7

April

Xs and Os: Packers Running Game from Substitution Packages

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Packers running back Johnathan Franklin had a career day against the Cincinnati Bengals while running out of substitution packages.

The key to the Green Bay Packers’ offensive success is having the ability to run or pass out of any personnel grouping and formation, especially with multiple wide receivers on the field.

This means, in order to achieve offensive balance, the Packers must be able to run out of passing formations with substitution packages.

A substitution package is when the offense deploys different personnel than their base 21 group (2 running backs, 1 tight end, and 2 wide receivers. The Packers like running the 11 (1 running back, 1 tight end, and 3 wide receivers) and the 10 personnel groupings (1 running back, 0 tight ends, 4 wide receivers) on any down and distance.

Obviously, not having an extra running back (the fullback) or tight end (or H-back) on the field could pose a schematic disadvantage in the running game by having fewer bigger bodies on the field.

However, with the use of well-designed blocking packages and willing blocks by the wide receivers, the Packers had good success with running the ball from substitution groups.

Under the tutelage of wide receivers coach Edgar Bennett, who was a former running back, the Packers receiving corps has developed into a solid group of blockers who contribute immensely to the running game. This is one of the most underrated aspects of the Packers’ offensive success.

Let’s take a look at some of the staples of this deployment.

Disclaimer 1: You know the drill by now. #YKTDBN. I have never seen Mike McCarthy’s playbook. #IHNSMMP.

Disclaimer 2: #YKTDBN. This is an oversimplification for illustrative purposes. #TIAOFIP. Different formations and defensive fronts will change the blocking rules.

11 Outside Toss Strong: This play is frequently run from shotgun 11 personnel with an offset running back to the strong side of the formation. The key to the play is to get the ball outside and away from the defensive end and Sam linebacker.

Slide1

The outside wide receiver blocks down on the slot cornerback ($) and the slot receiver kicks out and sets the leverage on the strong side cornerback. Notice that the slot is further off the line of scrimmage to allow the outside receiver more time to block down.

5

April

Cory’s Corner: Solidify backup QB job and sign Matt Flynn

Last year proved just how important a backup quarterback is not for just the Packers but for any football team.

Having a bona fide star quarterback is an advantage that coach Mike McCarthy may have gotten a little too comfortable with. He got used to the 50-yard rollout passes on a dime and being able to whistle a fastball into tight windows.

Matt Flynn finished with a 2-2 starting record for the Packers last year. He is an unrestricted free agent after earning a prorated veteran minimum $715,000 by the Packers.

Matt Flynn finished with a 2-2 starting record for the Packers last year. He is an unrestricted free agent after earning a prorated veteran minimum of $715,000 by the Packers.

They say you never really know what you have until it’s gone. Well, that couldn’t have been truer for the Packers last year. With Aaron Rodgers shelved for seven games, the Packers nomadically spun their wheels until Matt Flynn was able to play good enough to fix the leaks and right the ship.

Now I realize Flynn doesn’t exactly strike anything resembling fear into opposing defenses. But he is a six-year NFL veteran and more importantly, he’s a 4½-year vet of the Packers.

Which is exactly why I am surprised that the Packers haven’t signed the unrestricted free agent yet. His 3-4 career starting record may not be anything to brag about but his ability to win over a huddle and lead a team — especially when your No. 1 option goes down — are things you want in a substitute.

Flynn turns 29 this summer and even he must realize that his days of being a starting quarterback are over. After having dreams of leading the Seattle Seahawks, he was upstaged by Russell Wilson. To make matters worse, he was upstaged by Terrelle Pryor in Oakland and the Bills barely kicked the tires before sending him on his way after just 21 days.

The opportunity to become a starting quarterback in the NFL is ever-shrinking, especially with all the dynamic college quarterbacks that are now bursting on to the scene.

The only sticky point could be money. Flynn was paid a pro-rated veteran minimum salary of $715,000 last year for Green Bay. With that money, he salvaged a 16-point deficit against Minnesota, which ended in a tie. And he orchestrated comeback wins vs. Atlanta and the thriller at Dallas.

31

March

Xs and Os: Introduction to the Packers Running Game

Packers running back was a Pro Bowler and Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Packers running back Eddie Lacy was a Pro Bowler and Offensive Rookie of the Year during 2013-2014.

We’ve heard a lot about the Packers’ run blocking schemes for several years. With the emergence of running back Eddie Lacy, we began to become even more obsessed with them.

The oft-maligned zone blocking scheme (ZBS) suddenly became everyone’s favorite while Lacy was running his way to Offensive Rookie of the Year.

However, the Packers are not strictly a ZBS team. They run multiple looks and concepts, but it just so happens that their bread and butter running play is out of a ZBS concept.

