There’s no better place to learn about the Cowboys opponent on Sunday, the Green Bay Packers, than Acme Packing Company. We asked the experts for a little info on the Pack.
Blogging The Boys: How has the Packers offense changed under Matt LaFleur?
Acme Packing Company: Schematically, Matt LaFleur’s offense doesn’t stray too far from the one run by Kyle Shanahan. The Packers run plenty of outside-zone runs with play-action concepts built off of them. They’ll use pre-snap motion on a sizable portion of their plays, often run out of tight formations with bunched or stacked receivers. Different plays will look the same for several moments after the snap, giving the offense an additional advantage.
When the offense works as designed, as it did for stretches of last week’s game against the Eagles, it plays to Aaron Rodgers strengths, giving him opportunities for shot plays to open wide receivers and easy completions in between. On the ground, Aaron Jones has at times shown a feel for finding the running lanes, though that hasn’t happened as consistently as the team had hoped.
However, so much of what LaFleur has revealed about his scheme has yet to manifest. Because the offense remains so new to the players, only a limited portion of the playbook has actually shown up during games. That will presumably change over the course of the season, but right now the Packers have leaned on more fundamental concepts rather than the advanced, highly deceptive plays that you see on other teams with similar systems.
Accordingly, we really don’t have enough information to accurately assess LaFleur’s offense, and we probably won’t until halfway through the 2019 season or later.
BTB: Do you think Davante Adams will play? If not, talk about the rest of the passing attack and what Dallas can expect.
APC: I don’t expect Davante Adams to play this week or next, so the burden will fall on less experienced receivers like Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Geronimo Allison, and others to pick up the slack. Valdes-Scantling has become a viable deep threat, but the Packers haven’t relied on him as a volume target yet this season. Allison’s play has fluctuated wildly from week to week, though Rodgers seems to trust him more than most of the other non-Adams wideouts.
Rodgers has discussed getting tight end Jimmy Graham more involved in the passing game. Given Adams probably won’t play, Graham seems like a safe bet to see more targets Sunday. The veteran tight end doesn’t have much of the speed that once made him an All-Pro, and he has dropped a few passes already this season. Still, given the lack of alternatives, the Packers probably have to use him more until Adams returns.
BTB: The Packers run defense seems to be a major issue. What’s the problem there and can they fix it to slow down the Cowboys rushing attack?
APC: The Packers’ coaching staff claims the players simply have lost their run-gap discipline too frequently this season, but I don’t think the team has enough healthy run defenders at the moment. The defense has played effectively without a second off-ball linebacker next to Blake Martinez most weeks, using a safety in that place due in part to injury. Along the defensive line, Montravius Adams has missed the last two games and his replacement, Tyler Lancaster, simply hasn’t performed as well. Adams might return this week, but that alone won’t solve Green Bay’s issues against the run.
BTB: What were your thoughts on the excruciating sequence toward the end of the Eagles game when the offense fizzled near the goal line twice?
APC: I wrote about those issues and others at length last week. Basically, the Packers didn’t take advantage of the low-hanging fruit available to them when they decided to pass on every down at the goal line (one play was a run-pass option that Rodgers elected to throw). Given how runs have proven far more effective inside the 5 than passes, not to mention Adams’ unavailability during the end of that drive, it seems bewildering that LaFleur operated this way.
BTB: How do you see the game going on Sunday and what’s your prediction for the final score?
APC: I never predict final scores, but I expect the Cowboys to emerge victories Sunday. The Packers still need to make more progress on offense, and the absence of Adams from the receiving corps will make things extremely difficult for Rodgers. Unless the defense bombards the weakened Dallas offensive line and forces turnovers, it’s hard to envision a Green Bay win.
Thanks for the knowledge, Acme Packing Company.