Cory's Corner: Walk Before You Can Run

Green Bay can still earn a playoff berth — by playing within the scheme and structure of the offense. 

The Packers cannot lose to the Lions can they?

I believe I asked the same question when the Packers played the Jets and then the following week against the Commanders. 

Many thought the Packers would be 6-2 after the Bills game. However, as we all know, games aren’t played on paper and the Packers are a rudderless team that is spinning out of control at 3-5.

There were also legions that were devastated that the Packers didn’t make a trade. To pour salt in the wound, the Vikings and Bears made moves by adding T.J. Hockenson and Chase Claypool. The Packers showed interest in Claypool, but it wasn’t enough and the wideout went to Chicago. 

“The confidence for me comes from within that I feel like that anytime I can go on a run and have gone on runs of playing at a near-perfection level,” said Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. “I know when I’m playing well, I can raise the level of my teammates in the locker room. I’m going to expect to reach that level. Obviously, we’ve got to do some things up front and protect and be able to push the ball down the field.”

Call me crazy, but I still think this team can go on a run and earn a playoff berth. This team has looked absolutely awful at times, but a lot of people have it wrong. 

Most of the fault doesn’t lie with the defense. The biggest problem is with the offense. The Packers are 22nd in third down percentage — one spot ahead of Detroit. The offense has been engineering too many short drives, which ultimately results in the defense going back on the field still winded.

I’m not saying that the defensive scheme is right — because that isn’t true. When you have a bunch of athletes, you want to see them be athletic and just play. That isn’t happening with this unit. It’s like defensive coordinator Joe Barry is keeping a lid on his unit by continually playing a soft zone. 

But if we found anything out last week, it was that the Packers can run the football. Aaron Jones is tied for third in the NFC with 17 rushes of 10 yards or more but he is also eighth in the NFC with 98 carries, which is four shy of Detroit's Jamaal Williams.

Rodgers wants to throw the ball down the field and I agree that he should. But he should be throwing the ball down the field within the context of the offense. That means, play-action, bootleg and misdirection. Let the running game dictate the vertical passing game. 

Rodgers is a master at hiding the ball in play-action and with a successful running game a defense has to respect it. 

So you can complain all you want that the Packers didn’t get another weapon via trade. But are the Packers instantly a Super Bowl contender if Brandin Cooks becomes a Packer? I don’t think so. 

It would help, but the Packers have had plenty of injuries and they need more consistency. After a weird offseason, the Packers are finally finding their sea legs.

This team has to walk before it can run and in order to do that, it needs to stack wins. 
 

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Cory Jennerjohn is a graduate from UW-Oshkosh and has been in sports media for over 15 years. He was a co-host on "Clubhouse Live" and has also done various radio and TV work as well. He has written for newspapers, magazines and websites. He currently is a columnist for CHTV and also does various podcasts. He recently earned his Masters degree from the University of Iowa. He can be found on Twitter: @Coryjennerjohn

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Comments (23)

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HarryHodag's picture

November 05, 2022 at 06:39 am

I'd like to agree with the point of the article but I can't. Going into Detroit David B. and E. Jenkins are both hobbling. As long as the offensive line stays in flux it will be tough to overcome. I remember Holmgren's West Coast offense where a five yard pass was considered as good as a run.

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Johnblood27's picture

November 05, 2022 at 07:07 am

Harry - that was THREE decades ago. Defenses have figured out the "west coast offense".

The short passing game has a place, it is also within the context of an offense that runs, passes, fakes plays and mixes up down and distance playcalling.

When teams moved from over 50% runs to ovwer 50% passes, the WCO was very effective due to the defensive schemes predominant in that era as well as the body types and athleticism preferred for defensive players of that era.

That era is gone.

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PeteK's picture

November 05, 2022 at 09:22 am

I have to disagree with you on your WCO opinion. While the LBs are quicker and can cover, the short horizontal pass is still alive. Nelson was a perfect example and Jones, Hill, among others, run it often, IMO.

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jannes bjornson's picture

November 05, 2022 at 11:55 am

Opponents seem to run the WCO variations effectively vs the Pack, especially short yardage passes and the crosses. Big play TEs are needed for this team to keep the gears moving.

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KenEllis's picture

November 05, 2022 at 07:59 am

So Pack ran well ... and was down 24-7 at half and 27-10 late in the game against Buffalo.