So, let’s take a look at a few of the most common running plays we can expect to see from Eddie Lacy and company.

Disclaimer 1: I have never seen Mike McCarthy’s playbook. All of my conclusions are from watching video. I could be wrong on interpreting his keys.

Disclaimer 2: This is an oversimplification for illustrative purposes only. Different defensive fronts and offensive formations will change the keys. Sight adjustments are too complex for one blog post.

Alright, let’s first inspect a few of the ZBS looks.

Basics of ZBS: Offensive linemen move in a slanting direction with the goal of moving the defensive line. Their job is to get in between their blocking assignment and the sideline. They value making lanes for the running back to choose over opening one specific hole.

21 Inside Zone Strong: This is the Packers’ main running play. It is from the 21 personnel (2 RB, 1 TE) and the running back chooses a cutback lane on the strong side (TE) of the formation.

Slide1

In this play the offensive line slants to the strong side. The center and back side guard double team the nose tackle, and the running back picks his preferred lane.

While most of the blockers slant to a single defender, whether on the line of scrimmage or off, the center and back side guard work in tandem in their combo block, but also key the Mike linebacker who is originally uncovered.

Slide2

At the snap of the ball, the guard blocks the inside hip (belt buckle region) of the nose tackle and the center aims for the outside hip. Once the guard has control, the center advances to the next level and cuts off the Mike linebacker before the running back arrives.

24

February

Eddie Lacy 2013 Green Bay Packers Evaluation and Report Card

Eddie Lacy

Eddie Lacy

1) Introduction:  Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy was by far the biggest surprise for the team in 2013.  After being projected by many to be drafted in the first round, Lacy fell to the Packers late in round two.  He outgained the three running backs taken ahead of him (Giovanni Bernard, Le’Veon Bell and Montee Ball)  in both yards and touchdowns and is a candidate for the Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year award.  Lacy was voted Pro Football Writers Association Rookie of the Year.  It can be argued that Lacy was the Packers most valuable player in 2013, as he helped re-establish the run game in the team’s offense and was most key in team’s few wins without quarterback Aaron Rodgers this season.

2) Profile:

Eddie Darwin Lacy, Jr.

  • Age: 23
  • Born: 6/2/1990 in Gretna, LA
  • Height: 5’11″
  • Weight: 230
  • College: Alabama
  • Rookie Year: 2013
  • NFL Experience: 1 year

Career Stats and more

3) Expectations coming into the season:  Lacy came into this season expected to be part of a running back committee anchored by DuJuan Harris.  When Harris went down to a season-ending injury early in training camp, Lacy emerged as the starter, edging out James Starks.  The Packers had hoped to bring Lacy along more slowly and as a complimentary back.  But he was thrust into action and often carried 25+ times per game.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: Lacy’s rookie season was filled with many highlights that delighted the team and fans.  He provided something the team had not had since the days of Ahman Green:  a reliable running back capable of picking up a tough one yard or breaking one for 50.  Lacy’s low light of the season was his only fumble in week one against the San Francisco 49ers along with having to miss two straight games due to a concussion.  Lacy’s single biggest highlight was his performance against the Dallas Cowboys where his 60-yard run to start the second half sparked a comeback that was complete with his plunge into the end zone for the go-ahead score.  His late and savvy touchdown run against the Bears in Chicago inched the Packers closer to their dramatic comeback win in week 17.  Lacy also broke a four-year drought of Packers running backs getting 100 rushing yards during the regular season.  He surpassed the century mark three times and went over 90 on two other occasions.  Lacy’s hard work was rewarded when he was named to the Pro Bowl as a substitute for Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.

1

February

Cory’s Corner: Helping Rodgers should be Packers’ priority

Aaron Rodgers needs to be surrounded with weapons and protection.

Aaron Rodgers needs to be surrounded with weapons and protection.

Super Bowl XLVIII is a collision course of two different team-building philosophies.

In 2012, the Broncos paid 36-year-old Peyton Manning, the owner of four neck surgeries, a five-year $96 million contract to take them back to the promised land. Many saw it as a surprise because nobody knew how Manning would respond to contact and if his arm strength would return.

The Seahawks, on the other hand, decided to spread out most of its resources. Sidney Rice ($8.5M), Russell Okung ($7.06M) and Marshawn Lynch ($7M) are the three highest-paid players on the team. But that doesn’t mean Seattle doesn’t spend money. The Seahawks were the second-highest payroll in the NFL this year with over $103M in salaries.

But the difference is at the quarterback position. Russell Wilson is the 44th-highest paid player on the Seahawks, making just $526,217 this year. Obviously that number is going to skyrocket when he’s a free agent in 2016, but until then Seattle is going to ride the wave of an efficient and cheap quarterback while they fill holes on the rest of their team.

