Will You Recognize the Packers’ Offense in 2011?

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No NFL team is the same from year to year. Players come and go, coaching changes are made, and injuries occur throughout the season. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “We change, whether we like it or not.”

The successful franchises, then, are the ones that can adapt to the changes and work with them rather than against them. They accept that things won’t be the same this year as they were the year before. Ted Thompson knows this. Mike McCarthy knows this. Dom Capers, Joe Philbin, and the rest of the Packers’ coaching staff know this.

So don’t be surprised when you see some alterations to McCarthy’s offense next season.

The change in personnel should prove to be the biggest factor in how McCarthy will operate the offense. In the 2011 NFL Draft, Green Bay used its top three picks on players who could be expected to contribute right away: OT Derrick Sherrod, WR Randall Cobb, and RB Alex Green. While these three might be considered potential replacements for players lost through free agency, they will each bring something new to the table, and McCarthy will look to capitalize on those strengths.

In addition, the now-crowded tight end position, the dwindling fullback corps, and the co-availability of Ryan Grant and James Starks will make things even more interesting.

As you can see, the distribution of personnel has shifted quite noticeably this offseason. But even without that, Mike McCarthy made it very clear that he wasn’t satisfied with the performance of his offense in 2010.

“We weren’t the best offense in the league,” McCarthy said at the NFL Scouting Combine. He later added: “We feel we have more to offer, we have more offense that we never really got to last year and we feel like we can do a better job looking forward.”

In hindsight (and some foresight), McCarthy is absolutely right.

From a statistical standpoint, the offense actually regressed from 2009 to 2010.  They went from 3rd (461 pts.) to 10th (388 pts.) in points scored, 6th (6,065 yds.) to 9th (5,730 yds.) in total yards gained, and 1st (+1,514 yds.) to 7th (+785 yds.) in yardage differential.

And really, it wasn’t until Week 16 against the New York Giants where Aaron Rodgers and the offense flashed the offensive muscle we knew they had.  They scored four passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns for their first 40+ score of the season.

Unfortunately, even after that point, we witnessed a lot of inconsistency in the offense’s ability to control the game.

Yes, losing Ryan Grant and Jermichael Finley to injury proved to be a complete headache. Yes, Aaron Rodgers’ concussions became a concern. But if there’s one thing we learned last season, it’s that you can never have enough depth.

So with the defense ranking first in the league in points allowed, it should be no surprise that Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson felt the need to bolster the offense a bit. And with the new personnel will come a slightly new approach.

About a week ago, Aaron Nagler of CheeseheadTV wrote an excellent post about how the increased depth and talent at the tight end position provides McCarthy with some increased flexibility.  Not only can McCarthy be more ambiguous with his run vs. pass plays, it also gives Rodgers more options for adjustments at the line.

Additionally, the potential for some improved run-blocking offensive lineman on the left side should help to open up the running game. McCarthy will always put the emphasis on passing the ball (as he should with Aaron Rodgers under center), but he makes no bones about the necessities of a good running attack. This season, he may actually be able to rely on the ground game a little more, especially when defending a lead.

Now, I do have to put out this disclaimer: Yes, you will recognize the Packers offense – the changes probably won’t be drastic. We’ll still see a lot of the same things we’ve seen from McCarthy year after year.

But I’ll be looking forward to the new things he adds to the mix. If I had to make a prediction, I would say the short-yardage game should improve. (And I hope it does, as that was one of their glaring weaknesses last years.) Having some more quality depth and flexibility at tight end and running back should help in those situations.

Who knows, we might even see a couple reverses or Wildcat-type plays with Randall Cobb in the mix.

But whatever it is, expect McCarthy to keep pushing his offense with new plays and tactics next season. He has a brand new set of weapons to work with, and unless all of training camp is lost in the lockout, he’ll be itching to get them involved.


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


18 thoughts on “Will You Recognize the Packers’ Offense in 2011?

  1. Finley, Quarless, Williams and even Crabtree will make this offense more flexible. I love spreading teams out, but when you line up with five WRs it is pretty obvious what you are going to do. Play action should be improved this year due to the TEs on the roster and hopefully improved running game due to Starks/Green/Grant. Teams did not have to respect the packers running game for most of last season.

    My only fear is that MM will see all the these toys and go a little crazy with his “personnel groupings”. You could tell that Rodgers got a little frustrated with the constant rotation of players midway through the season last year. The offense really started to take off when MM simplified things with personnel and established a rhythm. There are going to be some really good players not activated on game day. If sherrod pans out this offense is loaded with ridiculous depth. The only thing that can stop this offense is a long term injury to Rodgers or Cliffy going down and Sherrod not being ready.

  2. Jennings

    Is there such thing as too many weapons? That’s not to mention Starks, Grant, Kuhn, Green…

    This offense better have 20 drives per game…

      1. I think Jones is pretty much gone.

        But even so Swain won’t see much the field except for ST duties, barring injuries.

