30

October

Packers Film Study: Expanding the Running Game

Evan Dietrich-SmithWhile reviewing the game book and watching the film of the Green Bay Packers’ 24-15 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, I noticed something strange. Well, it’s not strange from a football standpoint, but it is very much out of the ordinary for Mike McCarthy’s offenses. He added backup C/G Evan Dietrich-Smith as a sixth offensive lineman on four running plays.

Someone will have to let me know if he’s done this before, but I don’t ever remember McCarthy adding an offensive lineman as an eligible receiver for the running attack. He came to this team with the idea of implementing the zone blocking scheme, and it’s been nothing but a point of contention among fans ever since. Our fearless leader, “Jersey” Al, pointed out the fact that he’s been pulling guards lately, making this new development a rather interesting expansion of the running game.

Here are the four plays where Evan Dietrich-Smith (#62) reported as eligible against the Jaguars:

 

This is the only time in the first half where EDS plays as eligible. My guess would be that, before going back to it, McCarthy wanted to get a look at not only the execution, but also how the Jaguars would respond to it.

In this instance, the Packers are lined up in a Unit Wing formation before EDS motions left and puts them into a formation that I’m not sure what to call. He’s playing a wingback role, but lined up inside behind the tackle and guard.

The results of this play is less than desirable, though it’s hard at first to tell where it went wrong without knowing the play call. EDS looks like he might initially take his block inside but continues to go outside the right tackle. Green, meanwhile, looks like he could have gained a little more yardage had he cut to the outside and followed EDS around.

Looking further, though, the culprit might really be Bryan Bulaga. Not only does he provide no help to Crabtree before moving to the next level, but he completely whiffs on the linebacker. Green initially heads towards the inside of the right tackle, leading me to believe this is where the play broke down.

 

This is the first of the remaining three plays where EDS comes in as eligible. They all happen in the same drive in the third quarter. The Packers are leading by a slim margin (14-12), and their beginning two drives of the second half ended up in a punt and a fake field goal. Perhaps McCarthy was looking to shake things up and find some momentum with the running game, especially in a 3rd-and-1 situation.

The Packers are lined up in a Big Wing formation with EDS at the right end and the tight ends Crabtree and Williams as wingbacks. Halfback Alex Green finds a nice hole off the end made possible by EDS and Crabtree. He ends up one-on-one with the safety, and had he beaten him, Green could have ended up with a lot more yards. Either way, the play was a success, as they gained six yards where they only needed one.

 

Does it feel like déjà vu? The Packers run the exact same formation as they did in the first quarter, where EDS motions from a Unit Wing position to the left side behind Newhouse and Lang. In fact, it might even be the exact same play, but with better results.

EDS still comes inside, Bulaga solidly picks up the linebacker, and Crabtree gets the defensive end to the outside of the play. With James Starks running this time, he’s able to find a nice hole inside, made possible by Lang (picking up the outside linebacker), Saturday (on the defensive tackle), and Sitton (on the middle linebacker). Starks gets his alone time with the safety, who trips him up for the tackle.

 

More déjà vu . . . Alex Green is back in to the run the exact same play as the last 3rd-and-1. The Packers are in the same Big Wing formation with EDS, Crabtree, and Williams on the right side. Everything from the handoff to the blocking assignments look the same, but this time Green ends up tripping over Bulaga’s feet.

While it’s easy to blame Green on this one, it’s not completely his fault. If you watch the other play, you’ll notice that the offensive line does a much better job of controlling the line of scrimmage. This time, however, Bulaga doesn’t get any push on the defensive end, and he ends up too far back for Green to effectively make his cut.

 

As we can see, there were some mixed results in this wrinkle that Mike McCarthy has added to the running game. But for all those who have been chiding him on not doing this before, you have to give him credit for starting to move away from the zone blocking plays he relied on so heavily in the past.

Why McCarthy has started changing things up is the question, though. It could have something to do with the loss of Benson and the lack of recent productivity by Alex Green. Or perhaps it was a response to the injury suffered by fullback John Kuhn, who was inactive. Then again, maybe it’s something they’ve planned to implement as the season progresses to keep other teams working.

