The first team offense of the Green Bay Packers is operating in midseason form through two exhibition games, despite the fact that the unit has scored just six points to open the 2013 preseason.
Over four series with quarterback Aaron Rodgers captaining the offense, Green Bay has racked up 251 total yards, or 63 a drive. Also, each series has ended with a legitimate chance to score points (two field goals, turnover on downs at the 1-yard line and missed field goal).
As expected, Rodgers has been the driving force. The Packers quarterback has completed 13 of 17 passes for 196 yards, good for 11.5 yards per attempt and a passer rating of 113.8. In contrast, the three backup quarterbacks are averaging just 4.2 yards per attempt with a passer rating of 63.1.
Facing vanilla defenses and limited pressure schemes, Rodgers has been sharp. The offensive line has also kept him upright (just one sack allowed through 18 drop backs).
However, the Packers have also run the football with effectiveness during first team reps.
Against the Arizona Cardinals, James Starks received six carries and picked up 15 yards. As a result, the Packers didn’t face a third down longer than two yards throughout the series. On a third-and-2, Rodgers received man-to-man coverage on a vertical route and found James Jones for a 50-yard hook up along the sidelines.
The Packers got their first taste of rookie running back Eddie Lacy during Saturday’s 19-7 win over the St. Louis Rams, and the second-round pick didn’t disappoint. Over eight carries spanning three series, Lacy chewed up 40 rushing yards in what has to be labeled as an impressive debut.
Again, the Packers benefited in the passing game from the run.
Four of the first team’s five third down opportunities came from inside five yards, while the playaction passing game came to life in a big way.
When using a play fake to a back against the Rams, Rodgers completed six of eight passes for 107 yards (116.7 passer rating). His two incompletions included a fraction of a miss to Jermichael Finley for what could have been a touchdown and a drop from James Jones on a slant in which the Packers receiver had plenty of separation.
Here’s how all eight of the playaction fakes ended up:
- Bootleg to Rodgers’ left, dumpoff to Finley for 11 yards.
- Finley wide open on shallow post for 25 yards.
- Jarrett Boykin comeback route along the sidelines for 26 yards.
- Incomplete to Finley down the seam.
- Jones drop on quick slant.
- Swing pass to Lacy for 11 yards.
- Finley wide open over the middle for 33 yards.
- Jeremy Ross bubble screen for one yard.
Finley was clearly the biggest benefactor of the playaction fakes in St. Louis, catching three passes for 69 yards when Rodgers dummied a handoff.
This second quarter connection between the two might have been the best example of how playaction helped gouge the middle of the Rams defense.
On second and 7, and just one play after Green Bay ran Lacy out of the shotgun for three yards, the Packers show nearly the exact same formation. The Rams counter by bringing Cortland Finnegan on a delayed blitz off the right side of the offense line, but the play fake does its work on the two linebackers. Instead of staying home and dropping into their middle zone, both linebackers attack the line of scrimmage, which opens up a square mile of space for Finley to operate in the middle of the field. He looks for the football immediately as the hot receiver and the Packers get the easiest 33 yards of the preseason.
These kind of plays have been a rarity for the Packers offense in recent seasons, in large part because defenses have had no tangible reason to respect what Green Bay offered up on the ground. Maybe now they do.
While the preseason provides only a brief and inconclusive snapshot of a given unit, head coach Mike McCarthy has to be pleased with the balance and execution of his first team offense. Rodgers has been sharp and productive, the offensive line hasn’t made any devastating blunders and the running game is already gaining a sense of respect from opposing defenses.
McCarthy will want a better ending product once the regular season starts, but the Packers first team offense is running smoothly through two exhibition games.
Zach Kruse is a 25-year-old sports writer who contributes to Cheesehead TV, Bleacher Report and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He also covers prep sports for the Dunn Co. News. You can reach him on Twitter @zachkruse2 or by email at email@example.com.