Packers notes: Aaron Rodgers says offense still 'finding our identity' entering bye week
GREEN BAY – The bye week comes at a good time for the Green Bay Packers, and not only because it gives quarterback Aaron Rodgers an extra week to rest his injured left knee.
An annual staple of the Packers' bye week is the team’s self-scouting process. After six weeks, it’s clear the Packers could use some introspection. Who are they as an offense more than one third through the season? That remains a work in progress.
“We’re finding our identity,” Rodgers said Monday night after a come-from-behind, 33-30 victory over the San Francisco 49ers.
“We’ve still got a long ways to go with our run game. They’re (the 49ers) a stout front. It’s tough to run on them, but we’ve got to keep finding ways to get the ball to 33 (Aaron Jones) in space. I thought 30 (Jamaal Williams) ran well, but just limited opportunities for those guys. We’re throwing the ball a bunch, and I’m taking too many shots. So we need to find a way to get the ball out of my hand a little quicker, and establish a little bit more.”
Most offenses strive to find some sort of balance. Coach Mike McCarthy said “hypothetically,” if the Packers' offense had 70 snaps in a game, 40 would be pass plays and 30 would be runs.
The Packers have averaged 69 snaps on offense through six games. They’ve run the football 132 times, an average of 22 per game, but 17 have come from Rodgers. The Packers have averaged only 19 carries per game, against 43 pass attempts.
McCarthy said he doesn’t simply account for handoffs and pass attempts. The Packers dig deeper into analytics, parsing which plays are run-pass options or other types of plays with an intended purpose. The goal, McCarthy said, is to have enough run-pass balance for the Packers to force a defense into respecting their play-action game.
In that regard, McCarthy said his offense’s ability to hit the 49ers on several big gains off play-action passes was an ideal way to enter the bye.
“I felt we definitely accomplished that clearly last night more than we have all year,” McCarthy said. “I felt like we were getting through the call sheet throughout the game. The ability to move Aaron around freely – we called more keeps last night than we called all year. I think that’s more of the vision of how we’d like to play.”
In the immediate aftermath of Monday night’s victory, McCarthy said simply, “We needed that win.”
Now, the Packers need the five days off that come with the bye week.
“We’ve got a lot of guys battling right now and definitely some guys banged up,” wide receiver Davante Adams said. “This extra week will really help us out.”
During the game, right tackle Bryan Bulaga missed 12 plays due to a shoulder injury but did return to finish it out. Other than that, the club seemed to have escaped the game unscathed.
“You obviously want to go into the bye week clean and I think we’re going to be in pretty good shape medically,” McCarthy said Monday night. “So our guys have a chance to rest up and get back at it because we know the stretch run we have there.”
Rodgers was already thinking about an improvement with his left knee once the team returns to Lambeau Field on Oct. 22.
“I’d love to take the brace off after the bye, but we’ll see how I respond tomorrow and this week and next week and probably get some sort of image of it again,” Rodgers said. “But that would be nice to be feeling great come next week Wednesday.”
Starting wide receivers Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison (hamstrings) said last week they are advancing through rehab and ran routes in team drills as part of that process, while cornerback Jaire Alexander (groin) said he had progressed to the point where he was taking team reps in practice.
Right guard Justin McCray may take a bit more time to get back into games, however. He injured his left shoulder against Washington on Sept. 23 and has been active in games only as an emergency option. He continues to rehabilitate in the hopes of increasing his practice workload after he fully participated in last Friday’s session.
Starting this week, receivers Trevor Davis and Jake Kumerow are eligible to be designated for return from injured reserve.
Because the Packers have a bye and aren’t practicing, there’s no need to decide right now. But the two are eligible to practice right away and can rejoin the 53-man roster any time after the Los Angeles Rams game Oct. 28.
The NFL allows only two designated-to-return exceptions per year and they can be used at any point during the season. However, the player has to have been on injured reserve a minimum of six weeks before he can begin practicing and eight weeks before he can play.
Davis and Kumerow were placed on injured reserve after the final cutdown Sept. 1.
“Talked about it a little bit today,” McCarthy said. “That’s a decision we’ll have for you next week.”
Even though Kumerow had a better training camp than Davis and appeared in line to be the No. 4 receiver, Davis might have more value because he could bolster the return game. Cobb and cornerback Tramon Williams have given McCarthy a sure ball-handler on punt returns, but together they are averaging 5.3 yards per return.
Davis averaged 12.0 yards per return last season.
Ty Montgomery’s numbers may not be sterling on kickoff returns (20.3 average) but he’s had two 60-plus kickoff returns nullified by penalty. Davis averaged 22.8 yards per return last year.
As for the wide receiver position, if Cobb and Allison return from injury, the coaches are probably going to want at the very least to keep rookie Marquez Valdes-Scantling involved, given he’s averaging 17.7 yards per catch and has two touchdowns.
Fellow rookie Equanimeous St. Brown has earned some additional playing time as well with four catches for 108 yards in the last two games. So, it may not make sense to activate Kumerow now.
In other receivers news, the Packers released DeAngelo Yancey from the practice squad. Yancey was a fifth-round draft pick in 2017 and spent that season on the practice squad. He was released after training camp but re-signed Oct. 4 to bolster depth at the injury-riddled position.