Packers' focus continues to be on offense
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
It’s official. We have another BIG LETTERS proclamation. Once this draft wrapped up, Mike McCarthy delivered the money quote on a silver platter.
Echoing his running-game prediction a year ago, the Green Bay Packer coach said—lights…camera…action!—“We’re going to be a better defense this year. You can write that in big letters. I think we said something about that last year.”
This may be true. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is a definite upgrade over M.D. Jennings. Julius Peppers, even an aging variety, helps. Major schematic changes seem to be coming.
That’s not the takeaway from this past weekend. Three wide receivers and a tight end later, it’s clear the Packers remain a team orbiting around its quarterback. Aaron Rodgers is the player no other team in the conference has, so you might as well keep on giving that player a full arsenal. He’s the one who signed the $110 million extension.
On the field. Financially. The team identity. The Packers begin and end with Rodgers and the offense. So with James Jones and (possibly) Jermichael Finley out, Davante Adams, Jared Abbrederis, Jeff Janis and tight end Richard Rodgers are in.
Beyond Ryan Shazier, was there a rangy, speedy linebacker who could chase down Colin Kaepernick? In the mid-to-late rounds, were there young players who were any better than the young players already on the roster? Green Bay apparently didn’t think so. Surely, Ted Thompson remembered going D-D-D-D-D-D just two years ago.
So you might as well try to outscore everyone.
In Adams, Green Bay found a pair of the strongest hands in the draft. Abbrederis may boost a stagnant return game while learning gradually on offense. Janis, a seventh rounder, was worth a flier as a deep threat. And the third rounder, Rodgers, is the wild card.
There was zero need to pick up the phone for Jones considering this year’s receiving class.
“We saw it as a very deep class,” general manager Ted Thompson said. “Today especially, the entire time, all three days, we tried to go towards quality. And it’s definitely the way the board worked out. We stuck with the board and tried to do it the right way.”
The three other NFC North teams took steps toward Green Bay, substantive steps.
Bears general manager Phil Emery was 15 minutes away from Aaron Donald. But the domino effect wasn’t a bad consolation—cornerback Kyle Fuller followed by two large, disruptive men in Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton, who should fortify a horrid run defense.
The Detroit Lions added tight end Eric Ebron to a loaded receiving corps. The Minnesota Vikings maybe, just maybe found their quarterback. Maybe. Teddy Bridgewater gives the franchise hope.
Yet Rodgers has been the maestro keeping the Packers a step ahead in the division. And with these four additions, Green Bay’s weaponry should remain superior. As far as the rest of the NFC, well, we don’t know.
This is a team with a different financial plan than Seattle and San Francisco. The Packers made Rodgers the richest quarterback ever last year. The Seahawks made Richard Sherman the richest cornerback ever this year.
Adams is the key to the draft. A year ago, he caught a zany 131 passes and 24 touchdowns. Moments after the pick, he declared himself one of the best playmakers in what could be a historic receiver draft class.
“Aaron Rodgers has always been one of my favorite quarterbacks,” Adams said, “and obviously has proven to be the best quarterback in the league, so just like in college with having Derek Carr throwing me the ball, he made my job easier. Aaron is going to do the same thing, and I can’t wait to get started working with him.”
The argument against Adams is Fresno State’s spread offense. Yet the concepts of that offense won’t drastically change in Green Bay.
Spread the field. Get one-on-one matchups. Win those one-on-one matchups.
When Green Bay watched film of Adams, they tried not to overcomplicate it.
“Obviously, they threw the ball quite a bit out there,” receivers coach Edgar Bennett said, “and that was to his advantage as far as having an understanding of concepts, understanding the passing game. That was also something that stood out in our conversation at the combine.”
Richard Rodgers was the calculated gamble. Athletic tight ends—with the prospect of blocking—were running on “E.” So Green Bay took a player who might’ve slipped another round, a player who was a 278-pound tight end and then a 257-pound inside receiver.
On offense, the Packers will try to stretch defenses thin with three, four, maybe five receivers and then gash softer fronts with Eddie Lacy and James Starks.
They should score. They should score often.
And we’ll know soon—say, Week 1 at Seattle—if that’s a recipe for success.