The Packers got a sneak peak of what life will be like pairing a legitimate running game with their superstar quarterback, against the Carolina Panthers. Many hoped the Packers would rely on their running game far more in the game, but it’s a difficult ratio Mike McCarthy will need to balance next season.
The most difficult thing the Packers will need to overcome in staying balanced, is the idea; would you rather give Rodgers two attempts to gain six yards, or one attempt to gain three yards. I’m of the opinion, you give him two attempts to pass for six yards, especially in a must win situation.
In less dire situations, I hope they lean towards the run more often. For one, the offensive line did a much better job creating holes for the running game, then they protected the quarterback this season. And with Jahri Evans considering retirement (via Ryan Woods), the offensive line could fall off even more next season. Second, the Packers have three very talented running backs, which will make it nearly impossible to give each of them the touches they deserve. The plus of that, as we saw on the Tampa Bay walk off touchdown run by Aaron Jones, is the ability to turn to fresh legs at all times.
The third reason, copycatting the New Orleans Saints resurgence this season. The Packers are starting to look a lot like the Saints of recent years, if Drew Brees doesn’t have a perfect game, his team probably lost. New Orleans surprised the league largely relying on their running backs. One thing the Packers can take from Sean Payton, using the screen game to get their running backs involved. The Packers love the wide receiver screen, but adjusting to get the ball in their young playmakers hands, could be a nice adjustment the offense needs.
I may be off, but it’s felt like the defenses around the league have caught up to the Packers offense. McCarthy’s offense was at one point, a west coast revolution for the league, but like most things, the league has caught up. The offense could use a couple new philosophies to attack their favorites spots of the field. Joe Philbin was very good in that area in his first tenure as offensive coordinator.
The final reason they may need to rely on the run more, is the Packers receiving core is starting to split into two extremes, those who are on the back nine of their career, and those who are on the driving range trying to learn how to swing the club fluidly (and of course Davante Adams is cozy in the middle). I really like the talent of the young receivers, Michael Clark and Geronimo Allison are both very physically gifted, and could be very useful to Rodgers in the redzone. But, as we saw the last three weeks of the season, it may be difficult to rely on them. I think Allison could be an offseason away from being a legitimate threat, but Clark may be two away. I’d be very interested in the Packers drafting a receiver in the draft, something I’m sure they’ll look hard and long into.
But as it currently stands, it may be in the absolute best interest of the team to pound the rock again and again, until they reach the must win portion of the season. In theory, the Packers will be able to run the ball, then pick up first downs behind Aaron Rodgers’ talent. That’ll *help* protect Rodgers’ health, give the defense as much time to rest as possible, and the big men upfront the opportunity to wear out the defensive line.
There are plenty of reasons to rely more heavily on the running game, but I will need to see it to believe it. If the defense doesn’t improve, the Packers are in a constant state of, “we desperately need points on this possession.” It’s hard to take the ball out of Rodgers hands when any one offensive possession could cost the team the win.