Which is exactly how the 49ers have approached their quarterback position. Colin Kaepernick is the 26th-highest paid player on the roster with a salary of $740,844. San Francisco will have some difficult choices to make when he’s a free agent in 2015.

But it speaks to an interesting philosophy. The quarterback is and always be the most important player on a football team. However, if a team can strike oil in the draft with a rookie that doesn’t make a flurry of mistakes while adjusting quickly to the faster NFL game, it definitely behooves them to go with the unproven rookie.

The 49ers and Seahawks have been playing with house money ever since Wilson and Kaepernick became household names.

The Broncos meanwhile are going all-in for a potential Super Bowl streak with Manning. But in order to do so, they have left gaping holes in the secondary and on the offensive line but Manning has been able to overcome those.

After showing Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews the money last April, the Packers have to decide where their priorities lie. Jordy Nelson becomes a free agent in 2015, which will limit money spent on expiring contracts this spring.

27

January

Eddie Lacy Sees Action as the Lone Packers Representative at Pro Bowl

Eddie Lacy Pro Bowl

Lacy was the only Packers player to appear in this year’s Pro Bowl game

Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy was the only Packers player to appear in this year’s Pro Bowl game.

Under the new format, the teams were non-conferenced and drafted by honorary captains and Hall of Famers Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders.

Lacy was drafted by Team Sanders and saw action in the second half.  Lacy ran three straight times halfway through the third quarter.  His longest run of the day was for eight yards on his first carry.  Lacy finished with just 14 yards on seven attempts.

Under the new format, players from the same team ended up on the opposite side of the ball from each other.  Midway through the first quarter, Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles collided with teammate and linebacker Derrick Johnson.  Charles suffered a concussion during the wild card playoff game against the Indianapolis Colts a few weeks back and that collision had to have resonated with Chiefs head coach Andy Reid.

Still, it brought an element of entertainment to the game that had not previously been seen when it was NFC players against AFC players.  Both Rice and Sanders could be seen on the sidelines urging their teams on and reviving the rivalry the two had during their playing days.  Both now have a little bit of salt in their beards but both are just as competitive as ever.

Team Rice captured the win on a late touchdown and two-point conversion followed by a missed 67-yard field goal attempt by Justin Tucker.

SPECIAL OFFER: thanks to our friends at Waukesha Sports Cards, you can get 10% OFF any Eddie Lacy autographed items. Simply go to the Waukesha Online Store and enter Offer Code PTRN when you place your order. Offer expires Feb 2nd.

 

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Jason Perone is an independent sports blogger writing about the Packers on "AllGreenBayPackers.com

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15

January

Packers Running Back Gets Pro Bowl Nod

Andrew Quarless (81) and Eddie Lacy (27) turned in big games for the Packers against the Dallas Cowboys, and in the process, may have saved Green Bay's season.

With Adrian Peterson unable to play due to injury, Eddie Lacy joins the Pro Bowl roster

Green Bay Packers rookie running back Eddie Lacy was added to the Pro Bowl roster on Wednesday.  Lacy will replace Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, who won’t play due to injury.

Lacy becomes the first Packers rookie running back selected to the Pro Bowl since John Brockington in 1971 and the first Packers back to appear on a Pro Bowl roster since Ahman Green in 2004.

Under the new Pro Bowl format, players will no longer represent their conference, but instead will be part of a live draft to take place on January 22nd.  Honorary captains and Pro Football Hall of Famers Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders will each draft their own roster.  The game is set for Sunday, January 26th in Honolulu, Hawai’i.

While Lacy is no Adrian Peterson, he proved to be just as valuable as the star Vikings back this season, carrying 284 times for 1,178 yards and 11 touchdowns.  Lacy also caught 35 balls for nearly 250 yards.

He did all of that while appearing in 15 games, which was really 14 as Lacy was knocked out of the week two game after just one carry with a concussion against the Washington Redskins.  He fumbled only once all season long back in week one against the San Francisco 49ers.

When quarterback Aaron Rodgers was lost for eight games due to injury, Lacy became the centerpiece of the team’s offense.  During that span, Lacy scored eight of his touchdowns and 730 of his total yards on the season.

Earlier this week, the Pro Football Writers Association voted Lacy their rookie of the year.  The Associated Press will soon announce their selections for offensive and defensive rookies of the year, which tend to be more decorated honors than the PFWA’s currently is.  Lacy is said to be one of the frontrunners for the AP’s offensive award along with San Diego Chargers wide receiver Kennan Allen.  Allen received the PFWA award for offensive rookie of the year.  The AP designates a rookie of the year on each side of the ball whereas the PFWA awards an overall rookie as well as an offensive and defensive player.