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Packers 2017: Most Dangerous Offense in the Rodgers’ Era?

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Packers 2017: Most Dangerous Offense in the Rodgers’ Era?

No one forecasted a 4-6 start for the Packers in 2016. The 2015 offensive struggles should’ve been behind them with Jordy back and producing at a high level (663 yards and 9 touchdowns through those 10 games); but they weren’t. Subsequently, the Packers were able to turn on a dime and “run the table” as if those offensive woes never even occurred. What changed that allowed them to do that?

There were two common denominators for the Packers historical run. The emergence of Ty Montgomery at running back and the return of tight end Jared Cook. Here’s exhibit ‘A’, courtesy of Aaron Nagler:

Would that adjustment have been necessary if that running back had been…say, Eddie Lacy? In fact, would that adjustment have been necessary if that was any other running back from the Rodgers’ era?

Ryan Grant, Brandon Jackson, Cedric Benson, Alex Green, James Starks, Eddie Lacy, and Ty Montgomery; that’s a complete list of running backs with 70 or more carries in a season during the Rodgers’ era. Montgomery is the first legitimate pass-catching threat to make that list. He had more receptions than any other Packers running back since 2006, despite the fact that he was on the field for just 36% of their snaps. It’s baffling that a general manager as sagacious as Ted Thompson would fail to see the benefits of having a back who can be a threat as a receiver, but that’s a matter for a different time.

You can’t fault the Seahawks for not wanting to put a linebacker on a receiver by trade. In addition, you can’t blame them for not wanting to cover Jared Cook with a linebacker. Those two players gave defensive coordinators nightmares. In fact, when the Packers had Montgomery and Cook on the field at the same time (including the playoffs) they averaged: 5.8 yards per carry, 9.7 yards per pass attempt, and one touchdown every 10.6 plays. Those numbers were significantly higher than their overall regular season averages of: 4.5 yards per carry, 6.7 yards per attempt, and one touchdown every 20.2 plays.

Having a big, athletic tight end who can beat linebackers and safeties downfield is hardly a revolutionary idea. The Packers had one before in Jermichael Finley. How much of an effect does this type of player have on an offense? Just ask Aaron Rodgers. His production in 65 games with Cook or Finley as his primary tight end compared to the 70 games without them is quite telling:

·         With: 66.8% completion percentage, 276.6 yards per game, 158 touchdown passes, 25 interceptions, 112.2 QB rating.

·         Without: 63.8% completion percentage, 265.96 yards per game, 138 touchdown passes, 46 interceptions, 97.9 QB rating.

That’s why Ted Thompson went out and splurged on two tight ends in free agency (I’ve never written ‘Ted Thompson’ and ‘splurged’ in the same sentence before). Martellus Bennett is a bigger target and better blocker than Cook was, and he’ll certainly bring more personality to the locker-room. Lance Kendricks is similar to what the Packers were getting when they signed Cook last year: a speedy tight end with good size whose career had been hampered by bad quarterback play and questionable hands.

Matching up with the Packers offense in 2017 is going to be quite the conundrum for opposing defenses. Picture a formation with Montgomery in the backfield, Bennett at TE, and Kendricks at H-back (or they bring in a third receiver and go three wide): how would defenses match up? If the played their base personnel, they’d give the Packers mismatches all over the field. They could remove two linebackers and go with their dime package, but then the Packers would just bring their tight ends in-line and run the ball. They could go nickel, like the Bears did in week 15, but the result wasn’t pretty for them:

Both were incredible runs by Montgomery, and the Bears just didn’t have enough beef to take him down. Montgomery ended that game with 162 rushing yards.

Rodgers gets Cook matched up with a linebacker and it’s an easy completion (one of his 6 catches for 85 yards).

The last time a tight end put up 700 receiving yards in a season (Finley in 2011), Rodgers’ posted one of the best stat lines in NFL history. He now has two players who can do it, one of whom (Bennett) has done it three times in the last four seasons. Furthermore, he has three receivers who were in the top 20 in QB rating when targeted last season, according to Pro Football Focus. The loss of T.J. Lang will hurt the Packers, but Jahri Evans can handle his own in pass protection (20th among all guards, per PFF) and they still have the best tackle combination in the league.

Has Rodgers played with a more talented offense? Perhaps. Has he played on a more dangerous offense? Probably not.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (13) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

JDK52's picture

Having a really hard time not getting way too psyched about this team's potential.

Playmakers all over the field!

gr7070's picture

Much has been said about how great the Packers WRs are this year and how great the offense will be.

I find both claims ridiculous! At least in comparison to 2011.

The 2011 receiving unit and offense were amazingly good. So far superior to 2017 I find it ludicrous folks are comparing them and unconscionable that so many think this seasons WRs (or offense) are better.

The 2011 O was the 5th best regular season DVOA of the last 30 years of every team in the league! Those WRs had a superior Jordy and Jennings both putting up #1 and #12 in DVOA accompanied by James Jones #3 and Driver #16. It also had Cobb as the #1 rated WR with not enough receptions to qualify or he would have been top 5, too. Finley was the #7 ranked TE.

That's six absurdly highly ranked receivers!! Resulting in an all-time modern-era offense. 2017 will not be that. Likely not even close.

2016 had Jordy at #3, Adams #21 and Cobb #37. The 2011 team has 4! (not counting Cobb) ranked above 2016's 2nd ranked guy.

While I'm very high on Bennett and Jordy for 2017; and Adams could have another big year with contributions from Montgomery (and the UTEP rookie) and *maybe* Cobb or others.

However that WR core from 2011 was absolutely insanely good!!

2017 has the potential for a good O, but it's nothing close to what 2011 was. It's so far away the comparisons are a joke.

