Packers Film Study: Expanding the Running Game
While 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.——————Follow @ChadToporski