Gee, I wonder if Buffalo was more than happy to let GB slowly move the ball on the ground.

Way, way, way back almost 2 weeks ago, GB ran the ball 12 times for 38 yards against Washington.

The ROAD TO THE PLAYOFFS does not go through the run game and there is NO road to the playoffs for this poorly constructed 3-5 roster in 2022 no matter how much the salesmen posing as content contributors try to convince us otherwise.

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Coldworld's picture

November 05, 2022 at 10:35 am

A 5 yard pass is as good as a run. Indeed that’s a key premise of the west coast offense, but it requires something else to function effectively. The principle was that you get more horizontal stretch passing than running, so can stress a D horizontally more. Why? To help the O go long for chunk plays with greater space and less coverage downfield. It’s some times referred to as passing to set up the pass. The disadvantage of the approach is that it doesn’t pull LBs and safeties up to combat the run threat and it often enables more pressure on the OL and QB.

That mentality also devalues our strongest offensive weapon. It’s an alternative to a running game not a compliment to it for the most part. It also relies on multiple credible downfield passing threats. Without that you get a first ten yards packed and 2 deep behind. We’ve seen what that does all season and how that also gives defenses a free hand to attack our OL. That’s the recipe that got us here. It has and will get us nowhere.

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Savage57's picture

November 05, 2022 at 06:46 am

Were the Packers 4-4, or 5-3, fans wouldn't be quite this bugged out about the state of the team. It's as much that they've lost as it is the fact they've lost to teams fans, and just as likely the players, had already chalked up as W's in their minds when the schedule came out. No matter how much anyone talks about 'one game at a time', overlooking 'inferior' opponents can be the fallout of three consecutive 13 win seasons.

What's ailing the Packers is correctable with the players they have. They've shown they can do it in the past, and while there's been some roster churn and injuries. Rodgers can still spin it, Jones can run it, the receivers can still catch. They need a consistent game where all three units handle their business, especially the defense correcting its heretofore horrid tackling. And a game with a positive turnover differential would help mightily because the Packers have lived on Rodgers taking better care of the ball than the opponent's offense.

More simply put, a game to restore their mojo, and the Lions just may provide it.

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Johnblood27's picture

November 05, 2022 at 07:12 am

How about CRAWL before you can walk?

Have you seen the defense? Don't let the passing numbers fool you. Thats all based on yardage allowed. Why would a team pass the ball much on GB when they can run it all day long and achieve their goals?

At crunch time, when a stop would mean something in the game, not only in the 4th quarter, this defense has been a no-show. They regularly do an El Foldo when they are needed the most. Lack of heart, which has been removed by a lack of aggression by the DC and HC.

Wave bye bye when the Lolions outscore GB this sunday. The head has rotted completely and the body, while still twitching now and then, is well on its way to a top 10 draft pick.

I feel like Taryn writing posts like this... Reality is a beeatch.

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TarynsEyes's picture

November 05, 2022 at 09:50 am

“I feel like Taryn writing posts like this... Reality is a beeatch."

It warms my heart to see that it wasn't a who (me), but a what (reality) that should have been seen as the beeatch for so long. I'm still disappointed it took so long. However, it doesn't take much for the tide to turn a mindset recently awakened by reality, because fantasy is the great recruiter of deniers, and the easiest path to follow.

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Johnblood27's picture

November 06, 2022 at 08:14 am

preach it sista!

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Lphill's picture

November 05, 2022 at 08:12 am

It’s bad coaching on all levels , I think even Pat O’Donnell is the most pressured punter in the league, no adjustments.

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4thand10's picture

November 05, 2022 at 08:44 am

I don’t think you can be 29th against the run and compete…regardless of offensive struggles. I’m not sure what will fix getting beat in the trenches. Maybe a 3rd DL in the middle and chance it with a single high? On O, maybe an eligible receiving extra OL for protection and chance it with a rookie WR instead of all the TE plays….I’m not sure .I’m a firm believer in the game starts in the trenches…the splash plays happen because the D is just a tic late. Same for the O. One thing I liked about Pettine…is he at least had the ability to adjust. The game against the titans where he used 4 DL and completely shut down Derek Henry. I don’t know if Barry is even capable of making those types of adjustments. Not that either one of them are stellar coaches, but man, you at least have to be able to adjust quickly in game. I’m optimistic, but not confident they can turn it around.

