Home » After making no trades, Packers must find offensive spark from within

After making no trades, Packers must find offensive spark from within

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Aaron Rodgers has worked at 1265 Lombardi Ave. for the last 18 seasons, so he knows how this organization operates.

He knows they’ll often be “in the mix” around the trade deadline, especially for a wide receiver in recent seasons. And he knows that a deal will almost never materialize.

Former Packers wide receiver Davante Adams once said he tried never to get his hopes up that the Packers would make a splash addition because he knew how the front office traditionally did business. The Packers place immense value on the draft-and-develop method and stray away from plugging in big names from other teams midseason in hopes they’ll be the difference between a Lombardi Trophy and another playoff exit.

Adams admitted last season that he allowed his hopes to rise for the midseason addition of free-agent wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., but Beckham ultimately chose the Rams and Adams was let down again.

Rodgers has taken a more optimistic route over the years, though he may not have been let down as much as Adams since general manager Brian Gutekunst is now including Rodgers more in personnel matters. So it’s no surprise Rodgers seemed understanding when discussing the Packers’ lack of activity at this year’s deadline in front of his locker on Wednesday.

“My hopes are always up in life,” the starting quarterback said. “I’m an optimistic person and obviously the compensation for whatever players we were going after, it just didn’t make sense. So I trust Brian and we had some good conversations and I know we were in on some things and it obviously just didn’t pan out.”

Gutekunst doesn’t typically talk during the season, so he, unlike other general managers who remained idle at the deadline across the league, didn’t speak to reporters after the deadline.

That left head coach Matt LaFleur to address the Packers’ inactivity at the deadline on Wednesday afternoon.

“I’ll be honest with you, when I’m up there, it’s like, ‘What are we doing to put our team in the best position possible to go game plan and put our guys in a spot to go execute and beat a team that we know is going to give us everything they can?’” LaFleur said, deflecting from the trade deadline and placing the focus on Sunday’s game in Detroit. “And we’ve struggled at Ford Field many times. And this is a really good offense and they play extremely hard in all three phases, so that’s where my focus is.”

The Vikings, leading the NFC North at 6-1 through Week 8, traded for Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson. The undefeated Eagles acquired pass rusher Robert Quinn from the Bears.

So what is the quarterback hoping for a chance at his second Super Bowl ring thinking when his 3-5 team, desperate for a spark on offense, ultimately does nothing while the aforementioned two teams make notable additions?

“Well, with all due respect to those teams, we’re chasing some other teams right now,” said Rodgers, whose Packers currently sit 11th in the NFC. “We’ve got to get back in the hunt. Those teams are out front right now. I’m worried about our guys that we’ve got in the locker room.”

Rodgers should be worried, even if he didn’t mean the word literally. The guys Green Bay has in the locker room, specifically at wide receiver, haven’t impressed much through eight games.

Romeo Doubs ranks tied for 17th in average separation (3.3 yards), the distance from the nearest defender at the time of a catch or incompletion, according to Next Gen Stats. Randall Cobb ranks tied for 52nd (2.7). Allen Lazard, who said, “No. No. Not at all,” when asked last week if the Packers needed to trade for a wide receiver, ranks 70th (2.5). Cobb ranks 17th in yards per route run (2.07), according to TruMedia. Lazard ranks tied for 37th (1.7). Doubs ranks tied for 62nd (1.18).

Not only do the Packers lack a bonafide No. 1 receiver, they can’t stay healthy at the position, either.

Lazard has missed two games, a Week 1 loss against the Vikings because of an ankle injury and a Week 8 loss to the Bills because of a shoulder injury. Cobb has missed the last two games while on injured reserve with a high-ankle sprain and will miss at least two more. Sammy Watkins missed four games while on injured reserve with a hamstring injury. Christian Watson has missed three games because of hamstring injuries and suffered a concussion against the Bills last Sunday on his sixth offensive snap. Amari Rodgers, Samori Toure and Juwann Winfree haven’t gained much traction, either, whether it be for lack of performance or lack of opportunity. Having left tackle David Bakhtiari and offensive lineman Elgton Jenkins consistently healthy will boost pass protection and in turn help the passing game, too, but only twice this season have Bakhtiari and Jenkins played together for the vast majority of a game.

Oh, and the Packers have dropped passes at the ninth-highest rate in the league, according to TruMedia, an issue not solely on the wide receivers but certainly one they’ve played a part in creating.

It’s almost as if a team that traded the best receiver in football at the time and let its No. 2 wideout walk in free agency should’ve seen this coming, even if the guys in the receiver room paint a picture of butterflies and rainbows.

“I think when you look at this team, you pretty much have everything you need,” Watkins said. “Would (a trade) have brought some more life? I mean, who says it would have or wouldn’t? I think this team has the players they need. If they didn’t, I’m sure the GM would have gone out there and traded for someone.”

There were slivers of hope last Sunday, some more fleeting than others, specifically from young receivers whose growth in the second half may have to reach warp speed for the Packers to make the playoffs. Doubs made an unbelievable touchdown catch after contorting his body, and Rodgers said the rookie fourth-round pick is “really talented” when he’s confident and making hands catches. Toure caught his first career touchdown after a nifty mid-route adjustment, and the seventh-round rookie Rodgers nicknamed “Captain Casual” in training camp to push him to practice harder has turned a serious nickname into a joke because of how impressive his practices are now. Even Amari Rodgers earned a compliment from his quarterback for his release on a 22-yard catch last Sunday night.

“We’re going to need plays from those guys, regardless if we’ve got our guys back or not,” Aaron Rodgers said. “We need those guys to be able to go in and spell guys and make plays when their number is called.”

Would Chase Claypool or Brandin Cooks or another weapon have taken the Packers’ passing game from bad (Green Bay ranks 26th in total pass EPA, per TruMedia) to respectable? Perhaps, but so much else ails this team that, unlike the past three years, one wideout wasn’t getting the Packers over the hump in 2022.

If that hump was a molehill from 2019-21, it’s a mountain in 2022.

They’ll have to right the ship from within, however daunting a task, a mission that begins Sunday against a team allowing more points per game than any in the NFL.

“Brian didn’t think whatever was out there was worth whatever was required to give up,” Rodgers said. “That just sent the message to us that we’ve got to play with the guys we’ve got and win with the guys we’ve got. I think there’s still a lot of confidence in the guys in the locker room.”

(Photo of Romeo Doubs: Gregory Fisher / USA Today)



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Edward Wilson