Green Bay Packers have a Plethora of Pass Catchers

Although short-handed at receiver, the Green Bay Packers show they have plenty of pass-catchers for Aaron Rodgers and Matt LaFleur to lean on. 

Understandably there was some concern surrounding the Green Bay Packers' wide receiver unit entering Monday Night's game with Atlanta. With no Davante Adams or Allen Lazard, the Packers were left with Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who has had his ups and downs this season, along with the unproven Malik Taylor, Darrius Shepherd, and Reggie Begelton. 

However, unlike year's past, under Matt LaFleur, this offense is as well equipped as it's possibly ever been to handle not having two of its top receivers. 

For my Milwaukee Brewers fans out there, much like Manager Craig Counsell uses the term "out getters" when referring to his pitchers, LaFleur has "pass-catchers" rather than just receivers. In this offense that is pursuing that "illusion of complexity," as LaFleur calls it, they are running similar-looking plays from a wide variety of personnel, which keeps defenses off balance. This requires a versatile skill-set of players and that everyone is involved in the passing game. 

As we've seen under LaFleur, long gone are the days of running five wide and relying on only the receivers in the passing game. Instead, we've seen the Packers' 11 personnel usage (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WRs) go from being used 77 percent of the time in Mike McCarthy's final season to just 36 percent in 2020. Meanwhile, their 12 personnel usage (1 RB, 2 TEs, 2 WRs) is up from 16 percent to 25 percent during that same span, while the biggest jump has come in their usage of 21 personnel (2 RBs, 1 TE, 2 WRs) which has gone from one percent under McCarthy to 28 percent under LaFleur this season.

So out of these more diverse personnel groupings, along with the Green Bay Packer receivers, running backs, and tight ends, Rodgers and LaFleur have a plethora of pass-catching options to rely on. Through four games this season, Aaron Rodgers has completed at least one pass to 12 different targets, with only five of those players being receivers. Additionally, he's thrown touchdown passes to six different players, with only three of them being true wide receivers. 

While the numbers from last night's game against Atlanta are a bit inflated since there were no targets for Adams or Lazard, Rodgers was a perfect 20/20 for 241 yards with four touchdowns when targeting his tight ends or running backs in the passing game. This illustrates beautifully just how this offense operates. 

With all of that said, there is certainly no replacing Davante Adams or even Allen Lazard in this offense; however, with LaFleur's philosophy of getting running backs and tight ends involved in the passing game along with his ability to scheme players open, if the Packers are without one or even two of their top playmakers, it is by no means a death sentence for this unit. 

Through four weeks, the Packer offense is second in total yards per game, first in points, and second by Football Outsiders' DVOA metric. As always, there are a myriad of reasons behind their success, but one big contributor is that in the passing game, they rely on their pass-catchers and not only their receivers. 

 

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Born and raised in Green Bay, WI and I still call it home. After my family, watching the Packers, sharing my opinions on the team through my writing and interacting with other fans is my greatest passion. You can find me on Twitter at @Paul_Bretl. 
 

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Comments (35)

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egbertsouse's picture

October 06, 2020 at 12:12 pm

I can just hear Vic Ketchman repeating his mantra, “Receivers? Dime-a-dozen!”

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fastmoving's picture

October 06, 2020 at 12:32 pm

Thats just because some can not see it. We have a good till great WR group since 3 years and it was clear, if AR is AR again there are no need at that position at all.
Plus the TEs and the RB who can catch it may be too crowded there more than anything.
So we have to point it out over and over again for the blind.

Love was by the way a great pick.

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HankScorpio's picture

October 06, 2020 at 02:26 pm

" We have a good till great WR group since 3 years and it was clear, if AR is AR again there are no need at that position at all."

That was a pretty big "if" as recently as 5 weeks ago. His play had been on the decline. Whatever the reason, the prolonged brilliance was reduced to flashes. Lots of people got downright militant about moving on from him. I started walking on eggshells when discussing him. I didn't want to deal with the backlash from saying I didn't think he was washed up.

