Will You Recognize the Packers’ Offense in 2011?
No NFL team is the same from year to year. Players come and go, coaching changes are made, and injuries occur throughout the season. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “We change, whether we like it or not.”
The successful franchises, then, are the ones that can adapt to the changes and work with them rather than against them. They accept that things won’t be the same this year as they were the year before. Ted Thompson knows this. Mike McCarthy knows this. Dom Capers, Joe Philbin, and the rest of the Packers’ coaching staff know this.
So don’t be surprised when you see some alterations to McCarthy’s offense next season.
The change in personnel should prove to be the biggest factor in how McCarthy will operate the offense. In the 2011 NFL Draft, Green Bay used its top three picks on players who could be expected to contribute right away: OT Derrick Sherrod, WR Randall Cobb, and RB Alex Green. While these three might be considered potential replacements for players lost through free agency, they will each bring something new to the table, and McCarthy will look to capitalize on those strengths.
In addition, the now-crowded tight end position, the dwindling fullback corps, and the co-availability of Ryan Grant and James Starks will make things even more interesting.
As you can see, the distribution of personnel has shifted quite noticeably this offseason. But even without that, Mike McCarthy made it very clear that he wasn’t satisfied with the performance of his offense in 2010.
“We weren’t the best offense in the league,” McCarthy said at the NFL Scouting Combine. He later added: “We feel we have more to offer, we have more offense that we never really got to last year and we feel like we can do a better job looking forward.”
In hindsight (and some foresight), McCarthy is absolutely right.
From a statistical standpoint, the offense actually regressed from 2009 to 2010. They went from 3rd (461 pts.) to 10th (388 pts.) in points scored, 6th (6,065 yds.) to 9th (5,730 yds.) in total yards gained, and 1st (+1,514 yds.) to 7th (+785 yds.) in yardage differential.
And really, it wasn’t until Week 16 against the New York Giants where Aaron Rodgers and the offense flashed the offensive muscle we knew they had. They scored four passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns for their first 40+ score of the season.
Unfortunately, even after that point, we witnessed a lot of inconsistency in the offense’s ability to control the game.
Yes, losing Ryan Grant and Jermichael Finley to injury proved to be a complete headache. Yes, Aaron Rodgers’ concussions became a concern. But if there’s one thing we learned last season, it’s that you can never have enough depth.
So with the defense ranking first in the league in points allowed, it should be no surprise that Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson felt the need to bolster the offense a bit. And with the new personnel will come a slightly new approach.
About a week ago, Aaron Nagler of CheeseheadTV wrote an excellent post about how the increased depth and talent at the tight end position provides McCarthy with some increased flexibility. Not only can McCarthy be more ambiguous with his run vs. pass plays, it also gives Rodgers more options for adjustments at the line.
Additionally, the potential for some improved run-blocking offensive lineman on the left side should help to open up the running game. McCarthy will always put the emphasis on passing the ball (as he should with Aaron Rodgers under center), but he makes no bones about the necessities of a good running attack. This season, he may actually be able to rely on the ground game a little more, especially when defending a lead.
Now, I do have to put out this disclaimer: Yes, you will recognize the Packers offense – the changes probably won’t be drastic. We’ll still see a lot of the same things we’ve seen from McCarthy year after year.
But I’ll be looking forward to the new things he adds to the mix. If I had to make a prediction, I would say the short-yardage game should improve. (And I hope it does, as that was one of their glaring weaknesses last years.) Having some more quality depth and flexibility at tight end and running back should help in those situations.
Who knows, we might even see a couple reverses or Wildcat-type plays with Randall Cobb in the mix.
But whatever it is, expect McCarthy to keep pushing his offense with new plays and tactics next season. He has a brand new set of weapons to work with, and unless all of training camp is lost in the lockout, he’ll be itching to get them involved.——————Follow @ChadToporski