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PeteK's picture

November 05, 2022 at 09:42 am

Fully agree. The O line disaster doesn't need to be rehashed again. As far as the DL, the majority of the time on running plays our line is pushed back on their heels and LBs and DBs are not filling quick enough, beating blks, or making the needed TkLs. Our all pro and 1st round LBs need to make plays similar to Milano ,when he crashed down the line of scrimmage and blew up Dillon.

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mjbrogno's picture

November 05, 2022 at 10:01 am

I live on the west coast and will be making my 7th trip to Lambeau next Sunday when we play the “beloved” Cowboys. I’m taking my daughter and granddaughter to the iconic venue. As this season has progressed , I started to regret the upcoming trip. But, I still have faith that we can turn this season around and go on run. Win or lose next week, I’m looking forward to having a great time with my girls and will have lasting memories, GO PACK GO!!!

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Coldworld's picture

November 05, 2022 at 10:44 am

Lambeau and the Packers are so much more than this regime. That will pass. The Packers won’t. Enjoy it.

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TarynsEyes's picture

November 05, 2022 at 10:06 am

“Walk before you can run.”

That is hilarious. Most writers here had this team, especially a few rookies, burning up treadmills, based on a few 'wow' plays that were equal to a baby standing up for the first time. Then telling yourself the baby did acrobatics, but actually just plopped down on its arse. Getting back up is natural, but a steady walk needs time, and a helping hand. Something the HC and QB can seem to agree on., less with each other.

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Coldworld's picture

November 05, 2022 at 10:13 am

The Packers going on a run of that magnitude means beating a lot of good teams now. We haven’t beaten mediocre ones in a month.

To beat the remainder of our schedule I predict that we need to keep our opponents below 25 points a game and we need to put up about 30 therefore. In 8 games we’ve allowed 24 or less points 50 percent of the time, only once was significantly less, and that was against a debutante 3rd stringer for the Commodes. Looking at our upcoming opponents, I think we’ve only faced one offense, last week, that’s the caliber of what is to come (Minnesota was the first game, maybe 2 if you count them).

On offense, we have scored over 25 twice, 27 against an abject Bears and the Pats (with overtime). Other than maybe the Bears, that’s not going to get us past much more than the Titans and Rams. It probably doesn’t get us past the Lions either.

Bad though our D is, even were it better, our O lacks the punch to make this kind of optimism credible. Even if our D improves I think we’d probably be a good bet to only hold under 25 about 50 percent of the time against what’s coming.

So, to be in with a shot, our O needs to do a lot more with the same. That is possible, in my opinion, only if we throw caution to the wind in terms of who we use and how we are prepared to use them. We are not scoring over 25 regularly by trotting out game plans focused on Watkins, Lazard and Cobb (if healthy). So we need to trash that as a dead end strategy.

We aren’t scoring that much throwing consistently in 10 yards and with only one deeper route if any. So trash that game plan. That leaves the run. The run, however brilliant, probably only helps enough if we use it to set up play action and aggression and by helping our D stay on the sideline. It’s a part of our solution but not enough in isolation because our D isn’t up to it.

So essentially, to succeed, we have to throw out the offensive assumptions and approaches that underpinned our entire season so far. We need not just to field the rookies, but to trust them and make them central.

That doesn’t mean a diet of go routes to Watson either, it means running aggressive routes, using play action and buying time to get players open. That means running early and often and running a lot of intermediate and some deep routes by multiple receivers regularly. It means accepting mistakes and playing as if next time works. It means trotting out Lazard, Doubs, Toure and Watson with Cobb if he’s healthy. Watkins needs to be done absent injury. We need speed and agility around Lazard, and we just need to go for it.

That’s almost the exact opposite of what LaFleur has planned and called. Tomorrow will be a great window into who he uses and how, because unless Barry shows the signs of a miraculous redemption, the Lions are going to put up more than 24.

If we come out with mostly the same personnel and approaches I think we ensure a close game at best against the worst D in the league. If we do that then I think we have an answer: that LaFleur isn’t going to put us in a position to make a fight of anything other than draft position because he lacks both guts and imagination.

