Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Mike McCarthy Shows How To Fix The Packers Offense

The replacement refs still suck but there's only so much that can be said about them. It's time to move onto the Packers next pressing problem: Where has all the offense gone?

The first answer was in the title of this post: Mike McCarthy has already fixed it. Against the Seahawks, it was a tale of two halves. The first half was an endless loop of sacks, eight in total, and the offense went nowhere as the Seahawks skunked them. Then McCarthy made some adjustments at halftime which included more short, quick passes, and a lot more running by RB Cedric Benson. The offense went on three scoring drives in the second half (two field goals and one touchdown) which over the course of an entire game (26 points) would have been less than the dynamic 2011 offense (35 points per game) but similar to their 2010 season (24.2 points per game). That's probably not going to win QB Aaron Rodgers another MVP award, but it was good enough to win the Super Bowl. Of course, they can still do better.

The first place to look is the offensive line. I don't know who kidnapped RT Bryan Bulaga and replaced him with ex-Packer Allen Barbre, but some adjustments need to be made. I don't expect them to bench Bulaga for undrafted rookie RT Don Barclay, but they need to have a Plan B ready in case Bulaga doesn't turn it around. Right now, the Packers lead the league with 16 sacks allowed, and it reminds me of their 2009 season, when the Packers once again led the league in that category (51). Using ESPN's QBR, which includes sacks in the quarterback's rating, here's a comparison of 2009 to 2012.
2009 Opponent 2009 QBR 2012 Opponent 2012 QBR
Bears 53.6 49ers 55.1
Bengals 58.3 Bears 29.3
Rams 81.4 Seahawks 54.3
Vikings 33.9 Saints
Lions 86.1 Colts
Browns 95 Texans
Vikings 49.1 Rams
I stopped after Week 7 because, in 2009, that's when RT Mark Tauscher returned to the starting line-up, and nearly all the early season sack problems went away. Part of it was Rodgers; he was holding the ball too long, and that same problem was the cause of at least one sack against the Seahawks. But it's not the main concern. In 2009, the offensive tackles, and injuries to Tauscher and LT Chad Clifton, were the primary causes. The only early season bright spots were wins against the Rams, Lions, and Browns because those three teams sucked, and only a four game winning streak to end the Browns' 2009 season improved their combined, three team record to 8-40. That Week 4 Vikings game, with Daryn Colledge starting at LT and Barbre at RT, left Rodgers virtually unprotected.

Unfortunately, the entire offensive line is having some problems this season, though Bulaga's disaster in the Seattle stands out as the worst of them. They can play better, and hopefully the veteran group turns it around ASAP.

After Clifton and Tauscher returned in 2009, Rodgers went onto finish with a season QBR of 70.2, the second best ranking of his career. He's not going to repeat his 2011 season, but a return to 2009 is likely.

Then there are the Packer wide receivers. Are they not getting open? Here are the rankings from Football Outsiders for Rodgers's top three wide receivers:
FO Rank
Jones 25
Nelson 37
Jennings 63
I'm leaving out TE Jermichael Finley, who's been targeted more times than any other Packer this season, because it's only been three games and he was wildly inconsistent last season. He's probably playing about as well as he did in 2011, except he hasn't had a multiple TD reception game to boost his overall stats.

All three wide receivers are down from last season, but Greg Jennings has fallen off a mountain. Of the receivers who have been targeted more than 15 times this season, only two other receivers are worse than Jennings. Nothing good is happening when he is thrown the ball. A groin injury has played it's part, but they need to focus at getting him back on track and seeing how that effects the rest of the offense.

But the thing that might help the most is that the Saints are coming to town. Currently, Football Outsiders has their defense ranked as the 6th worst overall and 3rd worst against the pass.

1 comment:

PackFaninFl said...

Great analysis all the way through. Better than anything I've read over at the other place...