        Dropping passes in the SB didn’t do him any help…

  3. I will agree with the improved running game in GB and without a doubt a better third & short game, but we’re NOT going to see Cobb on wildcat b/c McCarthy doesn’t like that and he’s come out and said he thinks if you have a running game he doesn’t like those gimmicks. Secondly I dont think many of those rookies will even be near performing/contributing until after midseason as they’ve already missed Rookie orientation where they get a welcome to the Packers offense & the minicamp that we should be in right now
    !! Thats where the Pack introduce the playbook even moreso…. With that being said teams in the NFL will rely more than ever on veterans. In previous seasons we have 1 or 2 draft picks not make the final 53 and sign onto the 8 man p.s. but this year I see the last 4 being p.s. players. DE-LG, MLB-DS, OLB-RE, & G-CS all p.s.

    Gonna be a terrific seasoon with lots to look forward, cant wait to see how we balance out our running game with Jermichael and Greg!!! Go Pack Go!!

      1. In the regular season. And it will be near the goalline, and it will be disastruous.

        But in the playoffs, we’ll see an unprecedented center pass (PA reverse, back to Rodgers, back to Wells), which will result in a Rodgers receiving TD.

        That’s MM. Dull and predictable in the regular season, creative and precise in the playoffs…

  4. Will You Recognize the Packers’ Offense in 2011?

    The answer to this question is yes, but only because the 2011 version will remain a pass first offense. The biggest difference will be Finley hopefully back for the whole year, Cobb a scat-back type the Packers haven’t had in while, a little more wiggle with Green and Cobb, instead of the plow staight ahead style of Grant and Kuhn (which isn’t always bad) and an even more maturated and aware Rodgers.

    I am a little concerned about fumbling(Green, Cobb) considering Grant, Jackson and Kuhn have been unbelievably reliable the last few years.

    Else, this offense has the potential to rank at the top of league.

  5. “…it should be no surprise that Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson felt the need to bolster the offense a bit.” Are you saying you don’t think TT drafts for BPA? Vic Ketchman from Packers.com swears up and down that BPA is what lead to the 3 offensive picks, nothing else. The offense was bolstered, but I doubt it was a conscientious effort. Regardless, MM will have a different set of talent and new plays to break out this year. Don’t think we’ll see the Wildcat because in order to use it during a game you have to burn precious reps on the practice field first. Maybe, but not likely.

    1. I think TT drafts for “BPA,” but remember that each team ranks its players differently. And call me crazy, but I do think their needs play a (limited) factor into how they rank the players and how they move up/down the board.

      So yes, it’s best player, but that final ranking of “best” player was influenced in part by their needs.

      1. Again…TT picked the top player on his board every time they drafted. Vic was there and swears this is true. Purely coincidence they were all on offense.

  6. I can easily see Cobb in the slot taking a quick pass from Aaron with OL and Finley coming out to lay a CB and S on their backside. Jennings will tie up another CB resulting in a TD.

  7. The “wildcat” in Green Bay…please stop.

    If MM knows one thing it’s that “Trix are for kids”and we don’t use highchairs or bibs in our offense.

    1. Not a Wildcat formation, but by design a play that shifts into the running back having the option to run or throw.

      I don’t think McCarthy rules out anything when he’s designing/selecting plays, but he will stick to his fundamental offensive philosophy and utilize the strengths of his players.

      1. Plays designed like the flea flicker,end arounds HB options are nothing more than a show of flare for fan entertainment or the recourse of desperation when getting ones ass kicked.
        MM does not/nor need to design/utilize/select plays for the fans in either situation for any meaningful purpose other than to re-affirm the stupidity and waste of time practicing it.A fake kick is all I expect and want MM putting time and energy in as part of his “gimmick repertory” of plays.
        IMO as with the previous just written,teams that put in valuable time in camp for these type of plays have accepted that their offense is limited.
        Bill Parcells when he drafted that QB White from WV I think,recently admitted(roundaboutly) he got caught up in a false hype of gimmicks ala wildcat in Miami as a main/part of an offense that on any level is the acknowledgement of having no offense.
        We all know and seen the limited affect it has against talented and well coached defenses.
        Nothing spells loser faster than detouring from your fundamental offense and taking the ball from your strengths,Rodgers and the WRs that can catch it and keeping the RBs as RBs and not QBs.
        Almost everytime I watch any game in a sports bar and the gimmick play is done,the vast majority of fans are oohing and aahing and laughing at the team on the bad end of it but are most of the time leaving pissed the team that performed it LOST again.
        I feel the heat coming already,lol.

        1. I completely get what you’re saying, and I think there’s a lot of merits to the points you make.

          I think I just disagree that trick plays are inherently done for the fans or to cover up weaknesses. Are they used for those purposes? Absolutely. And often.

          But not all the time. I think especially with division rivals, who know each other so well, the occassional and well-timed “trick” play is good to throw them off balance, keep them guessing, and/or go for the big play.

          McCarthy has shown us that he’s very conservative in calling these types of plays, which I would prefer to someone who relies on them. But he does take those chances, and they are usually calculated ones. The fake field goal against Chicago, the naked bootleg with Raji lined up as FB, the onside kick against the Patriots, etc. He’s not covering up his weaknesses, he’s utilizing his players’ strengths in “unconvential” ways. (Flynn’s placekick holding, Rodger’s running ability, Crosby’s kickoff specialty.)

          I don’t expect McCarthy to start using them a lot more, and I doubt he’ll spend more time than he already does on them. But he’ll have more options with these more versatile players when he does want to catch the opponent off guard.

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