The Packers have dabbled with the no-huddle during practices for the last few years, but the up-tempo approach generally has remained there other than in hurry-up situations.
Perhaps this year will be different.
"I feel that we've always done a good job with the no-huddle," coach Mike McCarthy said after a 28-20 victory over the Cardinals at Lambeau Field. "It's good to get quality work, game-time work. I think it's a reflection of the maturity of our offense, particularly Aaron Rodgers. Aaron does an excellent job handling the calls at the line of scrimmage. We're 2-for-2. I'm very pleased with the no-huddle so far."
At the start of the Packers' third possession, McCarthy sent out three receivers, tight end Jermichael Finley and running back Ryan Grant. Suddenly, an ineffective offense that looked like it was knee-deep in a lockout-induced malaise was in midseason form. An offense that had gained merely 15 yards and a first down on its initial possession and 27 yards with two first downs (and two sacks) on its second possession motored down the field. Seven rapid-fire plays later, Green Bay had negotiated 78 yards and was in the end zone on Rodgers' brilliant 20-yard touchdown pass to Greg Jennings.
Rodgers completed 5-of-5 passes for 62 yards on the drive. It was the big-picture potential of the no-huddle, rather than the energy-drink kick in the pants it delivered on Friday, that struck Rodgers.
"I just like the fact that it's a tempo series and we can call plays quickly or we can try to figure out what they're trying to do on defense," Rodgers said. "It keeps the defense kind of on their toes a little bit. Defenses have really passed up offenses as far as schematically and doing things that make it difficult for the offense to figure out who's coming and the coverage they're playing behind it. When you get into no huddle, it can vanilla that down a little, but some teams are eventually going to game-plan for us and then we'll figure out what kind of role that no-huddle is going to play in this offense."
To be sure, there's no guarantee the no-huddle will be that effective when the games count. The Browns finished a respectable 13th in points allowed last season but the Cardinals ranked a dreadful 30th. Both teams are breaking in new defensive coordinators and, obviously, aren't where they want to be schematically because of the lockout.
So, take Rodgers' 10-for-10, 131-yards, two-touchdowns efficiency with a grain of salt, since a more veteran defensive unit would be more prepared and might not be put on its heels.
"It shouldn't be difficult – but it can be if you're not prepared," safety Charlie Peprah said. "Just getting the call and communicating to everybody, especially if they start moving and shifting and we have to check to something else. Just getting it communicated to everybody and getting everybody on the same page. It's being a quarterback. Same thing as on offense. It's being the quarterback of the defense so you have to get everybody lined up and make sure we're running the right stuff on the back end."
Still, the no-huddle has its advantages, especially with Friday's personnel group forcing the opposing defensive coordinator into making a touch choice with his personnel. Having Finley and Grant gives the Packers a true running threat, especially with three receivers to spread the field and create natural running lanes. Or, Finley can be split out wide to give the Packers a four-receivers look.
"I think we use it to our advantage because it wears the defense out a little bit and it doesn't allow them to make substitutions to our different packages," guard T.J. Lang said. "We're 2-for-2 in two preseason games so it's definitely doing some good for us. It's a good change-up."
Finley, especially, thrived on Friday, catching passes on consecutive plays covering 6 yards for a first down, 7 yards for an advantageous second-and-3 and 19 yards for a first down to the Cardinals' 27.
"I feel like I'm in the best shape of my life, so the no-huddle doesn't affect me," Finley said. "It probably affects the guy who's holding me because he's got to run down and cover me, then come back again and cover me again. That's the thing we've got on people is that we're up-tempo with everything we do."
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