Greg Cosell Q&A: Aaron Rodgers finding his rhythm in Packers' new offense
GREEN BAY - The bye week is always reserved for a self-scout for an NFL coaching staff, so Matt LaFleur and the Green Bay Packers were no different when they broke down all three phases of their first 10 games leading into this week.
“You always gotta take a good, hard look at yourself and study what everybody else is studying,” LaFleur said. “Because everybody is trying to scheme up each other in this league. Yeah, you definitely want to even out some things tendency-wise and build upon things you think you’re doing a good job with.”
The Packers aren’t going to reveal their internal scouting breakdowns, so PackersNews.com caught up with NFL Films senior producer and ESPN NFL Matchup analyst Greg Cosell just before the Carolina game to go over some elements of the Packers as they begin the home stretch of the 2019 regular season.
Q: Knowing what the Packers' offense is supposed to look like, is it getting there?
Cosell: “Up until (the Nov. 3 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers) they had been moving incrementally and nicely in that direction and (Aaron) Rodgers had played within the structure of the offense far more efficiently over the previous three weeks prior to the Chargers game than he had in previous years. And their offense started to look more stable. We know how phenomenal Rodgers can be playing outside of structure and clearly those are the plays you always see on SportsCenter and on highlights, but at the end of the day it’s hard to really be consistent if that’s the way you’re going to make plays.”
Q: It’s looked like Rodgers has found a rhythm in terms of getting the ball to where it should go and on time. Have you seen that?
Cosell: “No question. I’ve always been a believer – and I’ve been fortunate in my career to know a lot of coaches and talk to a lot of coaches, including Bill Walsh who I was fortunate to know reasonably well – I’ve always believed that movement should be a parachute, the last thing you do as opposed to your modus operandi. There’s no limitation to Aaron Rodgers’ talent. He’s as talented a quarterback that’s ever played the game. And there’s no question he’ll be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. That’s not the issue here. But the issue is just that hey, when the plays are there to made, you have to throw the football.
“He’s been doing this a long time and he’s got a young head coach. So now you’ve got to work through this. And I know what Matt wants – because I know Matt LaFleur – I know where Matt wants to go with this. I think they’re moving incrementally in that direction.”
Q: What have you seen from the outside zone run scheme?
Cosell: “To me, this is speaking as someone watching tape and is not there as a game plan, I would certainly like to see a little more of a commitment to the run game. I think that in an ideal world they would like outside zone to be the foundation. I really liked Aaron Jones coming out of UTEP. I thought he had a similar running style to a Frank Gore and maybe being a little more explosive. I liked Jamaal Williams coming out of BYU. I thought that he’d be an effective outside zone runner, stick his foot in the ground and get downhill. Not necessarily an explosive back but an efficient back. I think they have two good backs but the issue you run into – and believe me, I understand this – when you have Aaron Rogers as your quarterback I’m sure you feel like we want the ball in his hands. I get that. He can do stuff that other people can’t do. And maybe nobody can do except him. So I understand that. But I’d like to see a little more commitment to the run game. But that’s just me talking as an outsider watching the tape.”
Q: Is Mike Pettine employing more hybrid safety/linebacker groupings than usual?
Cosell: “I think in an ideal world Mike likes to play out of sub packages. He likes to play with his nickel, he likes to play with his dime. The big question becomes, can you stop the run game with that consistently? The book is still out on that. But I think that’s one reason they drafted (Darnell) Savage in the first round. I think he loves those kinds of safeties, safeties who are physical enough and aggressive enough to play near the line of scrimmage but also have pass-coverage skills. I think Will Redmond, who was actually a corner in college, has seemingly fit that role. The guy who played the first two games, (Raven) Greene, was kind of an interesting player because he played in the box. I think he likes these kinds of hybrid kind of players to give him more athleticism, more speed on defense and that’s fine in today’s NFL unless you can’t stop the run. Now we know they had the game against the Eagles, they couldn’t stop the run. Ultimately, we’ll see how it goes.”
Q: Has Pettine not really dialed up many pressure packages outside of the Smiths?
Cosell: “That’s a hard question for me to answer from year to year (as a comparison), but obviously both Smiths are good pass rushers. They line up Za’Darius inside at times as well when they’ll bring in (Rashan) Gary and (Kyler) Fackrell. Obviously, Gary is in the learning stages of being a pro. He doesn’t play a ton of snaps but they do put him out there so they’re going count on him as the year progresses and certainly next year to become the player that (they expect) given where they drafted him. They play a lot of multiple fronts, they do a lot of different things with their fronts, so there’s much going on there but we’ll see. If they play teams that can pound it right down their throats, that becomes a problem.”