Stale, outdated, and predictable, have been words used to describe the Packers offense over the past few seasons. That’s right, an offense led by Aaron Rodgers has been anything but explosive. The Packers look to change that this season after bringing in Offensive minded head coach Matt LaFleur. As the Packers try to turn their offense around this season, the biggest key to their success on the offensive side of the ball will be the play action pass.
Matt LaFleur worked with Sean McVay during his time with the Las Angeles Rams during the 2017 season. One of the many strategies that LaFleur picked up from McVay was using play action as a key part of their offense. When we look at the Rams over the past two seasons, they have led the NFL in play-action pass percentage. LaFleur took that with him to Tennessee where they ranked 6th in the 2018 season in play action passes. The Titans used play action for 29% of their offensive plays where they averaged 8.1 yards per play. The Titans averaged 6.1 yards per play on non-play actions plays. They were able to have success in play action because of the commitment they showed to their run game. They used Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis to open up their passing attack. Let’s not forget that the Titans managed to create 8.1 yards per play on their play-action passes with Marcus Mariota and Blaine Gabbert as their quarterback. They started every game with one foot in the grave with those two as their quarterback, but LaFleur was able to still find productivity out of two potential first round busts. (Jury is still out of Mariota)
Matt LaFleur bringing play action pass to the Packers will bring a common concept to a team that could rival the Las Angeles Rams in its execution. The Packers ranked 27th in 2018 in use of play-action passes with a usage rate of 20%. The Packers also did not have much success when using play action, only averaging 6.1 yards per play. Yes, you read that correctly, the Packers were outperformed by Marcus Mariota and Blaine Gabbert. The Packers ranking 27th in this category shows the complete waste of Rodgers skill set that has taken place over the past few seasons. Rodgers has one of the most accurate arms in the NFL, and Rodgers puts fear in the hearts of the defense when he is outside of the pocket. Rodgers has made some of his most memorable plays scrambling outside of the pocket and making plays happen. If Matt LaFleur can combine Rodgers playmaking ability with the power of play action, it could spell trouble for opposing defenses.
One of the best breakdowns of Rodgers ability to find receivers when he scrambles outside of the pocket came from Dan Orlovsky on Good Morning Football.(Go to NFL.com and look it up) He broke down highlights of Rodgers’ ability to find the open receiver while extending the play with his feet. I know every play action does not involve Rodgers bootlegging out of the pocket, but just thinking about the plays that do should get Packer fans excited for this coming season.
One of the keys to using play action effectively is committing to the run game. Matt LaFleur has shown his commitment to the run game during his time with the Titans when he used Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis on inside and outside zone runs. The Titans had the 9th most rushing attempts (454) in 2018 which resulted in 2023 yards and 15 touchdowns. The Titans tried to beat down opposing defenses with the run, so when they did use play action, the defense would hesitate, allowing openings in the passing game. The Packers ranked 22nd in rushing attempts (333) in 2018 but will look to increase that this coming season. With Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams, and rookie Dexter Williams, the Packers have a running back committee that will force the defenses to respect the run and react to every fake handoff. Matt LaFleur will look to revitalize the Packers’ running game which will, in turn, allow play action passes to bring excitement and success back to their offense.
If you don’t get excited about the increase in play action for the Packers after watching this video you might be a white walker.