That’s what Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy decreed in regards to the running game during a press conference on Tuesday. Whether the offense is successful in carrying out this objective is yet to be seen. Nevertheless, the commitment is being made, and it’s clear the Packers offense will have a different identity than it did in 2012.
We’ve seen a number of major changes occur so far in this offseason. First and foremost, the wide receiver corps will look significantly different with Greg Jennings out of the line-up. Fans can say what they will about his injury history, but his performance history speaks volumes. Not having him on the field isn’t insurmountable – they’ve handled things without him already – but it will change the nature of the offense. Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, and James Jones will now be the primary nucleus of the wide receivers.
Next, the Packers have two new ground weapons courtesy of Ted Thompson and the 2013 NFL Draft. Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin were a couple of big value picks and should add some much-needed “oomph” to the running game. Additionally, DuJuan Harris will be riding some of his rookie momentum while Alex Green looks to get healthy. (James Starks is still in the wings, but it’s hard to put much stock into him at this point.)
To accommodate this influx of talent and to help fix the problems on the offensive line, McCarthy flipped his guards and tackles. His goal was to not only put his best pass blockers on Aaron Rodgers’ blindside, but also to get his best run blockers on the strong side of the formation. It’s a bold move, but one that was much less risky to make at the start of offseason training, rather than later.
Finally, we look towards the tight ends. These players haven’t received much attention lately, yet they might have some of the biggest question marks above their heads. Jermichael Finley is in a “contract” year and has bulked up a bit, according to reports. Meanwhile, Andrew Quarless seems to finally be back at 100% after severely injuring his knee a year and a half ago.
“I have all the confidence in the world he’s ready,” McCarthy said after an OTA practice in May, “and when you watch him play he’s probably moving better than before the injury.”
Then there’s the signing of Matthew Mulligan that seems to have slipped out of sight. The former St. Louis Ram is a big-bodied tight end whose greatest asset is his blocking. We also can’t forget Ryan Taylor, D.J. Williams, or Brandon Bostick. These three will definitely be competitors for playing time.
Many of these changes speak to a more balanced offense from Mike McCarthy. While it would be foolish to severely decrease the amount of times their best player has a chance to make a pass, the better balance could make Aaron Rodgers that much more effective. They’ll still want to take their deep shots to Jordy Nelson down the sideline, but they might now be able to pull those safeties forward enough to create those opportunities.
Could it mean less 11 personnel (1 RB–1 TE–3 WR) and more 12 or 21 personnel (only 2 WR)? With Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson, Jermichael Finley, and a strong running presence, can they be more creative out of a single back set with two tight ends? They’d have the ability to really stretch the opposing defense by attacking multiple levels and sides of the field. In addition to that, they could have a strong package of personnel for their “no huddle” offense, further wearing down the defense.
A lot of this depends on how things play out in training camp. How well will the plays be executed with the pads on, and which players will actually rise to the top? Everything is speculation at this point, but the one fact in all of this is that the Packers offense will have a different identity from last year.——————Follow @ChadToporski