November 7, 2013

Surviving Life Without Aaron Rodgers

Just when Packer fans thought the mounting injuries couldn’t possibly get any worse, doomsday hit Monday night at Lambeau field when Aaron Rodgers hit the turf. Wincing as he slowly got up, an empty feeling was surely in the stomach of thousands of Green and Gold bleeders. Four to six weeks is the prognosis, so now the million dollar question is, what will life be like without Aaron Rodgers? Here’s a sampling of how the Packers can mitigate the damage and stay afloat in the NFC North.
Aaron Rodgers Breaks Collarbone on Shea McClellin Hit

It’s ALL about defense
Perhaps most concerning is the Packers utter collapse against the Bears’ number two scoring offense in the NFL on their home turf. Given the Packers haven’t faced an elite offense in the last four weeks (Cleveland, Minnesota, Calvin-less Detroit and Baltimore) it’s not a shock they struggled so much. The Bears finally exposed the Packers depleted defense in every way.  No pass rush led to open receivers in the secondary, which the Packers simply weren’t used to. Consistent third down conversions tired out the entire unit and it simply fell apart. In the time Rodgers is out, the defense MUST get off the field on third down and start to force turnovers. Green Bay is near the bottom of the NFL in forcing fumbles and interceptions, and it can’t continue. With Clay Matthews and Nick Perry both eyeing potential returns this Sunday against Philadelphia, the Packers should pick-up the pass rush. Given Green Bay's injuries, the team is simply not constructed to win a shootout or come back from a large deficit.

Added Emphasis on Special Teams
Green Bay’s current healthy offense is a borderline average team. Probably below average without Rodgers, Randall Cobb, Jermichael Finley and Bryan Bulaga. That means moving forward, kick/punt return coverage needs to be disciplined. No big returns. Field position will be extremely important throughout the course of every game so return yardage needs to improve. Seneca Wallace will need all the help he can get and the Packers simply won’t be able to afford surrendering yardage in this manner.

Offensive Game Plan Adjustment
Seneca Wallace can hardly see over the line of scrimmage and everyone saw that Monday night when multiple passes were batted down—and one intercepted. For this reason and for comfortability, Mike McCarthy needs to design more suitable plays for his backup quarterback. Designed roll-outs, short slants, screen passes and delayed handoffs should dominate the offensive play calling. Maximizing other talent on the offense will be another key to keeping the ball moving  and putting up points. Expect more Jordy Nelson in the slot, expect shorter screen plays to quick players like Jonathan Franklin and expect a heavy dose of Eddie Lacy and James Starks.

Overall, every aspect of the team will need to pick up the void created by the Rodgers loss. While the above three areas represent key areas of focus, much more will need to be done if the Packers expect to play winning football as their MVP quarterback heals over the next four to six long weeks. I simply don’t see the Packers winning more than two or three games out of the next five or six, and that could be as good as it gets. Expect Rodgers to return for the week 15 matchup when the Packers travel to Dallas and play a pivotal road game with their record at 7-6.

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