The Passing Chronicles: 2019 Week 1

We made it. We really made it. Not only did we witness real, actual football, but we got to see the Packers start the season 1-0, beating the Bears on their home turf. Both defenses looked good and both offenses looked a little shaky and out-of-sync, but a division win is a division win. There are certainly things that need to be cleaned up, but, for now, I'm happy. Football is back and the Packers picked up a W. How can I keep from singing?

The All 22 coaches film was super late coming out this week. As such, I didn't have time to go through my normal process of watching every play. I'm hoping to get into that this week and post some random plays either here or on Twitter. I still wanted to get something out today, so I narrowed my vision a bit this week. Today, we'll be looking at the Packers' four-play touchdown drive in the second quarter and see how it all went down.

Play 1: 1st & 10 at their own 26

We've got some pre-snap motion in the form of Robert Tonyan [85] shifting from outside to closer to the line. Immediately after the snap, we have play action to Aaron Jones [33] and Davante Adams [17] looping under the line and behind Aaron Rodgers [12]. The play action brings the linebackers up to the line and to their left, while the motion from Adams forces them to shift back to their right. The Adams motion also holds them in place for an extra beat instead of having them drop back. 

With the linebackers pulled up, Eddie Jackson [39] has no choice but to stay with Marcedes Lewis [89] crossing into his zone. Lewis starts on the left side of the line and veers slightly towards the middle before looping back towards the sideline and crossing under the post from Marquez Valdes-Scantling [83]. With Jackson pulled down on Lewis, Valdes-Scantling has free reign in the middle of the field. Deon Bush [26] is the safety on the other side of the field, and he's looking down on the line from his side. That's his side of the field. He appears to be looking at Jones releasing from the backfield and doesn't pick up Valdes-Scantling. 

With Bush pulled up and a trailing defender, Valdes-Scantling has a ton of room to work with in the middle. Instead of going up and over the top, Rodgers knows he can err on throwing more towards the middle and having Valdes-Scantling continue across the field to catch it. More room in the middle makes for an easier throw and an easier catch.

There is something else to consider here that will be more evident on the next angle I show, and that's Rodgers staring down the left side of the field to help open up the middle.

From this angle we can clearly see that Rodgers stares to the left until directly before he releases the ball to Valdes-Scantling. Because of that, the linebackers are all drifting in that direction and Deon Bush doesn't jump back. Great job by Rodgers to not telegraph the throw.

Play action brings the defense up, action from Adams gets them late into their drops and Rodgers staring down the route from Lewis helps open up the post to Valdes-Scantling in the middle. All things in harmony, man.

Play 2: 1st & 10 at the Bears 27

Play action to the right, bootleg back to the left. Marcedes Lewis crosses under the line and releases into the left flat, while Marquez Valdes-Scantling runs a go route off the left side to help clear out that side of the field. 

The play action draws the defense up and over and helps to collapse the edge. By the time Lewis emerges from the left, Leonard Floyd [94] has bit so hard on the play action he can't recover in time to make a difference. Lewis gets the angle and Rodgers hits him in space. Lewis isn't known for his blazing speed, but it doesn't matter. There's so much room to work with he is able to pick up a pretty easy 9 yards. It's not a huge play, but it sets up a 2nd & 1. Take easy yards when you can, especially on early downs. This keeps the offense "ahead of schedule" and opens up a lot of the playbook. 

Play 3: 2nd & 1 at the Bears 18 (10 yards)

We've got ourselves a little RPO (Run-Pass Option). Aaron Rodgers has the option of handing the ball off to Aaron Jones to the left or rising up for a quick throw. One of the ways to tell an RPO is to look at the offensive line. Rodgers passes the ball here, but the line is pushing forward with a run block. If they get too far upfield on a pass play, the Packers will draw a penalty - either for offensive pass interference or ineligible man downfield - so the line would not be run blocking in a pass-only look.

Generally, an RPO is a pre-snap or immediate post-snap read. Here, I believe it's totally pre-snap. It's 2nd & 2 and the Packers line up in a tight formation. Tight formations will naturally help to open the edges, as it will also pinch the defense tighter to the middle of the field. Defenses aren't going to have a man line up near the sideline if there's no one within 10 yards of him.

Before the snap, we can see the widest defender is lined up across from Adams. He's drifting back even before the ball is snapped, and he continues to drift back after the snap. Rodgers sees all that room on the right, combined with a defender who is drifting back and his #1 receiver lined up in that area. Pretty easy decision. He rises up and fires to Davante Adams. Adams being Adams, he avoids the first tackler and picks up a nice 10 yards on the play. Easy read, easy throw, easy yards. Even without the broken tackle, Adams picks up enough yardage for the first down with no problem.

