Column: Despite slow start, Packer offense still has wealth of talent

If someone had come up to me before the NFL season and told me that the Packers’ offense would be holding them back, I would have said, “Sure, it also looks like hell is about to freeze over.”

Well, it appears that it’s a little chilly down there after this past weekend. Green Bay lost to the Detroit Lions 19-7 Sunday, the lowest point total the Packers have put up whenever Aaron Rodgers has started a full game. The offense, hyped this year to be one of the best in the league, has inconceivably sputtered in all phases.

I’ll try to break down the unit’s problems here by addressing the concerns of the running game, wide receivers, offensive line and quarterback, and provide a prognosis for each unit going forward.

Running backs

For many seasons it was thought that the one ingredient the Packers were missing to a perfect offensive recipe was a running game. Enter Eddie Lacy, who instilled fear into grown men by bulldozing over anyone in his way. Lacy came to Green Bay last year and wowed by posting the Packers’ first 1,000-yard rushing season since Ryan Grant way back in 2009.

With a year under his belt, expectations were high for the 2014 season. So far, he has completely flopped. In the three games played this year, Lacy has failed to eclipse 50 yards in any of them or achieve even 3.5 yards per carry.

While Lacy has certainly not produced, the rushing attack as a whole, including James Starks and DuJuan Harris, has failed to provide balance. As a team, the Packers have averaged a measly 78.7 yards per game, good for 27th in the league, and are one of five teams who have yet to see a run longer than 20 yards.

However, the one glimmer of hope is that the Packers have gone up against some of the best defensive fronts in the league. The Jets and Lions have fearsome defensive lines and have been known to be stout against the run.

The Seahawks just have an overall amazing defense and do not allow big gains of any sort. This leaves reason to believe that the rushing attack will improve when not facing three teams who all had top 10 rushing defenses the previous year.

Prognosis: Wait and see. The rushing game has looked bad, but the talent is still there to rebound, especially against weaker fronts.

Wide receivers

The receivers did not have a good day against the Lions, failing to get open on multiple plays against what was thought to be a bad secondary. Then there were also a few key drops, including a killer one on a crucial third down by Randall Cobb.

However, it’s hard to be perfect all 16 games, and with proven receivers across the board with Cobb, Jordy Nelson, Jarrett Boykin and emerging rookie Davante Adams, this game appears to be more of a fluke than a trend. I expect the receivers to rebound and return to being one of the best groups in the league.

Prognosis: All is good with the receiving corps.

Offensive line

Much has been discussed about the fragility of the Packers’ offensive line, and with injuries already accumulating, the line has crumbled. The unit has already allowed nine sacks, tied for third in the league, and countless other hits and hurries.

Bad line play has also been a leading cause for the subpar running game. Backed up on their own 1-yard line, the Packers dialed up a safe run play to get some breathing room, only to have multiple Lions immediately enter the backfield and take Lacy down for a safety.

There was not much Lacy could have done on that play, as the offensive line basically surrendered to Detroit’s defensive front. With the line decimated by injuries already, it could be another rough season in the trenches for the Pack unless someone steps up.

Prognosis: Bleak, the offensive line was a weak point to begin the season and only became worse with the injuries.

Quarterback

The most puzzling part of the offense has been Aaron Rodgers’ confusing inconsistency. Rodgers posted two mediocre games against the Seahawks and Lions sandwiched around a brilliant outing against the Jets.

However, Rodgers has just looked a little off this season. His pinpoint accuracy has disappeared at times, as he’s failed to complete over 60 percent of his passes in any game so far.

Against the Lions on a fourth down with the game on the line, Rodgers had Nelson open for a touchdown, but missed what has been a routine throw throughout his career. Rodgers has also looked very hesitant this year, with several sacks coming as a result of him just holding on to the ball too long.

However, this is Aaron Rodgers, not Rex Grossman. Rodgers will be fine.

Prognosis: Sorry for ever doubting you, Aaron, don’t smite me.

The Packer offense has real problems, especially with the offensive line, but that is not a new problem. Head coach Mike McCarthy has frequently had a porous offensive line and still has generated premier offenses.

While the offense may not reach any historical levels this season as projected by some, as long as Rodgers is under center, performances like those against the Lions should be just mere blips on the radar.

Prognosis: God said let there be Aaron Rodgers and an automatic top 10 offense, and it was so.

Are the Packers still an elite offense or is their slow start a sign of things to come? Email machhi@wisc.edu and share your thoughts.

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