GREEN BAY – At the halfway point of the season, the Green Bay Packers are nearing the point where their offense is going to be healthy again.
Running back James Starks (knee) and tight end Jared Cook (ankle) returned to practice this week and if one or both of them don’t play this week against Tennessee, they’re likely to play the following week against Washington.
When coach Mike McCarthy gets them back, he’ll have the option of re-establishing offensively what he had at the start of the season: a no-huddle scheme with minimal substitution, more use of a tight end and a commitment to a lead back.
But the way he sees it, the Packers are too far down the path of their current style to try to reverse course. Less no-huddle, more substitution and use of a spread scheme make up the identity of this offense.
“This is a normal process,” McCarthy said Thursday. “We’ve shifted gears offensively. We’re not just an exclusive no-huddle offense anymore where you only play in a half a dozen to 10 personnel groups.
“Our approach is different, utilization of personnel is different, we’re trying to get everyone involved and max out opportunities as far as creating the opportunities for our players to be productive. “
McCarthy said he and his coaches have established 21 different personnel groupings they might use against the Titans due to health concerns.
They have to consider that Starks and Cook are question marks and receiver Randall Cobb (hamstring) isn’t completely past his injury. In addition, they have to decide how much burden to put on Ty Montgomery, who is new to the running back position and maybe not ready to carry the ball 20 times.
Whereas early in the year, Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams and Cobb got almost all of the receiver snaps, Jeff Janis, Trevor Davis and Geronimo Allison are now in the equation because they offer either size or speed the others don’t.
Playing strictly no-huddle limits substitutions because the whole idea is to control the pace and prevent the defense from running subs in and out of the game. Due to their inexperience, Janis, Davis and Allison don’t have the breadth of understanding the veterans do and are better off focusing on a fewer amount of plays.
In no-huddle, the receivers have to be comfortable running everything so no matter what McCarthy calls on his play sheet for quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the receivers in the game can run it effectively. When Starks and Cook get back, McCarthy will feel more secure in that regard because both players can do whatever he asks.
Ultimately, though, the coach wants the best of both worlds and will try to find a balance between no-huddle and flexible personnel groupings as the season goes on.
“The structure that we’re in now is here to stay,” McCarthy said. “The no-huddle is a very important component because we excel at that. That’s something that’s in place, the training is there. I think we’re very good at no huddle when it’s used the right amount of time.
“But it’s a challenge of how you call the game, when you use it and when you don’t.”