The Passing Chronicles: 2022 Week 8

They tell me there was a game this past week, but you don't have to believe them if you don't want to.

The Packers leaned heavy on the run game throughout the day. And, while Aaron Rodgers' dropbacks picked up at the end of the game, he still logged his second lowest number of dropbacks on the season. He had 34 dropbacks, second only to the 29 dropbacks he had against the Bears in Week 2. 

As we do every week, let's take a look at some of the numbers, then dig into a couple plays I liked.

Per PFF, Rodgers still spent a lot of time throwing behind the line of scrimmage (23.3% of attempts were behind the LOS), but he was also pushing the ball downfield more than we saw last week. He had 5 attempts 20+ yards down the field. He completed 3 of them for 82 yards and 2 TDs. He was slightly off on a couple others or those numbers would look even better. His ADOT (average depth of target) was 8.8 yards, which was nice to see after the 5.5 ADOT he turned in against the Commanders. Just based on how this offense currently is, we're likely going to see these week-to-week swings in ADOT, but I'll always be happier on the weeks when it's more in this range.

In going along with the raised ADOT was the increased time to throw. Rodgers was at a lightning fast 2.13 seconds against the Commanders, but that number went to to 2.63 seconds against the Bills, as we saw Rodgers hold the ball a few times to give some routes a little more time to develop. There were times in the game when this felt like the Packers offense we've come to know. Pepper the underneath, then go big-play hunting, complete with Rodgers moving around to buy time as needed. Overall, I felt this was the best the offense looked all year. There was a comfort and ease in some of the drives that we simply haven't seen much of this year. Is it a good sign that those signs of encouragement came on the back of a 203 yard passing game in a 10 point loss? Probably not! But at this point, I'll take whatever good signs I can find.

One last thing I wanted to bring up is the lack of play action. Rodgers has never been a huge user of play action: even when LaFleur came in and put a greater emphasis on it, Rodgers was never more than middle-of-the-pack in terms of play action snaps, and they never saw a huge benefit from it. That usage has been dialed back even further this year. Last year, 25.7% of Rodgers' dropbacks were play action. This year he's at 25.1%. Against the Bills - a game in which the Packers were doing some nice things in the run game - he only used play action on 17.6% of dropbacks. Now, there were some mitigating circumstances to that this week: even though the Packers ran a lot, the Bills were content to just let them run and not give up explosives off play action. So there's certainly context there, but play action usage I'm really curious about this year, so we'll be looking at that a bit more as we go forward.

Enough of all that. Let's get to some plays.

For today, I wanted to focus on a couple Romeo Doubs plays. As we all know, Doubs is a guy who has flashed some serious potential, but has had a hard time finding consistent production. Part of that is due to the fact that he struggles to get off the line against press coverage (something that plagues the entire Packers receiving corps at the moment). I wanted to look at an example of the Packers looking for a way to get him isolated on a free release, as well as an example of Doubs winning on a classic West Coast concept.

Play 1: 2nd & 12, 6:21 remaining in the 2nd quarter

The Packers are in 12 personnel (1 RB, 2 TE, 2 WR), starting in a 2x2 set with AJ Dillon [28] set to the right of Aaron Rodgers [12] in shotgun. The Bills are showing a single-high safety set in the middle of the field. Romeo Doubs [87] goes in motion before the snap and is followed by his defender, signaling that the Bills are likely in Man Free coverage (single-high safety with man-to-man coverage underneath). And that's perfect for what the Packers are trying to do.

By sending Doubs in motion - and snapping the ball while he's still in motion - the Packers are able to get him a free release, build up a bit of speed before the snap, and generate a favorable angle for him against the defender. Doubs runs a sail route, which takes him away from the safety in the middle of the field.

On the right side, Robert Tonyan [85] is running a deep crossing route, pushing vertically directly at the safety before breaking across the field. While he is doing that, Josiah Deguara [81] runs a short in-breaking route under Doubs. The route of Tonyan helps occupy the safety, while the in-breaker from Deguara helps to clear out the shallow boundary.

All of that leaves Doubs man-to-man with a defender in which he has outside leverage before the ball is even snapped. 

Doubs gives a slight hesitation at the top of the stem to sell a seam route, then breaks to the corner. 

Rodgers throws to the outside, and a spinning Doubs is able to come up with a spectacular catch.

I really liked this as a way to get Doubs a free release to create an isolated shot play. The Packers are going to continue to see Man Free Press Man coverage until they show they can consistently beat it. One play does not a trend make, but I like that they're looking for ways to generate explosives for their playmakers. Here's to hoping they have a deep bag of those going forward.

Play 2: 1st & 10, 8:02 remaining in the 4th quarter

This one is just pure West Coast Offense. The concept is Smash, which is said to have been created by the late Lindy Infante. It's a two-man, high-low concept. The outside receiver will run a shallow route (typically a curl or slant), while the inside receiver will run a corner route over the top. The idea is to put the boundary defender in conflict. If he stays with the shallow route, throw the corner. If he stays with the corner route, throw the shallow. It can be an effective concept to run against split safety coverage. By pushing vertically and breaking to the corner, the receiver is breaking away from the safety and creating a nice angle for the QB to hit the throw.

Amari Rodgers [8] is on the outside, running a shallow out, while Doubs is running the corner route from the slot. The Bills are showing a single-high safety, but he's fading over Doubs at the snap. Rodgers reads the safety on the dropback, then briefty glances to the shallow boundary before he hits the top of the top. That tells him that the safety is shading to Doubs and the boundary defender is staying with Amari. In other words, the corner route is open. 

Rodgers hits his back foot, loads, and throws high to Doubs. Doubs uses his big frame to go up and nab the ball. 

Nicely done for a 26 yard gain.

As I mentioned at the top, there aren't a lot of positives to take away from this game. I'm still in the "if they get their issues cleaned up they can make a push" camp, but the hour is getting late and they're still running into the same issues every week. Still, there's always fun stuff to look at every week, so I'm planning on carrying this format forward, regardless as to how the rest of the season plays out. Ultimately, I write this article because it's fun and interesting to me, so that's typically where I will spend my time in this space. I'll attempt to cover some of the hard truths at the top, then end with the fun stuff. 

If there's a call for me to look at this stuff with a more critical eye here, I'll see what I can do, but I tend to leave that to some of the streams I'm doing at YouTube and Twitter. It's easier for me to get into the "what went wrong" of it all when I can talk a bit. So if you're interested in that, feel free to join me.

Albums listened to: Wild Pink - ILYSM; Sloan - Steady; Archers of Loaf - Reason in Decline; Arctic Monkeys - The Car




Dusty Evely is a film analyst for Cheesehead TV. He can be heard talking about the Packers on Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter at @DustyEvely or email at [email protected].


6 points

Comments (2)

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splitpea1's picture

November 02, 2022 at 03:50 pm

Just a thought: maybe the new receivers need to be studying some Davante tape and start practicing his methods of getting off the LOS and outwitting DBs to find the open spaces. Not a quick fix, but more of an evolution.

1 points
jlc1's picture

November 02, 2022 at 04:14 pm

I'm guessing every receiver in the league does that and so do......oh wait Joe Barry is the coach and he seems to have no way to watch film.

-3 points