The Packers were flattened in Week 1 against the New Orleans Saints, to the tune of a 38-3 loss. If this article were to grade the performances by each unit, it would be “Fs” across the board, with the possible exception of kicker Mason Crosby and punter Corey Bojorquez, who did their jobs when asked.
Rodgers looked rusty (to put it very mildly), the offensive line looked confused, the defense looked completely lost, the running game was non-existent and the wide receivers were a non-factor without top-tier quarterback play. That is all extremely troubling for Green Bay fans, considering Rodgers’ near-holdout and the deafening silence he engaged in while the team wondered if he would be back.
Here is an in-depth look at why this game should worry cheeseheads everywhere.
Green Bay hired a new defensive coordinator in the offseason, Joe Barry. To casual fans, this seemed to be a good thing, as the defense had been holding the Packers back for years. Look into his resume, though and there is a very troubling piece of information.
Barry was the defensive coordinator for the 2008 Detroit Lions; the first team in NFL history to go 0-16. The Green Bay defense looked like an 0-16 defense in Week 1. Now, this team will certainly not go winless, simply because the offense is too good. But if they continue to play like this, then their only wins will be in shootouts.
The Saints rushed for 171 yards in Week 1, including giving up almost 40 on the ground to quarterback Jameis Winston. As has been the case since Aaron Rodgers won his first Super Bowl a decade ago, the Packers cannot stop a quarterback scramble.
Winston also passed for 148 yards and a whopping five touchdowns. The gaudy pass TD numbers are a little inflated being that they mostly rushed their way down into the red zone, only to throw short-to-medium touchdowns. Even so, the secondary was supposed to be a focal point of the offseason for the Pack, as they spent their first round selection on the fastest cornerback in the draft, Eric Stokes. It did not look that way in Sunday’s contest.
The Packers have Super Bowl aspirations. The defense cannot continue to look this bad in what could be Aaron Rodgers’ final year. If it does keep looking pathetic, look for Joe Barry to lose his job midway through his first season in Wisconsin.
Offensive Line/Running game
A lot has been made of David Bakhtiari being placed on the PUP list prior to the start of the season. He is clearly one of the best left tackles in the entire league, but Elgton Jenkins did not allow pressure from that side in his stead. So that turned out to be a bit of a non-factor. More could be made of how the Pack is missing Bakhtiari so Jenkins could be just as productive at another spot on the line.
The problem in this game was the lack of running lanes. The interior of the line did not open anything up for Aaron Jones, leading to a measly nine yard performance. A.J. Dillon rushed for 19 and seventh-round selection Kylin Hill added 14 more. Now, some of the lack of rushing productivity is because Green Bay was down so much so early that throwing the ball was their only option. But early in the game, when it was close, failing to establish the run led to no play action possibilities and allowed the Saints defense to defend the pass with impunity.
A big strength of the Matt LaFleur-led Packers is a stout running game that makes Rodgers even more dangerous when he does throw. If the offensive line continues to be shaky, then Green Bay returns to the model of making Rodgers throw 50-plus times per game that ran Mike McCarthy out of town. One dimensional offense like that will not translate to a Super Bowl.
Rodgers simply does not have multiple-interception games. He owns the best touchdown-to-interception ratio in the history of the NFL. When he does throw multiple picks, though, the Packers are almost always blown out. Week 1 was no exception.
The problem with this performance specifically lies in the offseason that led up to it. Rodgers reportedly wanted to be traded. He refused multiple offers by Green Bay’s front office to rework his contract (he would eventually accept one, though). He contemplated retirement and has all but said out loud that 2021-2022 will be his last season as a Packer. How can fans not have all of this information swimming around in their brains as he looked bored and unmotivated in Week 1?
Adding to the burgeoning panic was Rodgers’ post game presser. He seemed disinterested, flippant and even unbothered that his team, seen by most as a legitimate Super Bowl contender, was flat out embarrassed by a conference rival. If this kind of offensive performance continues, fans will have reason to believe that Aaron has mentally checked out and has no interest in getting back to the Super Bowl in green and gold.
The Packers have an extremely tough schedule this season. The Saints, while clearly not pushovers, are not the toughest matchup they face by any stretch of the imagination. If Green Bay is 3-5 by midseason, patience for these kinds of antics by Rodgers is going to grow extremely thin. Being that Rodgers already seems to want out, a vocal dissent by fans could all but slam the door behind him.
Featured image courtesy of Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
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