Monday, November 30, 2015

Packers Lose Another NFC North Game At Home: Bears 17, Packers 13

It was appropriate that the Green Bay Packers' last offensive play against the Chicago Bears was an incomplete pass to WR Davante Adams. There might have been nothing he could have done on that particular play but this post is going to be all about him.
When the offense is struggling, it's usually because one thing is broken. In prior years, sacks have been a major problem and its easy for one sack to put the brakes on an entire drive, even if it doesn't happen on 3rd down. It's the same with incomplete passes, and while fingers could be pointed at WR James Jones (who had zero receptions on six targets against the Bears) for disappearing from game-to-game, or WR Randall Cobb for a down season, the spotlight is glaring on Adams.

Currently Adams has a negative DYAR ranking according to Football Outsiders. Most receivers are positive, but there are some good receivers with negative one. WR Dez Bryant currently has a negative DYAR because of his foot injury and the three headed QB hydra that's been a problem all season in Dallas. Adams had a high ankle sprain earlier this season to blame, but it looks a lot worse when you compare Adams to all the other receivers that have registered a negative DYAR since 2008 (the first year QB Aaron Rodgers became a starter):
Player Season Passes DYAR
Davante Adams 2015 64 -28
Jarrett Boykin 2014 12 -38
Myles White 2013 12 -21
It's a very short list and only includes wide receivers who had at least 10 targets during any season since 2008. Neither White or Boykin are still with the team (for good reason) and at least with them, they were obviously not part of the solution and given very few opportunities. On the other hand, the Packers have been forcing the ball into Adams over the past few weeks and he led the team in targets during each of their losses to the Lions and the Bears. During those two close, home losses, on passes to Adams, Rodgers was 12 for 32, 93 yards, 0 TDs, and 1 INT.

Obviously that's cherry picking, another player to pick on is James Jones who had zero catches for zero yards in those two games. But Adams hasn't made up for it in other games so they could overlook his flops (and drops) against the Lions and Bears. Adams doesn't have a single receiving touchdown in 2015, and his negative DYAR not only stands out poorly in 2015, Aaron Rodgers has never had a receiver struggle like Adams.

Mike McCarthy said after the Bears game that he's going to make changes. Adams is the obvious choice, but TE Richard Rodgers also has a negative DYAR in 2015 (he was negative in 2014 too) and might have fallen behind TE Justin Perillo. Run and pass blocking might also play a factor in this decision too.

The first replacement for Adams is probably WR Jeff Janis. While it may seem like it's about time, over their last two games, Janis has played on 32 offensive snaps and he's had the ball thrown to him twice for zero receptions. It doesn't look like he's getting open and/or earned his quarterback's trust. It's probably a stretch to imagine either WR Jared Abbrederis or WR Ty Montgomery will return to health by Thursday. There's someone on the practice squad, but I'm not going to even consider him. If injuries are still a problem, there isn't a strong Plan B available.

So the good news is that there is a solution. Focus on the good receivers with positive DYAR (Cobb, Jones, Janis, Perillo) and significantly reduce the roles of the receivers who are negative (Adams, Richard Rodgers). Both Adams and Rodgers were 2014 draft choices and still probably need time to develop, but if it hasn't happened yet then it's probably not happening this season. They can be considered as part of the future but not the present. The playoffs are still within sight as they currently hold a wild card spot, and have two more NFC North games remaining. Making an adjustment to their offensive game plan, along with the healthy return of RB Eddie Lacy over their last two games, could get them right back on track for the NFC North title.

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