The Lions game could actually reveal some very telling insight into this coaching regime unless we just run continually and to great success (possible—the Lions run D is worse than it’s stats as it’s not been necessary to run on them). Absent a run fest against a woeful D that we won’t see the likes of again until the last game, tomorrow should set us straight on both the potential for this season and under LaFleur in general.

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Packers0808's picture

November 05, 2022 at 10:59 am

Gut feeling Vikings about to start a losing streak. Toss whole North in flux!

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Return_To_Sanity's picture

November 05, 2022 at 11:27 am

"But if we found anything out last week, it was that the Packers can run the football." Sorry but we've all known this for years going back to the Mccarthy era. As long as they've had Jones they've been successful when they actually try to run. But this team just loves throwing the damn ball no matter what. Even when Love played last year, they had a pass heavy gameplan. Its absolute madness. Apparently sacks and incomplete passes are better than 5 yd runs.

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LeotisHarris's picture

November 05, 2022 at 03:24 pm

"Rodgers is a master at hiding the ball in play-action and with a successful running game a defense has to respect it."

I think this is probably one of those on-paper arguments that should be true except we've seen that with the 2022 Packers it isn't. Both the Giants and the Jets were smart enough to not bite on play action, and let their LBs clog the middle of the field. I think Saleh said their D played as if they were on a field 20 yards long. The Packers O generates no respect, and if they crap the bed against a truly awful Lions team, well, that'll be par for the 2022 course.

I think the Lions will take it to us tomorrow. They'll pound the ball, probably rush for over 200 yards, and have some big plays with their speedy WRs. I believe the Packers will out-Lion the Lions to find a Lionsy way to lose.

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Return_To_Sanity's picture

November 05, 2022 at 04:30 pm

Here's the thing. The playaction didnt work vs the Giants or Jets because they didnt even try to establish the run in either game. They threw a combined 80 passes vs only 40 rushes in those 2 games despite winning at halftime vs giants and being tied at haltime vs jets. Teams arent going to fall for playaction until this team fully commits to establishing the run each and every game. Mark my words, this team wont win another game with a 2:1 pass to run ratio. Not one. They're just not built to play that way. But they are built to run the shit out of the ball and manufacture open looks in the pass game by making defenses respect the run first. They could be 6-2 or 7-1 right now if they had played that way all year.

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wildbill's picture

November 05, 2022 at 06:23 pm

A friend of my son cuts hair for several NFL players. I won’t name the team but according to this barber buddy most NFL players don’t care if they win or lose. Not sure if that’s just idle talk to a barber but many players seem to be just cashing checks and playing not to get hurt. Seems like the Packers have their share if this is true.

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ricky's picture

November 06, 2022 at 08:54 am

I am so torn on this team. Part of me is just disgusted and furious at how the season is going. Then, my instincts are to make some major changes. Restructure the team's hierarchy; get rid of (at minimum) Murphy and LaFleur and most if not all of the supporting staff. Try to retain a few of the coaches, and, for gosh’s sake, spend some money to bring in coordinators who can do the job effectively, rather than hiring someone for less money and continue getting inferior coaches with predictable results. Meanwhile, try to trade Rodgers during the off-season. Even if you get a discounted return, which is likely to happen, at least you'd be out from under that terrible contract, and the lackadaisical attitude he's displayed all year.
On the other hand, I just can't give up on this team. All they need is for Rodgers to really play like himself; stabilize the OL, rather than keep players there who prove they aren't capable (yet) of handling their responsibilities; and, once and for all, sit down the DC and tell him his defense starts playing better, utilizing the player's strengths rather than wasting their talent on schemes that let receivers run wide open on a regular basis. And figure out why this team can't stop the run! Is it LBers not setting the edge? Are the interior linemen not getting the job done? Is it time to sit Lowry and try someone else? Do something! Because, as the Giants proved twice, and the Bengals last year, getting hot at the right time is the road to the SB. And once in that game, who knows?
Meanwhile, I look at the Lions game, and I'm very pessimistic. The Lions will be looking to hit the Packers in the mouth early, dominate physically, and come out fired up and ready to play. Are the Packers capable of doing any of the above? Not so far. And semi-gloating about their "moral victory" in Buffalo is very disturbing. Now participation trophies are acceptable, and something to put on the mantel? Ugh.

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