One of the big story lines of the Green Bay Packers’ preseason was the playing time — or, more accurately, the lack of playing time — for the No. 1 offense.
The starting offense looked sharp on the practice field, but would it carry over to the games?
Through two games, that answer has been a definitive “no.”
With only the Monday night game on the docket, the Packers were set to end Week 2 ranked 29th in yards, 30th in yards per play and 31st in yards per passing play. Is Green Bay’s offense struggling because it didn’t get enough work in the preseason? Or are there larger issues involved?
“To make one general statement of what’s right or what’s wrong with any component of football, I don’t know how you do that unless you’re talking specifically about an individual. Maybe, a position,” coach Mike McCarthy said on Monday, less than 24 hours after his punchless Packers lost 17-14 to rival Minnesota.
The poster child for how McCarthy handled the preseason was his usage of quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers played just two series in the preseason and sat out three of the four games. In his daily dealings with the media, McCarthy makes it a point to be, as he put it before the season, “BBD” — boring by design. His answer, however, opened the door to the question of whether Rodgers’ slow start to the season could be pinned on his limited use in the preseason. And we went with it.
“If you listen to my whole answer, No. 1, it’s not only who plays, when they play, who they play with, all those things,” he said. “It’s a combination. It’s not just one player. To say one player didn’t play as many snaps, that’s your evaluation. I don’t agree with it.”
That wasn’t my evaluation. Nor was it second-guessing. It was an honest question.
This preseason, Rodgers threw nine passes. In 2011, when he won his first MVP award, he threw 47 passes in four games. In 2014, when he won his second MVP award, he threw 33 passes in two games. In those cases, giving Rodgers a big taste of the preseason paid dividends.
But, considering what happened to receiver Jordy Nelson last preseason, it’s hard to be overly critical of McCarthy for keeping his quarterback in bubble wrap for the preseason. Imagine the reaction in the locker room and among the fans had Rodgers sustained a significant injury during an insignificant preseason game.
In his original answer, McCarthy talked about the “coordination of a player” being dependent on “who played in the preseason, how much they played, who they played with.” It could be argued that while Rodgers was sharp on the practice field in August, he needed the game reps with the rest of the starting offense to be ready for September. Because that didn’t happen, the offense — perhaps not surprisingly — hasn’t been sharp to start the season.
So, we pressed the issue. McCarthy provided a terse answer.
“There’s moving parts to it,” he said. “Who’s in the game? Who’s on the other side of the field?”
The “who’s in the game” part of the preseason might be the key. Rather than “who’s in the game,” perhaps it’s “who wasn’t in the game.” Notably, that would have been Nelson, who was brought along slowly and didn’t play in the preseason.
From the Packers’ perspective, the hope has to be that the offense hasn’t gotten its act together because it didn’t have a chance to get its act together.
“Well, we are not going to overreact,” Rodgers said after the game. “It has been two weeks. We have not quite found our rhythm. We have some guys that have not worked together a whole lot and we are going to trust the process and believe we can get this thing turned around. We have kind of an awkward schedule here, game next week at home, then a bye, and then three more at home. We are going to have to find a rhythm as we head back home as we have our opener. Hopefully, we can take care of business at home.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.