The last time Jordy Nelson and Jermichael Finley played an entire season together for the Green Bay Packers was 2011.
The result? Merely 560 points in what was the second-highest-scoring output in NFL history.
Could the Packers be as proficient this season? Nelson is back after missing all of last season with a torn ACL. The addition of Jared Cook gives the Packers their most explosive tight end since Finley’s career ended midway through the 2013 season.
There’s no doubt two-time MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers likes the possibilities, though that wasn’t first and foremost on his mind when the 2011 history lesson was mentioned.
“Well, I don’t look at that,” Rodgers told a small group of writers following Monday’s organized team activity. “I’m interested in how teams are going to play us. In ’11, we saw a lot of Cover-2, and we didn’t run it as well as we do now. We run the football a lot better up front and then having Eddie (Lacy) and James (Starks) to run the football. We had a stretch here for a long time, like 46 straight games, without a 100-yard rusher.”
In 2011, Starks (578 yards) and Ryan Grant (559) combined for 1,137 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns, and the Packers averaged merely 3.94 yards per carry. Lacy topped that production by himself in 2013 (1,178 yards and 11 touchdowns) and 2014 (1,139 yards and nine touchdowns), and Green Bay averaged a combined 4.53 yards per carry during those two seasons.
With an unreliable running game in 2011, Cover-2 doomed the Packers — with their 15-1 regular season turning into a one-and-done in the playoffs. With the offensive line back intact and Lacy looking to rebound after lumbering through last season, playing Cover-2 against Green Bay’s offense might not be a winning formula.
“If teams want to play Cover-2 against us and shade a safety to Jordy’s side, we’re going to have to run the ball effectively,” Rodgers said. “Looking at the trend in the NFL now, it’s actually a lot of one-high stuff, and that comes out of Seattle and Denver with what they’ve been doing with their corners — drafting or signing big corners who can lock down receivers, and then trying to stop the run. If you do that, then you have some good one-on-one matchups on the outside for Randall (Cobb), who didn’t get a lot of one-on-one last year, and then obviously Jordy coming back.”
On paper, the Packers’ offense is about as good as there is in the NFL. Assuming the offensive line stays healthy, Nelson returns to form, Lacy bounces back and Cook plays to his potential, Rodgers might have the answer to whatever questions are thrown at him by opposing defenses.
“I don’t want to make that big of a statement yet,” Rodgers said. “We’re going to wait until we see Jared healthy. And Jordy’s not back yet. So, I’m going to wait — we obviously think we have some good players and we look good on paper but I’m not going to get make any big expectations on our offense at this point.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.