4 Downs: Packers get multiple benefits from using two tight ends
Each week I’ll share four observations the day after the Green Bay Packers' game. Here they are after the Packers’ 31-12 victory Sunday over the Miami Dolphins:
Coach Mike McCarthy ran more two-tight-end sets than usual Sunday. Whether it was because slot receiver Randall Cobb (hamstring injury) was inactive or to help emphasize the run game, it was effective. McCarthy opened the game with two tight ends (Jimmy Graham and Lance Kendricks) and went with that personnel on nine of the 10 plays on the drive. Aaron Jones had 27 yards rushing and 27 yards receiving, and the drive ended with a seven-yard touchdown pass to Davante Adams. McCarthy did the same to start the second half, going with multiple tight ends for much of the first two series, and again for a series in the fourth quarter. The Packers put up touchdowns on two of those three possessions. One of the drives included a couple plays with Marcedes Lewis as a third tight end. The 34-year-old Lewis has been strictly used as a blocker this season, and that probably helped spring him free for a big 30-yard catch and run that set up a touchdown. There wasn’t a defender within 15 yards when he caught that ball running a crossing route against the grain of the play. You never know whether these things are game specific or part of a trend. But it worked Sunday.
Rookie linebacker Oren Burks has played his way out of the rotation for now. After playing 25 snaps in the Packers’ nickel defense against San Francisco in Week 6, he had only 23 snaps combined against the Los Angeles Rams and New England the past two games. And Sunday, it didn’t appear that he played at all from scrimmage. Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine used either Josh Jones or Antonio Morrison as the second inside linebacker in the Packers’ nickel defense. He played Jones to match up better in the passing game and Morrison on downs where there was more of a threat for a run. Pettine also adjusted to Miami’s running the ball well on its first drive by often lining up on early downs with a base front (three defensive linemen and two outside linebackers), one inside linebacker (Blake Martinez) and five defensive backs.
Rookie Josh Jackson had a rough game starting at cornerback with Kevin King (hamstring) inactive. On one second-quarter series Jackson missed a great shot at an interception when he jumped a slant to Danny Amendola but somehow saw the ball go through his arms. Amendola turned it into a 39-yard gain. On the next two plays he gave up catches of 10 and seven yards to DeVante Parker. Jackson then was offside on the 25-yard field goal that ended the drive, but Miami declined the penalty and took the three points.
Maybe the Packers will stop using an offensive lineman as one of the two deep blockers on kickoff returns after Lucas Patrick was injured while returning a kickoff near the end of the first quarter. The Dolphins clearly targeted Patrick for that kickoff as one of the Packers’ three-deep, and he probably would have been better off letting the ball go, because it might have gone out of bounds and given the Packers the ball at the 40. But he returned it, took a hard shot and was knocked out of the game because of a possible concussion. After that, special teams coach Ron Zook lined up running back Tra Carson across from Jamaal Williams as the two blockers immediately ahead of return man Bashaud Breeland.