It was at this point in training camp last year when Favre said he would never settle for a ‘check-down' pass when there was a chance to make a bigger play. He scoffed at the notion of playing conservatively. Never has in the past, why now? Right? Well, as the injuries mounted last year and Favre tried to do too much, his interceptions piled into a career high 29 and the Packers finished 4-12.
However, Favre has decided to return to a situation that has changed a lot, especially on offense - New coach, new zone blocking run scheme, young interior offensive line, different version of the West Coast offense, newer receivers, and he's a year older and getting a little creaky in the joints.
"My arm feels great," Favre said today, "but the rest of my body feels like I've been playing 16 years."
Favre is nursing a sore ankle that has given him problems since he had surgery on it in 1995. Nothing serious, he says. Favre can practice and run, but it's enough to remind him that he's not getting any younger.
New Head Coach Mike McCarthy, to his credit, is keeping the offense quite simple this season. It is obvious, at least watching practices thus far, that Favre will be settling for shorter passes, rather than trying to ‘thread the needle' 20 or 30 yards downfield. The Packers, according to Favre, are reverting back to the Mike Holmgren era with the offense, playing more of a true West Coast offense.
"Holmgren's philosophy was the 3- and 4-yard passes are like runs," Favre explained. "From my standpoint, it's easier. You spread the field out by putting more guys out and you just find the seams. You dump it off and hit a guy. If it's for 3 yards … from a running game standpoint, 3 yards is great because every once in a while, you'll get an extra yard, or two more, or maybe you'll bust one for 20 or 30 yards. The percentages are not high on completing 20 or 30 yard passes. When you complete them, it's great, but you have to pick your spots to do that, and I think that's what we're going to try to do – move the chains, which is the most important thing."
Favre has been throwing more short passes to receivers in team drills, 7-on-7 and 9-on-9 during practices this training camp. He admits that he is not totally comfortable with the terminology of the new offense and that it's not "rolling off his tongue yet."
With an offensive line that will likely feature two rookie guards and a center who will be beginning the season for the first time as a starter, it only makes sense for McCarthy to keep the offense simple. The zone blocking scheme will take some time and the team's top running back, Ahman Green, is coming off a major injury from last year. So, look for Favre to settle for shorter passes, or use a three-step drop to hit receivers on slant routes over the middle. It will not only cut down on Favre's interceptions, but help the offense gain confidence with each game.
"To me the biggest question mark we have is the offense," Favre admitted.
He's right, so the only answer is to control Favre from taking too many deep shots downfield. Chances are, with a young line, Favre won't have time to throw deep anyway.
"One thing we forget is protection," Favre said. "No offensive line can protect long enough for you to find a guy who finally comes open, so you have to hit the slant on a three-step drop and have him break a tackle, or catch a seam. I know we can do that. We've done that in the past, and it can be done again. Then, every once in a while, you do take shots.
Fave will always want to throw the ball deep, or try to complete a low percentage pass across the field. His strong arm has always allowed him to do that. But this year, the circumstances that surround Favre, will necessitate that he play within the confines of a simpler offense.
Will he do that? After throwing 29 picks last year, does he have a choice?
Todd Korth is managing editor of PackerReport.com and Packer Report. E-mail him at email@example.com.