Thursday, October 15, 2015

Packers Defense Is Rolling But What About The Offense?

I've been spoiled by QB Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers offense for a while. But for the first time in maybe forever, in the Football Outsiders weekly rankings, the offense (5th overall) is rated lower than the defense (4th overall). Most of this has to do with a much better performance this season by the defense, but last season, the offense was rated No. 1 overall by FO. What's to account for this mini-slump on offense?
The short answer is that the offense is missing WR Jordy Nelson. It's also been missing WR Davante Adams, but the good news is that he's back at practice this week. As good as WR James Jones has been, which isn't his fault because Nelson is one of the best in the NFL, he hasn't been effectively a replacement for Nelson. Jones and rookie WR Ty Montgomery are effectively replacing what was hoped for from Adams. Despite the extra attention above, Cobb's basically been the same as last season, though a few more passes have falling incomplete to him.

His absence has also hurt the ground game, probably because the opponent's safety is less worried about deep coverage without Nelson around and more interested in RB Eddie Lacy. The run game wasn't helped when RT Bryan Bulaga missed a few games either. Lacy's yards per carry are significantly down this season (4.6 in 2014 vs. 4.1 in 2015) and it's even worse for RB James Starks (3.9 in 2014 vs. 3.3 in 2015). With the run offense struggling, it's getting harder to convert on 3rd down. Here's how they've done through the first five games:
Team 3rd Down % Points Scored
Week 1 Bears 60% 31
Week 2 Seattle 36% 27
Week 3 Chiefs 36% 38
Week 4 Niners 33% 17
Week 5 Rams 31% 24
The offense has scored 17 points in their last two games, and the 3rd down conversion percentage is trending downward with each passing game. The Bears have one of the worst defenses in the NFL and that Week 1 conversion rate on 3rd down is looking more like the exception not the rule. The Packers converted for a 1st down on 47.2% of their 3rd downs in 2014 vs. 38.3% overall in 2015, so many drives that kept going last season are ending up with a change of possession.

Unfortunately there's no easy answer to get the offense back to how it was in 2014. Bulaga is back, which can only help since he's much better than Don Barclay, and Adams will eventually recover from his high ankle sprain. Montgomery should continue to improve during his rookie season. But the only player who can really take them to the next level is Nelson. So the best offense in the NFL might just have to settle for being No. 5 overall this season.

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