Think about that. A Packer fan among other Packer fans holding back on praise for Rodgers because he didn't want to get into an internet pissing contest. I'd say that sums up 2020 nicely. But it started in 2019 or even earlier.

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Matt Gonzales's picture

October 06, 2020 at 04:04 pm

This happens in every organization, not just football. Someone gets to the top of their "game", and starts getting complacent. It often takes some internal competition to bring out the best in folks. Rodgers spent years improvising and making off-schedule throws with the team on his shoulders, and even after he had a better designed offensive system, those bad habits he had accumulated had become mechanical memory.

Drafting Jordan Love may have, in effect, helped prolong Aaron's career as a Packer - I think it has forced him to evaluate what isn't working well and get back to basics to improve his game. You're seeing more confident throws, quicker decisions, and a reluctance to play hero ball. These are all good things, and I honestly don't think that would have happened had there not been another 1st round QB on the roster.

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Guam's picture

October 06, 2020 at 04:08 pm

And how would you know Love is a great pick since he hasn't played a down in the NFL? He may be, but that is yet to be determined. For Gute's sake I hope he is.

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Guam's picture

October 06, 2020 at 04:10 pm

Double post.

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BBlake's picture

October 06, 2020 at 12:26 pm

Mike McCarthy was pretty successful in Green Bay, but in his later years here those of us watching could call out the plays before the offense ran them. Nowadays we have no clue about about what play is being run, it's really fun to watch.

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Leatherhead's picture

October 06, 2020 at 01:30 pm

I really like all the fakery and motion and misdirection. And Rodgers is a tricky bastard who sells the fakes and that’s part of the reason we see guys running wide open. Last night, the skill position players featured Rodgers and a bunch of bargains. UDFAs and Day Three picks and practice squad guys.

The offensive line is a Day Two pick and a bunch of solid vets on their second contracts. Not bargains.

It seems as though the philosophy is you have a great QB, so pay good blockers but you can get weapons cheap. And it’s working.

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Bure9620's picture

October 06, 2020 at 02:08 pm

The Patriots had a similar blueprint for years with Brady......we will give Tom great protection, a solid running game, Gronk and Edelman.......go make it work with the rest (once winning a SB w/o Gronk)
It was Edelman and a bunch of UDFAs.....

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WilsonMaywick's picture

October 06, 2020 at 02:20 pm

"Rodgers is a tricky bastard who sells the fakes" This is an intangible that should not be glossed over. You can't find this in just any QB.

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Minniman's picture

October 06, 2020 at 03:59 pm

Something about all these mid-round picks Leatherhead that you are perhaps alluding to is the fact that there’s NO ego, and MLF’s scheme relies on this.

MLF is applying an unconventional approach that absolutely needs every skill position player to contribute doing the statistically invisible, but critically necessary, “dirty” work - blocking, chipping and misdirecting - with pride and enthusiasm (to aid the real intended target).

Enough of these guys endured the late MM era knowing that on a ‘traditional’ team they don’t get a look in, BUT on this team, if they do their dirty work well, then they get their time in the sun....... and credit to MLF’s masterful game planning and inclusive scheming here, they know that it’s just a matter of time till they do.

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Bure9620's picture

October 07, 2020 at 02:48 am

These players doing the dirty work are celebrated on this team.......

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greengold's picture

October 06, 2020 at 04:32 pm

It really is fun to see the difference. There can be a lot going on, which keeps defenses playing more honest. We'll see that become more and more effective moving forward, as I am sure there is still quite a lot we've yet to see. Noticeable difference this season compared to last.

As for the weapons part of the equation, I do think they want to add more for Aaron and that they will over the course of the next two drafts. However, what I think we are really seeing now is a HC with a more solid player development program, along with a GM who finds diamonds in the rough in FA/UDFA.

