The Green Bay Packers have a lot of question marks on the offensive side of the ball. The biggest one was answered in the offseason, though. Aaron Rodgers has returned. Still, how will he fare without Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling?
It’s no secret that the Packers will be getting at least one wide receiver for Rodgers in the draft. But even if that receiver becomes an all-pro talent, it’s unlikely to happen in Year 1. The Cincinnati Bengals and Minnesota Vikings paired Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson with a clear No. 1 going into the season to take the load for them – Tyler Boyd and Adam Thielen – which helped foster their early production.
Next year, the Packers will likely rely on the two-punch attack at running back with Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon. Both running backs had 800 yards on the ground last year. Dillon averaged 4.3 yards per attempt, while Jones averaged 4.7. Both running backs are capable of adding to their workload next season, so we may even see them rush for over 1,000 yards on the ground next year. Rodgers will take more of a backseat to the running game next year. Still, there are scenarios with dump-off passes and running back screens, allowing Rodgers to pad his stats. Last season, Jones went off for nearly 400 yards through the air and caught six touchdowns for 10 total touchdowns.
A solid good running game will open up the passing game in a massive way. Defenses will either have to play their safeties closer to not allow for long runs or deploy a single-high safety to load the box. But it’s hard to defend Rodgers with a single-high safety. The Packers can use play-action passes to keep defenses on their toes, and defenses know not to overlook Rodgers throwing the football regardless of who’s out wide.
Historically, Rodgers has played well without Adams. Rodgers is 10-1 without Adams since the Packers drafted Adams in 2014.
In 2019, we saw Rodgers play one of the best games of his career against the Kansas City Chiefs sans Adams. He had 300 passing yards and three touchdowns and won in Arrowhead. Jones became his No. 1 receiver. He carried the ball 13 times for 67 yards and had seven catches for 159 yards and two touchdowns.
These stats weren’t a single-game occurrence either. In 2019, Jones had 19 total touchdowns, the second-best in Packers history. Jones had multiple big games.
Games like their Week 8 matchup against the Chiefs in 2019 can be a blueprint the Packers can use to plan and attack defenses next year. With Dillon emerging as a star in the backfield to take a significant load off in the run game, Jones will have the ability to come into his own as the No. 1 weapon going into the season.
A more recent example of the team playing with fewer weapons was Green Bay’s Week 8 matchup against the Arizona Cardinals this year. The Packers had a COVID-19 breakout, so Randall Cobb, Juwann Winfree, and Equanimeous St. Brown started at receiver. Jones led that game in receiving with just 51 yards. Still, Rodgers threw for 185 yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions. However, due to late-game heroics from a game-sealing interception by Rasul Douglas, they handed Arizona their first loss.
Rodgers and the Packers’ offense will probably slow down from last season. Expect the two-time reigning MVP to regress as well. Likely, his stats will not be what they were the previous two years, but I believe the team will still succeed.
Rodgers has repeatedly shown that it doesn’t matter who he’s throwing the ball to. He turns players into stars. The Packers will have their growing pains, but they have a blueprint to keep the offense highly efficient. I believe that the team will thrive offensively, and Rodgers will continue torching defenses even in this run-centric offense.