There is no debate that the Green Bay Packers offense has established a familiar identity, one which imposes fear and helplessness in opposing defenses. There are many reasons that attribute to this history of success, but one of the major keys is the number of weapons that the Packers attack with on offense. The 2016 campaign in Green Bay seems to keep adding offensive weapons to an already volatile squad.
Look no further than last Sunday’s 31-17 NFC North division-clinching dismantling of the Detroit Lions in which the Packers flexed their offensive muscles, paced by productive performances from Geronimo Allison and Aaron Ripkowski.
Allison, the 6’3” lanky rookie receiver from the University of Illinois, posted 4 catches for 91 yards against the Lions including a precision Aaron Rodgers pass for a touchdown that will be shown in Packers lore for years to come. The catch was not easy, but was wildly overlooked because of the pinpoint throw and the 8 seconds Rodgers danced around before throwing the dart. Allison’s performance against the Lions came one week after posting another solid game in which he caught 4 passes for 66 yards against the Minnesota Vikings.
This production couldn’t have come at a better time with Randall Cobb sidelined the past two contests with an ankle injury. The last game Cobb played was against the Chicago Bears, a game he failed to get targeted for a pass. Understandable that Allison would not receive these opportunities unless Cobb was hurt, but it is possible Allison has propelled himself into a larger role moving forward in the Packers postseason run. His size offers Green Bay a third legitimate big bodied target along with Jared Cook and Jordy Nelson. This is an asset Green Bay lacked a season ago with Jordy Nelson sidelined. Cobb offers the knowledge of the offense and awareness on broken plays, but he has failed to produce explosive plays as he did in previous years. It could be argued that Cobb could be expendable at the conclusion of the 2016 season and the emergence of Allison, especially if he continues to flash during the postseason, could further push that thinking.
In Ripkowski, the Packers have a 246-pound sledgehammer that seems to relish contact on opposing defenders with his kamikaze-style running attack. The second-year fullback often stuns the opposition with initial contact that he provides as a ball carrier, typically concluding with him gaining more yards than he was granted. Though he is known for his “bull in a china shop” style of carrying, he also proved last week that he can make the right reads as explained by Rodgers.
“The first run out of split backs with a two-tight-end set on the right, he had kind of a nice clean hole. But then you saw him with the reading. He made some really good reads today.” Rodgers told the media after Sunday’s game.
With the playoffs starting, it is evident that Mike McCarthy trusts Ripkowski the most in regards to single back sets and protecting the quarterback. It’s no secret that newly transitioned running back, Ty Montgomery, has struggled in pass protection. While Montgomery offers explosive plays both in the running and passing game out of the backfield, it is clear that Ripkowski is the better option in pass protection. He has garnered the trust of Rodgers also who prefers him on key third down situations, like his relationship with former Packers fullback John Kuhn.
“Where if Mike says, ‘Hey, who do you want back there on the big third down?’ I want Rip back there, just like I wanted John back there.” Rodgers explained.
Ripkowski’s skills have trickled into the passing games as well, he caught a 7-yard touchdown reception on the Packers first scoring drive. He has shown flashes in previous games catching the ball which at least gives the defense another thing to worry about, especially as a check down after pass protecting.
Having two more viable weapons for the opposing defense to worry about only makes the Packers offense more dangerous, and gives McCarthy a bevy of options to incorporate into his weekly playoff game plan. Depending on the opponent, this offense can operate and be successful in multiple ways. Unfortunately for Green Bay, Dom Capers does not have this luxury of options on the defensive side of the ball.
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