’s alarming.

Rodgers and the Packers did finally get things going and he finished the game with 333 yards and two touchdowns. Yet, the offense scored just 16 points and Rodgers completed just 57 percent of his 61 pass attempts. And yes, there were some dropped passes, but there were also plenty of bad throws. And to see Rodgers miss throws he normally makes with ease is a disturbing trend—one that cannot continue.

The Packers miss Jordy Nelson. Yes. But he is not walking on the field anytime soon, so forget it—time to move on. Even without Nelson, Rodgers flourished with 10 touchdown passes in the first three games. But then Davante Adams got hurt, defenses figured out James Jones and teams also started using the mush rush to keep Rodgers in the pocket.

Rodgers is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL when he gets outside the pocket. But lately, he hasn’t and teams are keeping him in there on purpose. It started with St. Louis and it’s continued week after week, because it’s been extremely effective.

Then, at the same time, the Green Bay running game completely fell apart. After rushing for more 120 yards in five of the first six games, the Packers have averaged under 70 yards per game on the ground during their three-game losing streak.

So at this point, defenses have taken away two ways Green Bay gets big plays: One is Rodgers getting out of the pocket and throwing down field, the other is the play-action passing game, which used to be a staple of the Green Bay attack.

A poor run game, means you are behind when it comes to down and distance and no matter who you are in the NFL, if you are always in second and third-and-long, you will struggle. The other problem is that with no run game to worry about, defenses can play their safeties deep and put just seven in the box. That strategy curtailed Rodgers before the arrival of Eddie Lacy opened things up, but now defenses are once again employing ir and it’s been highly successful as Rodgers has completed less than 60 percent of his passes in three straight games, while his average yards per attempt has been 3.5, 7.6 and 5.46 when it normally hovers around eight or nine.

Then, with Nelson out, defenses have put their focus on defending Randall Cobb, which put the onus on guys like Adams, jones, Richard Rodgers and others to win the one-on-one matchups and they have struggled to do so.

Essentially, it’s Cobb, an aging Jones and a bunch of first and second year players.

Adams, Ty Montgomery, Jared Abbrederis and Jeff Janis, those are four of Green Bay’s six receivers and none of them have been in the league longer than a year. Adams has shown potential and put up decent numbers the past two weeks, but if Green Bay is going to get out of this funk, he needs to make plays down the field and when he’s isolated and he failed to do that yesterday when it mattered most.

So there are a combination of factors that have led to Rodgers’ struggles and the inconsistency of the Packers’ offense as a whole. The fact is Rodgers must be better. He needs to make great throws and trust his receivers—be a gunslinger. But, at some point, the rest of the team has to play better, because Rodgers may be great, but no quarterback is good enough to carry an entire offense.

chris peterson

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