Packers Speed Does Not Mean Packers Efficiency

One of these guys is going to lower the Packers offensive snap count.

One of these guys is going to lower the Packers offensive snap count.

Recently, Packers head coach Mike McCarthy stated in an interview with Rob Demovsky that he plans for the Packers to run 75 offensive plays on average per game.  While this might seem like a great idea consider the Packers have one of the most high flying and potentially dangerous offenses in the NFL, one only needs to take a step back to realize how trying to shoot for 75 offensive plays per game on average doesn’t necessarily mean you are winning nor does it mean that your offense will get better.

First off context is important when considering how many plays the offense gets to make on average.  On one hand, obviously converting 3rd downs and extending drives will increase the total number of plays on offense and picking up the tempo of the offense with no huddle and hurry up offenses are things the Packers have done regularly with Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers will also likely increase how many offensive plays the Packers get.

However it’s also important to realize that snap count can also be inversely proportional to Packers offensive efficiency; for instance if the Packers are comfortably in the lead and are grinding out the clock by running the ball 3 times and punting (I like how fans complain when the Packers run the ball 3 times and punt but also complain when the Packers throw the ball when killing the clock as well) their total number of offensive plays will naturally decrease simply because they are waiting until the last second to snap the ball.

Furthermore, teams that are behind tend to play faster because they know they have get more done in a faster amount of time.  While the Denver Broncos, who had the best offense in the NFL last season, did have the highest number of offensive plays per game at 72, teams that also had higher average offensive plays per game were Buffalo (70), Washington (69), Houston (68) and Cleveland (67).  I don’t think anyone would argue that any of these teams fielded a top flight offense last year and it’s likely that playing from behind increases your offensive plays as opposing defenses are also playing more “prevent”/soft defenses in order to kill the clock further.

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Packers’ Chad Clifton Must Once Again Channel Major League’s Jake Taylor in 2011

If the crafty Chad Clifton can avoid scenes like this in 2011, it should be another good run for the Packers.

With Chad Clifton hobbling through the first couple of games, it looked like the Green Bay Packers were going to endure another season of uncertainity at left tackle in 2010. Then — like Jake Taylor helping the Indians win the pennant in Major League – Clifton showed that he wasn’t a past-his-prime washout and played a significant role in the Packers run to the Super Bowl.

I love watching Clifton. I love how he lumbers up to the line of scrimage, never appearing to be in too much of a hurry to get into his stance. I love how speed rushers think they can beat him around the edge, then are stopped cold once Clifton get his hands on them. I love how he maximizes his time on the field, refusing to dive wildly into the pile at the end of a play or do something silly that could add additional stress to his aging body.

Clifton is my favorite kind of player: A crafty veteran. There’s a misconception about crafty veterans. Many people think crafty veterans are just old guys past their prime that are only on the field because of career achievements or some intangible leadership skill they bring to the locker room. Sometimes that’s true, but not in Clifton’s case.

Clifton, when healthy, is still a damn good left tackle. He proved it last season by getting selected to the pro bowl. Pro Football Focus ranked Clifton 11th in pass blocking efficiency in 2010. Acme Packing Company points out that 11th is good, but probably not entirely fair since Clifton really came on in the season’s second half after he got healthy. Are there really 10 other left tackles in the NFL you would want on your team ahead of a healthy Clifton?

Clifton is the second most important player to the Packers offense. If he gets hurt or if age finally catches up with him next season, he’s going to be the hardest player to replace next to Aaron Rodgers.

If the regular season starts on time, the Packers are in good shape. Their coaching staff has been in place for a while, their offensive and defensive schemes are entrenched and their mixture of veteran and young talent is as good as any team in the league.