September 6, 2011

No Huddle Meant to Challenge, Gauge Packers' Offensive Preparedness

Packers' No Huddle is a Risk/Reward Proposition

Packers head coach Mike McCarthy has used the no huddle to challenge the sharpness, conditioning and smarts of his entire offensive unit this preseason. Challenged the unit was Aug. 26 at Indianapolis, and the risks associated with the on-the-fly offense were exposed by the Colts, leaving star QB Aaron Rodgers with a few bruises from blown O-Line and RB assignments.

McCarthy implemented the no huddle on the final four possessions of the first half Aug. 26, and while the Packers successfully moved the ball, the offensive line was gassed, RB assignments were blown and worst of all - the Superbowl MVP, Aaron Rodgers, took a few punishing hits. This is McCarthy's idea of pushing his offense to and above their conditioning limit to truly gauge how prepared they are for the September 8 NFL opener against the Saints. The verdict? Here's a look at how each part of the offense has handled the no huddle in the preseason:


Offensive Line

It's doubtful the offensive line will be asked to run the no huddle four consecutive possessions in a game and Friday night proved why this isn't a good idea . But, McCarthy should be content with the lines' ability to protect Rodgers when no huddle is used on an ad hoc basis. Preseason games #1 and #2 showed how the no huddle can jumpstart the Packers' nearly unstoppable and rhythmic passing attack. McCarthy's challenge is to strike a balance between keeping the O-Line fresh and unleashing the potential filthy no huddle attack, which drains the fatigue levels of the franchise protectors.


Quarterback

Leading a successful and fluid no huddle offense is comparable to a maestro directing a perfectly choreographed professional orchestra. Aaron Rodgers is the best maestro since Peyton Manning perfected and originated the art. Rodgers' pre-snap intelligence enables him to recognize defensive formations to make protection and formation adjustments. His escapeability can turn a missed assignment or broken play into a homerun while his vision and rocket-powered arm can turn any missed step by the defense into an open-field opportunity for a Packers WR, TE or RB. The question isn't whether Rodgers can effectively execute a no huddle, it's if his teammates can keep up and perform at his superstar level. If his teammates do, the Green Bay Packers are going to score a whole lot of points in 2011-12.


Running Backs

Now we come to the no-attention position in the Packer no huddle. A RB's main job in this fast-paced no huddle is to block. Easier said than done. Grant and Starks have an especially difficult time recognizing blitzes and an even harder time picking them up. So much so that McCarthy often opts for 0 RB in the no huddle, instead bringing in a fifth WR option to create nightmares for opposing secondaries. RB John Kuhn hasn't seen much action in the preseason, but as the Packers' most capable backfield blocker, McCarthy might consider working him more into the game plan. The no-huddle RB will see the occasional screen and the Packers have had impressive success with it in the preseason. But again, screens will add considerable fatigue to the O-Line, a unit that needs to be fresh and energized at all times in the no huddle.


Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

Call the Packers' squad of WRs/TEs a track team in football uniforms and you wouldn't be far off. This young, speedy and talented bunch of pigskin catchers thrive in no huddle, seeing it almost as a continuous marathon of running, catching and Lambeau leaping. The WR/TE squad is athletic, explosive and dangerous enough to keep any defensive coordinator up at night. With the return of TE Jermichael Finley and addition of slot sure-hander Randall Cobb , the Packers' passing attack can strike inside, outside, long, short, intermediate and any other place on the stretched field they play on. Scary to think this team has more weapons than they did in 2010-2011.


Packer fans no doubt enjoy the strike-at-any-time nature of the no huddle, but also must realize with high reward comes high risk. If the O-Line is gassed, Rodgers will be running and getting hit more than he should. Packer RBs must improve at diagnosing defenses pre-snap, recognizing blitzes and hitting/blocking QB-hungry DEs, DTs, LBs and CBs. McCarthy must strategically use the no-huddle to keep defenses off balance, but be careful to keep his own O-Line fresh and his franchise QB upright and healthy.

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