I'm truly dumbfounded by so many making similar comparisons.

Oppy's picture

You're overlooking the fact that Aaron Rodgers, as great as his year turned out, played the first 8 games like he forgot how to QB.

Not hatin, just sayin'...for half of 2016, the WR's didn't have the same QB throwing them the ball as the WRs in 2011 had all year long. And that's no exaggeration.

ShanghaiKid's picture

I think it could be the most diverse and multiple offense since Rodgers became the starter, yes. I do believe it could even rival the offense from 2011, but eclipse, I personally don't think so.

The reason being is the weapons. DD (albeit older), J-Mike, Jennings, Nelson in their prime > Older Nelson, Adams, Monty, Cobb, Older Bennett.

I have high expectations, and as long as the offensive lines hold up, anything less than a top 3 offense would be disappointing, but I would be surprised if they were better than the 2011 squad. Just my opinion. As always, Go Pack Go!

Handsback's picture

Not since 2011...here the Packer's roar in 2017! At least they'll scream loudly.

Since '61's picture

Whether or not this offense is as good as 2011 doesn't matter but this offense does have the weapons necessary for Rodgers to have another MVP type season. If that happens and the Packers defense actually shows up this team will go a long way. But as we know from the 2011 and 2014 seasons regardless of how good the offense is the defense can take it all down quickly with a bad performance or another 4Q collapse. Either way this offense should be fun to watch. Thanks, Since '61

BradHTX's picture

There was a comment on here by someone saying there is no way the 2017 offense will compare to 2011's because of how good Nelson/Jennings/Jones/Driver/Finley were by comparison the current WR/TE corps. I left the site to do some research to back up my response, and for some reason the comment is gone. So I'll offer my thought in response to you, Since'61.

The 2011 Packers' passing offense was historically good and they did have an amazing group of pass catchers, but it's worth bearing in mind that the offense also features a truly putrid running game led by the empty husk of Ryan Grant, checking in at #28 in DVOA. The ineptitude on the ground does somewhat account for the amazing passing game: they really had no choice but throwing the ball.

This year, the passing numbers might not equal the historic 2011 pass offense, but I think the overall offense will be just as potent. Nelson, Adams, Cobb, Bennett, Kendricks, Monty, Williams... the list of weapons just goes on and on. Opposing DCs, you want cyanide, arsenic, strychnine...?

Brewcity's picture

Absolutely agree, good job with the stats research.

If you're a betting type...bet the over!

Not that I don't hope for the best from the Packers D, but our last impression of that D wasn't good. My hunch is that we're going to find ourselves wishing for another pass rusher.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Monty and Cook and of course AR are a good chunk of the reason for the 6 game win streak. But, Nelson led the entire NFL in receiving yards during those 6 games with 597 yards, or 99 yds per game.

66.3 yards would have been good for 17th most yards in the NFL. 99 yards/game is dominant and extrapolates to first. AR had a 151.8 passer rating when tossing the ball towards Nelson during those 6 games.

Finally, Nelson yds/target was almost 11 during those 6 games. Calvin Johnson owns the best single season mark at 10.64. As a note, Nelson has always been very efficient, combining a good catch rate with a good yds/reception. Since 1992, among all NFL receivers with at least 500 targets (that means some young studs like Julio Jones and Beckham are excluded), Nelson has the best yards/target mark at 10.25.

http://packerswire.usatoday.com/2017/07/03/no-receiver-was-better-than-p...

https://www.sports-reference.com/blog/2016/01/find-nfl-yards-per-target-...

Nick Perry's picture

After the 2015 season McCarthy went public after the season and told the media (and Ted) he needed a big, fast TE who could stretch the middle of the field. Ted listened and went out and signed Cook. The difference in the 2016 offense with and without Cook was so profound there was NO WAY Ted wasn't going to make sure McCarthy had his TE...So he went out and signed TWO! Nelson will be Nelson in 2017 and Cobb showed in the playoffs if he's healthy he can still be a force and is far from washed up or finished. Adams is just going to keep getting better not just because he's talented but because he has Rodgers. But where defenses will have fits, when the Packers become borderline unstoppable is when Montgomery, Bennett, and Kendricks are on the field together. This now becomes the most balanced offense under McCarthy, even better than 2014 when Eddie wasn't being first in the chow line. With Nelson/Cobb/Adams out on the field with those three and Rodgers? It WILL be like stealing candy from a baby. My only question about this offense is can they start fast and when Rodgers will surpass 50 TD passes. By the end of 2017 this Packers offense will be good enough and done enough to make an argument whether or not they're the best.

Spock's picture

"(I’ve never written ‘Ted Thompson’ and ‘splurged’ in the same sentence before). " LOL, I almost spit out my water when I read that. Hilarious! I've been saying for a while that the two tight ends will make this the most interesting offense in the Rodgers era. Monty is the real wild card, he just has the 'it factor' with his running instincts. It's hard for me to temper my enthusiasm, and I'm a fan, so why should I?

Johnblood27's picture

now we are on to something.
monty, bennett and kendricks on the field with nelson, afams and.cobb.

sounds.silly, right?

not so fast my friend!

why not run a tackle eligible.formation with bennett at tackle?

why only use tackle.eligible.formations with a true tackle as the extra eligible player?

this would be Belichick-esque innovation.

think of the possibilities!

run plays with half line.blocking with a backside cut.block and play action with 6 players going out on routes!

I am all for.this sort of a 'gimmicky' offense given our talent this year.

Oppy's picture

I don't think you risk the health of a HoF QB by only putting 4 true linemen on the field. Just my opinion, of course, but there is no way I'd ever take half the OT's off the field in today's pass-rush heavy NFL and risk Rodger's neck to get an extra receiver on the field.

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