Whatever the case, it’s something to keep our eye on as the final half of the season unfolds and the running attack remains under the microscope.

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Chad Toporski, a Wisconsin native and current Pittsburgh resident, is a writer for AllGreenBayPackers.com. You can follow Chad on twitter at @ChadToporski

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13 Responses to “Packers Film Study: Expanding the Running Game”

  1. steve cheez says:

    Thanks, Chad, you know they’d never mention on the braodcast that EDS was in.
    I thought that last one really had a chance to go somewhere, if Green hadn’t tripped on Bulaga.
    It does give me a glimmer of hope going forward.

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  2. ELo says:

    Nice article.
    Still not sure what’s up with Bulaga. He doesn’t seem to have much fire. He has been getting pushed around this year.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

    • Rick Racic says:

      This is the same observation that I have regarding Bulaga. He gets stood up and pushed back into Rodgers or the run play. Overall, the O-line is not winning the battle of the trenches and the RBs are not showwing much natural talent. This run game won’t even get us into the playoffs.

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  3. Chad Lundberg says:

    I guess it’s good to see Mike McCarthy trying to find ways to get the run game going. We’re gonna need it when the cold comes in.

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  4. frozentundra91 says:

    I like what MM is trying to do. These types of plays remind me of what san fran does; heavy and odd formations. Defenses have responded this year to the packer’s offense and this might be a way to stay one step ahead. These formations would also set up some good play action passes.
    Thanks for posting. The videos are great, also.

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  5. Lucas says:

    I’ve been a firm believer in getting players and designing/play calling around the talents they have…as opposed to getting the best player to fit the system.
    MM seems to be finally doing this with his OL and not just the skill positions.

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  6. PatMc says:

    Great analysis. I remember a couple of these plays and thinking, is MM and the “O” setting up the division for plays in Nov and Dec. Is that possible?

    In any case it is a wrinkle that the play action will work off of if you can pull a safety up to open the field – which our wr’s seems to have an issue with.

    Are they (GB Offense) toying with us all? Are they that good to play with getting just enough points to set up the vikqueens and chitown?

    MM likes using the bye week to get final plays in (cut bad ones) and have all his players rep’d up. I wonder if he is doing that a week earlier.

    Let’s see what they do with the birds of arizona.

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  7. Thomas Hobbes Thomas Hobbes says:

    Does BJ Raji in 2010 count? I think he technically lined up as a fullback so he would be eligible.
    One thing that didn’t make much sense to me was why McCarthy ran the ball like every first down, the run game is bad enough when the opponent doesn’t know its coming, why make it easier for them.

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    • Spiderpack says:

      I was thinking the same thing and I just didn’t think it would happen with BJ’s recovering ankle. I do expect to see it at some point tho.

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  8. Chad Toporski Chad Toporski says:

    Well wouldn’t you know… Silverstein and LeRoy Butler look at two of these plays in their latest X’s and O’s, just posted:

    http://www.jsonline.com/blogs/sports/176496091.html

    Check it out for some further analysis!

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  9. Mojo says:

    Of the four plays, I would say two were successful. However, all four had a chance to produce. I think more of the blame on the unsuccessful plays lies with the runners. On the last Buluga gets pushed back, but Green still needs to get around him. Also, on the two they got some room, both Starks & Green didn’t breakthrough for longer gains.

    Definitely like this look. And I can see ARod going play action once the D sucks up too much. This might be good on the goal-line too, since I think EDS is eligible. Didn’t they run something similar with Kevin Berry years ago that seemed to have a lot of success?

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    • Chad Toporski Chad Toporski says:

      Green’s lack of dexterity paid him no dividends on that fourth run, and a little more vision/intuition could have helped him on the first one.

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  10. Ron LC says:

    Oline learns how to block – problem solved. The problem is they haven’t learned so far. Our total offense rating is 26th? That’s not good enough!

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