Since Aaron Rodgers took over the reigns from Brett Favre in 2008 the Packers have been known as a pass-first team.
Back in 2008 the NFL was still a fairly balanced league with an average 52/48 split in pass to run calls. The Packers were one of the teams that saw they could exploit defenses through the air much easier than they could by keeping a more balanced mix of run and pass.
The first five seasons of Rodgers being a starter the Packers called for a pass on 58.5 percent of plays, much higher than the 53 percent that was the NFL average over that time. Highlighted by their 61 percent of called pass plays in 2011.
Over time the NFL has become a passing league and percentages of pass plays have risen every season in the NFL since 2008. The NFL has become a passing league, which means the Packers once again have started to go against the grain.
Well, at least sort of.
Since 2012 the Packers have embraced the run and slowly started to come down closer to league average in percent of called pass plays.
The graph above shows that the Packers did call for a pass on roughly 1.5 percent of plays more often than the NFL average last season, a far cry from 2011. Even though they are still passing more than most teams, there is no doubt that gap is closing.
That gap closure has started with the drafting of Eddie Lacy. Last season was by percentage the lowest amount of passes called in Aaron Rodgers’ starting career.
The four seasons before Eddie Lacy was drafted the Packers passed on 59 percent of plays. That number has dropped two percent down to 57 percent since Lacy has been on the team.
Oddly enough, the area that has been sacrificed in favor of the run game has been deep pass attempts. Going into last season the Packers averaged attempting a deep pass (a pass 20+ yards in the air) on 12.9 percent of plays since 2008. Last season that number dropped to a Rodgers career low 10.8 percent.
The two percent added to the amount of run plays and taken away from the deep passes may not seem like much, but that’s nearly 20 percent of the deep pass attempts taken away.
That’s interesting to think about because Rodgers has been one of the best, if not the best, quarterbacks in the NFL at throwing the deep ball over his career. Ranking first or second in accuracy on deep passes each of the last four seasons.
While the two percent drop in deep passes last season went directly to two percent more run plays, it hasn’t changed the efficiency that they ran those deep pass plays with. Rodgers’ 18.5 yards per attempt on deep passes was the second best of his career, second only to his unbelievable 2011 MVP season.
Since Lacy joined the team the Packers have thrown sub-twenty-yard passes at the exact same rate that they did pre-Lacy, 46 percent of the time. Clearly the strategy to cut down on the deep passes worked because they were as efficient as ever in the deep game and the Packers’ offense was second in the NFL in scoring at 29.7 points per game last year.
Going forward with coach McCarthy giving up play calling this coming season, it will definitely be something to watch to see how, if at all, the offense changes.——————
Mike Reuter lives in the Twin Cities and is a graduate of the University of St. Thomas. He is a mobile tech enthusiast, a 19 year Gopher Football season ticket holder and a huge Packers fan. Mike is a writer with AllGreenBayPackers.com and you can follow him on twitter at @uofmike.