Rick Wagner is a very solid player. Krys Barnes is leading ALL ILBs from this last draft class at the position. Darrius Shepherd and Malik Taylor have both had 1 full year plus in LaFleur's system now, and are just beginning to make contributions.

This last draft had some funk to it in that they took players many fans did not expect at their given draft slots. This is a delicate dance, figuring out who you want to keep for TOP $$$, and who you are forced to part with, and then replace. Clearly, they thought they would be having to replace at least 1 of their RBs, Williams or Jones, which kind of forced the Dillon pick.

We'll see which route they choose to take with whom, but, for now, it is time to ride Aaron Rodgers dropping' dimes & suck it signs, all the way to another Super Bowl win.

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Leatherhead's picture

October 07, 2020 at 12:05 am

I want the Packers to win the Championship game and only throw 10 passes.

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arthurl's picture

October 06, 2020 at 02:12 pm

It’s becoming pretty clear this has become a tough offense for Defensive Coordinators to figure out. It’s a very skilled offense; great line protection, two very solid RBs who Can pass protect and also catch the ball well, surprising TE play, better WR talent than we thought, and of course #12. They got some coaching, but some of these guys have pleasantly surprised me....Tonyan, Williams, Patrick, Lewis. Other guys are even playing better than last year; Lazard, Jenkins, Turner. This next game versus the Bucs should be a terrific game to watch.

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PatrickGB's picture

October 06, 2020 at 03:02 pm

Thanks for using the word “ plethora”. It’s true that wide receivers are not the only pass catchers on this team. Heck, Williams had almost 100 yards.

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BAMABADGER's picture

October 06, 2020 at 03:13 pm

Now if we only had a similar quality defense.... A solid defense wins championships.

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greengold's picture

October 06, 2020 at 04:34 pm

We played a pretty good offense last night without Clark, Gary, Kirksey, Martin, King and Sullivan, the last two for most of the game. I think they will be OK.

I'm wanting them to add Snacks Harrison as much as anyone. We'll see tomorrow what happens.

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Bearmeat's picture

October 06, 2020 at 03:21 pm

This has proven to be exactly right. Props to Gute, MLF, and ARod in changing a franchise QB late in his career and completely changing the system he thrived in. I'm not sure it's ever been done. I didn't think it could be done. I thought we'd be doomed to MM-ball with iso-WRs (and mediocre to bad ones at that) for years.

LH, you've been a real jerk. But props to you. You were right too. The TEs and RBs run the offense.

Can't wait to get Davante back.

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BBlake's picture

October 06, 2020 at 03:40 pm

"Can't wait to get Davante back."

Wonder if the other offensive players feel the same way.

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Matt Gonzales's picture

October 06, 2020 at 04:19 pm

Absolutely they do, because they know a rising tide raises all ships. The horizontal/short game isn't sustainable long-term when defenses know there is little else they need to key in on. Tonyan isn't going to have gaudy number like this all year whether or not DA comes back. That's where a multi-faceted offense is successful and it becomes a true "pick your poison" kind of attack.

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Coldworld's picture

October 06, 2020 at 04:30 pm

Whole point of this is that any one of the skill players can hit you and that each benefits from the other drawing attention. Adams being back opens opportunities for Tonyan, Jones etc. rather than restricting them. it’s not like last year when Adams and Jones got everything and the other players and positions were afterthoughts. That’s why it’s working so well.

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CoachDino's picture

October 06, 2020 at 08:03 pm

I'm with you Big B.

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Leatherhead's picture

October 07, 2020 at 12:01 am

Thank you...I think. I know I’m abrasive at times, but I’m never intentionally abrasive until somebody crosses the line. A couple people did. It’s over between you and me as far as I’m concerned, but if you call the Packers “garbage”, I’ll still call you on it.

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Bearmeat's picture

October 07, 2020 at 08:49 am

I never once called the team "garbage." Garbage teams don't win a divisional round playoff game and beat the bad teams on their schedule.

