Eddie Lacy, Jermichael Finley and the Play-Action pass

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Jermichael Finley enjoyed a big day against the Rams, due, in part, to Eddie Lacy.
Jermichael Finley enjoyed a big day against the Rams, due, in part, to Eddie Lacy.

Despite not punching the ball into the endzone, the Packers’ (kinda) first-team offense passed the eye test Saturday night against the St. Louis Rams.

Eddie Lacy continually punished defenders with his smash-mouth, bulldozer-like running style. Jermichael Finley was running free in the Rams’ secondary, four times catching wide-open passes from Aaron Rodgers.

On 18 snaps against the Rams on Saturday, Finley managed to catch four passes for 78 yards. Last season, Finley set a franchise record for receptions by a tight end with 61, but his 78 yards Saturday night would have been his highest single-game total in 2012.

And with Lacy providing the Packers with a newfound physical ground game, totaling Finley’s job may be a little easier in 2013.

The former Alabama running back racked up 40 yards on eight carries despite subpar offensive line play, as outlined earlier this week by Jersey Al. And although it was Lacy’s first game appearance in the NFL, it’s pretty clear that the Rams already respected the 22-year-old bruiser.

Let’s take another look at Lacy’s two best runs of the night.

1st Quarter 14:31 remaining

In a two-tight formation, Lacy gets the handoff as the single back. The line is sliding to the right, but center Evan Dietrich-Smith doesn’t quite have the quickness to cross his man’s face.

But instead of being stopped for negative yards, Lacy uses his well-documented spin move to get upfield. It was only a seven-yard gain, but a runner creating something out of nothing hasn’t been a common occurrence in Green Bay as of late.

1st Quarter 13:23 remaining

Again, Evan Dietrich-Smith is beaten off the line, but Lacy’s power bails him out.

After breaking out of the defensive tackle’s tackle, Lacy sheds another arm tackle from rookie linebacker Alec Ogletree. The 15-yard gain was Lacy’s longest of the night. It was at this point that Packers fans were all like, “Wow.”

On two of Finley’s four catches, Rodgers began the play with a fake handoff to Lacy. Let’s take a look at those two plays.

1st Quarter 14:01 remaining

Finley is lined up in the slot, Lacy is the deep back and the Rams are in zone coverage. Finley has a cornerback lined up across from him, but he’s released into the middle of the field upon his break.

Rams linebacker Will Witherspoon holds responsibility in the middle, but he already responded to the fake to Lacy. The two-step commit to the run prevented him from reaching his drop, and Finley was found wide open for a 25-yard gain.

2nd Quarter 13:54 remaining

Again, Finley is lined up in the slot. Rams cornerback Cortland Finnegan is sent on a blitz, as Rodgers fakes a handoff to Lacy out of the shotgun.

In Finnegan, the Rams already had extra players crashing the line of scrimmage, but the fake to Lacy sucked in both linebackers. Finley snuck behind the linebackers and in front of the safety for a 33-yard gain.

Whoopty-do. What does it all mean?

When the Packers spent a pair of draft picks on running backs in April, the thought was that they may finally have added some balance to an already potent offense. And while Lacy figures to take some pressure off Aaron Rodgers, the 230-pound back will benefit Finley as well.

Finley and Randall Cobb are likely the team’s biggest matchup nightmares in the passing game. As a result, the Packers move both players around to get them into favorable matchups.

With potentially a newfound ground game, the Packers could transition to a more traditional offensive attack than in recent years, meaning Finley could enjoy more of a traditional tight end-type role in 2013. Run blocking certainly isn’t Finley’s calling card, but the presence of Lacy could open up the middle of the field for Finley to do his thing.

Saturday was the first time Finley and Lacy took the field together in 2013 game action, and their combined 129 yards on 37 total plays paced the team’s offense. Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson were out of the lineup, so obviously the passing attack likely won’t be tilted so heavily towards Finley in the regular season, but it was interesting to see the Packers employ such a traditional run-the-ball-and-throw-it-to-the-tight-end attack against the Rams.


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Marques is a Journalism student, serving as the Sports Editor of UW-Green Bay\'s campus newspaper The Fourth Estate and a Packers writer at Jersey Al\'s AllGBP.com. Follow Marques on Twitter @MJEversoll.


11 thoughts on “Eddie Lacy, Jermichael Finley and the Play-Action pass

  1. If we can get some decent play from Finley and Lacy then all these teams using Cover 2/Tampa 2 (which has worked well against the Packers in recent years) are going to get burned.

    This is probably Finley’s last season in Green Bay so I hope he can go out on a high and contribute to the team this season.

    Lacy looked impressive against the Rams but let’s see how he fares in some of the other games. I think he’s going to be a star but we shall see.

    We are always going to be a pass first offense with the best QB in the game but we do need to commit more to the run to keep opposition defenses honest and set up the play action pass.

    They don’t have to fear our running game but if we can make them respect it then it could do wonders for our offensive game.

    1. I’m not convinced that this is Finley’s last season – I think that there are a lot of questions to be answered, but he is still young, has a lot of experience, is in good shape physically (no major injury history), and may finally have his head screwed on straight. If he really has put it all together, it will be very difficult for TT to let him go – even though Raji’s contract is not going to be cheap either. I think the guy that may end up getting chopped is Tramon, given his contract number, the fact that his play has declined, and the number of young DBs on the roster that show potential (and are much more affordable). Question: is there any other team in the league with two UDFAs as starting corners?

      Thanks, BZ.

      1. This. I realize that we’ve been saying “Maybe this is the season Finley lives up to his potential…” for a number of seasons now, but it really seems like it’s coming together for him — finally. If he turns into Jimmy Graham this year, the Packers might decide its worth opening the vault to keep him.

      2. Completely agree. Finley is probably going to be in GB for a few more years. I would guess 4 more given Thompson’s history. McCarthy likes his TE’s too, especially if they are a threat in the passing game. Finley stays.

        Tramon is gone after this year too. Been saying it all offseason. Unload his 8 or 9M salary drop Hawk could save another 3M. Finley isn’t going to get much more than the 8M he’s on the books for already, he might even get less w/ the security that comes w/ a long term contract. Raji will get extended w/ money saved by Pickett who’ll be back at a reduced salary IMO. A lot of Tramons salary can go toward signing Shields to an extension. We’re in good shape cap-wise.

      3. GBP can’t sign Raji, Shields and Finley. Which one would you let go? Shields is a keeper. TT loves big guys, even if they don’t do much (Raji). That leaves Mr. Inconsistent as the hot potato (no e). Packer needs next draft:

        Another Datone Jones

        Bulaga, Sherrod and Tretter should solidify depth on OLine. Newhouse will be gone.

  2. This is an exciting aspect to the O. You are right though about the Oline run blocking, which will hurt against the physical D’s. Lacey will have to do a lot on his own against teams like the niners. Friday should be a good test for this team against the seahawks, on both sides of the ball.

    Its a bummer that we lost Bulaga, he would have helped so much in the run blocking. Speaking of injuries, D Jones injury is troublesome. Sounds like he came back to soon, which is disappointing considering its only the preseason. SMH

    1. I’m not sure what is worse…being on the Madden cover or being a 1st round draft choice of the Packers.

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