Read here. Well written. The author generally argues that the Pack needs better offensive balance and that Brandon Jackson should have gotten more carries last week because he was playing well. Generally I agree that we need better offensive balance and agree that going with the hot hand makes sense. But I don’t entirely agree with the author’s argument – I’ll get to this in a minute.
As I’ve said before, when we don’t/can’t run the ball effectively, defenses know exactly what’s coming and it makes defending our passing game easier. It’s that simple. And this a big reason why I wanted Marshawn Lynch (or another decent RB) on this team. Just planting the very basic thought that a big run is possible can alter defensive game plans. When there is a strong run game, defenses feel more compelled to stay in the box and not over-play the pass. And this can then open up passing lanes – making it easier to stretch the field. If upcoming opponents base their game plans on game film from the last 4 games, it’s likely that we will see defenses totally disrespecting our run game. Even if some defenses have a bit more respect for it after Jackson’s good game last week, they will still most likely dare us to beat them with the run versus leaving themselves vulnerable to the pass. I think there is a good chance there will be some huge holes for our RBs in the upcoming games (yes, even with Finley out).
One shortcoming of the author’s argument, though, is that it was too focused on just the Washington game. When this matter is considered within the context of the previous games this year, McCarthy’s pass bias may be slightly more justified. In the first three games of this season without Ryan Grant (Buff, Chicago, Detroit), McCarthy started out the games with a clear intent to mix run/pass, but due primarily to a serious lack of productivity in the run game, he abandoned the run. McCarthy may have decided to do this (albeit, arguably prematurely) in games prior to the Wash game because the lack of productivity was coming against defenses that were far more focused on stopping the pass. In the first 3 games without Grant, the Packers’ RBs averaged 3.3 yards per carry – hardly an inspiring YPC average. (And interestingly, Kuhn’s average in those games was significantly better than Jackson’s). So, McCarthy may have thought “if we can’t even run it effectively when defenses are focused on stopping the pass, let’s just pass.” (Actually, McCarthy’s actual thoughts were probably closer to “if we can’t get our pad level right, and run the football in the National Football League, we might as well pass the football, because passing for us is a paaauuusitive, and because this team is more of a passing football team made up of lots of guys who are good at passing and catching the football, for the Green Bay Packers in the National Football League.”
So, the situation is a bit more complicated than the author allows – especially when considered within the context of recent history. However, one fair question this discussion does raise is this: While MM may not have had confidence in the running game and consequently didn’t use it much in previous games, when he saw it working fairly well against Wash, why didn’t he make in-game adjustments and run the ball more? Again, fair question. If Jackson did have big holes to run through and Wash was dropping back in clear pass defense formations, why not run the ball a bit more? Not sure why, but I will say this: McCarthy is a lot quicker to pull the plug on the run than he ever will be on ditching the pass. That’s partly due to his own offensive philosophy, partly due now from some quiet pressure from Rodgers to pass more and partly due to the make-up of the team and the fact that our team pass game personnel are better than our run game personnel.
Anyway, the question now is what do we do going forward? I don’t want to discount Brandon Jackson’s big game last week. He was good and the big game brought his per-carry average up to 4.6 yards – tied with John Kuhn. (Quick side note: John Kuhn may actually be the one, of the two, who has a decent argument for more playing time/run plays. Kuhn’s per carry average of 4.6 is especially impressive because it’s more representative of a typical run play for him – his average is less skewed by long runs because Kuhn only has a long run of 18 yards. Of course, conversely, it also may demonstrate just how slow Kuhn is and how he’s less able to break one off like Jackson clearly can.) While I’m definitely not ready to jump on a Brandon Jackson or John Kuhn bandwagon (TT, we have 6 days until the trade deadline), I am a bit more hopeful after sorting through some stats and watching Jackson last week and seeing Kuhn close out the Detroit game. Maybe both are becoming more comfortable with their respective roles? Maybe Bulaga is a better guy to have in there than Tausch or Clifton for run blocking in particular?
However you look at it, it’s time for McCarthy to bring about some good offensive rhythm this week. Miami has a quality defense and if we can get something going against them, we should feel pretty good going into the Minnesota game.