Play 4: 1st & goal at the Bears 8 (8 yards) 12 Men on the field

We have saved the least-interesting play - but also most important play - for last. This play picked up points and put the Packers in the lead. That's exciting! But the play itself? It's perfectly fine. Aaron Rodgers spotted 12 men on the field for the Bears, so he quick-snapped the ball and held it until he could take a shot at the end zone.

We've got a little three-man level happening on the right, with Davante Adams running to the flat, Geronimo Allison [81] running an out and Jimmy Graham running a corner route. Those are spaced out pretty well. The idea is to get the quarterback to be able to read how the defenders react to three routes with a single look. It allows Rodgers to look to the right, read the defense and not telegraph where his pass is going to go. 

Rodgers is initally looking at Marquez Valdes-Scantling on the route on the left side of the field. It's his initial read, and you can see him trying to come back to it. The Bears defense is tight on that side, so he passes it up. With the pocket likely on the verge of breaking down, he just lobs a pass into the end zone for Jimmy Graham, who boxes out his man and comes down with the ball. 

Again, not the prettiest or most elegant end, but it ended in a touchdown and still gives us a look into what the Packers were running initially.


I hope you enjoyed this look at some passing concepts the Packers trotted out on their touchdown drive. Next week I'm hoping to dig into other plays throughout the game, but time conspired against me this week.

Here's something else I'll be doing this year: every week, I'll be pulling play-by-play data from the game visualizing it with Tableau Public. My goal is to get that up the morning after the game. Week 1 is up now and you can find it here. Feel free to click around!


Albums listened to: Post Malone - Hollywood's Bleeding; Death Cab For Cutie - The Blue EP; Bat For Lashes - Lost Girls; Whitney - Forever Turned Around

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Dusty Evely is a film analyst for Cheesehead TV. He can be heard talking about the Packers on Pack to the Future or Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter at @DustyEvely or @All22Talk or email at [email protected].

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Comments (11)

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PatrickGB's picture

September 09, 2019 at 05:18 pm

Love the work and insights.

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Turophile's picture

September 09, 2019 at 05:56 pm

Keep doing what you're doing Dusty

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DustyEvely's picture

September 09, 2019 at 07:59 pm

Couldn't stop if I wanted to, brother.

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Tundraboy's picture

September 09, 2019 at 10:08 pm

Nice.

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GatorJason's picture

September 10, 2019 at 04:58 am

Dusty, awesome insight and analysis. It shows the intellect and deception from Rodgers that goes largely unnoticed during the course of the game.

I liked another play that included trickeration by the Packers prior to the pass to Trevor Davis. Davante Adams limps off the field and Trevor comes in for the play as single receiver yet gets wide-open for 28 yard catch and run. MLF was pulling out all the stops. And again, it sure helps when your QB understands his role and uses eye-discipline to mask play intent.

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Since'61's picture

September 10, 2019 at 09:08 am

Nice work Dusty. Keep it coming. Thanks, Since ‘61

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Slim11's picture

September 10, 2019 at 09:11 am

I like the route concepts and bunching three receivers on one side. On this drive, I saw what I hoped for since MLF became the HC. Looking forward to seeing this offense develop as everyone becomes more comfortable with it.

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

September 10, 2019 at 09:12 am

Dusty, this is great as always!

May I suggest a slightly different topic? Much is being made of Aaron Rodgers looking exactly like 2018 AR.

- Ignoring hot reads
- Poor Footwork
- Slow to the snap
- Extending plays instead of taking an open receiver.

I would love to see you analyze some of those plays. I think it would be really interesting. Maybe you'll consider it?

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ILPackerBacker's picture

September 10, 2019 at 12:11 pm

Agreed!
Start with the clip so many are so wrong on. the Ben F clip of 3rd and 6 where rodgers does not throw to a completely covered JG then gets sacked as mincemeat is made of Corey L.
Try and put a real time clock on the play so we can see precisely when the DB moves up and takes JG away and Rodgers CORRECTLY moves to the next read only to be on the receiving end of Corey's failure

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DustyEvely's picture

September 10, 2019 at 11:53 pm

I normally nab plays from all over the course of the game, but this week was weird with the film not being released until late. I just captured videos of a bunch of other plays & have started marking them up. Right now they're just over on Twitter, but I may try to compile those in a post here later this week.

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ILPackerBacker's picture

September 10, 2019 at 12:09 pm

Really enjoy your careful and well thought out work. I can't help but notice how many trolls are missing from your comments.

Next time head line with Rodgers has a bad arm, can't throw and has bad judgment. You will get hundreds of comments agreeing with you. they just don't want to SEE the video. I hate to think or count how many bloggers used your first play to knock Rodgers one way or the other.

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