The Green Bay Packers’ offense has been rendered a shell of its former self by the infamous I&I Syndrome.
Injuries and inconsistency.
The Packers might get two shots in the arm to combat I&I this week with the potential return of tight end Jared Cook and running back James Starks.
But, really, this has what the Packers’ offense has devolved into, right? That the salvation for an underachieving offense are a tight end with six catches and a running back with a 1.8-yard average.
That, however, is the reality. Other than Starks and Cook, help is not on the way anytime soon. The trade deadline has come and gone. If workouts with C.J. Spiller and Joique Bell didn’t result in a veteran addition in the backfield, chances are the Packers will proceed forward with Starks, receiver-turned-running back Ty Montgomery and undrafted rookie Don Jackson.
Montgomery has done incredibly well, with a 5.7-yard rushing average and 23 receptions while being a featured part of the offense in only three games. However, he’s not a 15- or 20-carries-per-game kind of back. Without a true, accomplished running back, no team has thrown the ball a higher percentage of the time than the Packers over the past three weeks. And with such a pass-happy attack, the play-action passing threat has been thrown out the window. That’s a reason why the Packers rank 29th in yards per passing attempt.
“You’d like to be balanced and have the ability to run the football and mix in play action and then you mix in your three-step, five-step drops and take some deep shots down the field,” offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett said. “You want some variety, you want to be balanced. And I think that certainly he gives us that option because he’s done it.”
However, it’s fair to ask just how much of an impact Starks will make. Before the injury, he was averaging only 3.1 yards per touch. Last year, when he set career highs in rushing yards and receiving yards, he averaged 5.2 yards per touch.
“I’ve got to do better,” Starks acknowledged.
So, too, does Cook. He caught 6-of-11 passes for 53 yards. He seemed poised to be a key figure for the Packers in their Week 3 game vs. Detroit before he went down in the first half.
Without Cook, the offense has been consistently inconsistent. Green Bay’s offense was efficient during the second half against Chicago and most of the game against Atlanta. Then came last week, when one of the worst pass defenses in the league shut down Green Bay’s offense until the game was practically out of reach.
“I just think it should open things up a little bit more,” Cook said. “Teams have been playing us in a lot of man the past few games. Those are the fun games that you want to play in, so I’m looking forward to getting back and just being around the fellas. I miss them, I hope they miss me, too. I just want to get out there and help us as much as I can.”
Until the Packers can routinely beat man coverage, they’ll continue to get a steady diet of it. Perhaps Cook will be the difference. Last week, the Packers tried to attack the Colts with fellow tight end Richard Rodgers — who had caught six receptions for 37 yards in the previous five games combined. He caught six passes for 64 yards against the Colts but they had little impact on the direction of the game.
Cook welcomes the one-on-one challenge. Now that he’s at least close to being past the injury, perhaps he can solve the chronic inconsistency.
“Those are the most fun games,” he said. “You’re usually going to have a safety or a linebacker covering you, so either you’ve got an ability to beat him one-on-one or you’ve got the ability to open somebody else up. A lot of picks, a lot of rubs, a lot of just man-to-man routes, so you can kind of set up the route however you want to get open.”
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.