I called them "not elite and likely to decline in 2020 due to holes at WR, DT and ILB."

I still stand by the DT comment. But the team has proven its mettle. It's a better team than the 14-4 season last year.

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Leatherhead's picture

October 07, 2020 at 08:53 am

You’ve called numerous players garbage.

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Bearmeat's picture

October 07, 2020 at 09:37 am

And I do stand by that. Perhaps "garbage" is too strong. I don't think the world of Lazard, and certainly not MVS or the motley crew behind him. Ditto the players behind Clark on the DL.

But the offensive coaching, playcalling and scheme has (so far) mitigated the weakness or JAG-ness of those players. Something that good coaching is supposed to do. And something that we've apparently had not enough of in the last half of MM's tenure.

The front 7 needs to do better defensively, and the safeties have to play better. The talent would suggest the latter would be obtainable, but not the former.

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stockholder's picture

October 06, 2020 at 04:35 pm

I just had to smile last night. The RBs can catch the ball! Who needed Hockenson? When Tonyan is showing up. Talk about maturity. And not paying some big name to come to GB. Love his new POWER look. Very Noticeable. He just might jump like Adams. Bg better get a new contract ready. I sure hope st. Brown comes back. Because I just don't see the separation in route running. MVS just isn't there yet. He's still got a long way to go. It's easy to see why Lazard will be missed. It's time the Wrs start to show up. After all, No matter how they win. The offense must keep posting the numbers to be taken seriously.

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Bure9620's picture

October 07, 2020 at 02:55 am

MVS had brackets on his side the last 2 games....NO did not want to get beat deep and they rolled coverage his way leaving Lazard in single coverage on deep routes......MVS was also heavily covered by ATL, leaving Jones/Williams and Tonyan singled on LBs and Safeties...ATL tried Deion Jones in Tonyan..didn't work

When Adams is back MVS will have more opportunities in single coverage....

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Packers0808's picture

October 06, 2020 at 06:28 pm

Was really surprised to see Begelton waived after coming to the 53 man roster for Monday nite!

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Bure9620's picture

October 07, 2020 at 02:56 am

Why? What does he bring?

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Packers0808's picture

October 07, 2020 at 08:06 am

must have something if they brought up to 53 and now are hoping to resign him to PS!

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LayingTheLawe's picture

October 06, 2020 at 10:47 pm

Whenever I hear the word plethora.

"would you say I have a plethora of pinatas? "

But the article is very true. Rodgers talked about hitting both running backs on deep "hole shot" passes and how rare that was.

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Leatherhead's picture

October 07, 2020 at 12:32 am

It looks like when we take the field against Tampa Bay in two weeks we’ll have Adams, MSV, Tonyan , Jones and Williams as our best 5 man group. If he gets the blocking, Rodgers can move the ball and score points with these guys.

After two weeks, MSV was on pace to have 56 catches for1200 yards. Then Adams got hurt and his pace has cooled, but he’s still on track to have 48 catches for about 850 yards. Considering Adams is back and Lazard is out, I’ll take the over on that. He’s gonna take a lot of snaps and he’s going to be covered by a guy who is usually going to be shorter and slower. I think he might well give us 50+ catches and nearly 1000 yards. This, from a guy a lot of people thought should be cut.

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Bure9620's picture

October 07, 2020 at 03:06 am

MVS has been bracketed with Adams out to keep him from getting behind secondaries.... NO did this on several deep routes with Lattimore leaving Lazard in single coverage..... New Orleans did not want MVS to beat them deep so Lazard beat them deep instead......even if MVS is not lighting up a stat sheet he having an effect on the game by stretching the field vertically and opening up the field for others in the middle and underneath......Look at the room Tonyan was afforded.....Teams have to bracket Adams when he is back so I look for MVS to have more opportunities in single coverage then....

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