After an up-and-down game in which the Green Bay Packers had to rally late to earn their sixth win of the season, there is some optimism that the team can still reach the postseason. For now, they need to get past the Cleveland Browns on the road this week.
Today, I look at a number of observations from the Packers’ win over the Bucs to assess this Green Bay squad and how the roster is shaping up for this season and beyond.
3 Things I know
1. Davante Adams will get paid handsomely this offseason
Without Aaron Rodgers, Adams may have had the most to lose of any player on the Packers’ roster heading into a contract season. But he’s grown into a favorite target of Brett Hundley and consistently runs crisp routes. Check out the dig route against Tampa Bay below in which Adams was open, but Hundley’s pass was off the mark. It’s not a one-time play; Adams routinely keeps corners off balance.
Add another play in which Adams’ double-move and subsequent run-after-the-catch turned into an explosive touchdown play against Pittsburgh a few weeks ago.
Davante Adams is a Pro Bowl WR. Don't @ me. Playing half a year with Brett Hundley, he's 7th in the NFC in yards and first downs plus 2nd in touchdowns. This route and finish are outstanding. (Also Sean Davis was terrible Sunday night) pic.twitter.com/Sc5hnvGznO— Peter Bukowski (@Peter_Bukowski) November 29, 2017
As if his route running hasn’t been enough, Adams has been a threat after the catch, especially on quick receiver screens. Check out the shiftiness for someone of Adams’ size in this video below and his strength in evading tacklers on many others this season. Adams’ numbers and tape despite the loss of Rodgers will make the Packers wish they had locked him up before the regular season began.
2. Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams are going to be a heck of a one-two punch for years to come
APC’s writers have alluded to a potential thunder-lightning backfield since the day Jones and Williams were drafted. Against the Buccaneers, that vision started to look like a reality.
Jones had turned into a legitimate one-cut back with speed in his starts after being thrown into the fire due to injury. It wasn’t until Jones’ injury that Williams’ power from college truly began to show in the pros, but he has continually busted through arm tackles and finished runs falling forward. One thing you can count on from Williams is a tough run and in the cold weather, that bruising back is a nice piece to have in your back pocket.
Look at Jamaal Williams beasting through a dense web of his haters pic.twitter.com/e208ejaeMB— Matt Franciscovich (@MattFranchise) December 3, 2017
Between Williams’ work to get the ball down the field on the Packers’ overtime drive and the banged-up Jones’ decisive 20-yard scoring run, the Packers utilized power and speed to wear out the Bucs’ defense. Jones and Williams have combined for three individual 100-yard rushing games this season and together have made Ty Montgomery’s future in Green Bay uncertain.
Aaron Jones walkoff touchdown and the PACKERS WIN! pic.twitter.com/44PzEaspg9— Eric Rosenthal (@ericsports) December 3, 2017
3. The read option is a weapon with Brett Hundley that must be utilized
Hey, Hundley will not be mistaken for Michael Vick or Colin Kaepernick. But he does have some speed to work with.
The Packers have run a number of run-pass options with Hundley, but the read option has been less prevalent. However, when called it has been effective. Against New Orleans earlier this season, Hundley mostly handed off to his running backs but scampered for an eight-yard gain on his lone decision to keep the ball. The zone read wasn’t really seen again until last week when Hundley tucked the ball and rushed for 14 and 18 yards on two well-timed attempts, with the latter coming in overtime.
The zone-read run scheme is a must have with a QB like Hundley... Gives rushing attack extra dimension and defense must account for QB runs... pic.twitter.com/426dzi2gmy— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) December 5, 2017
With Hundley’s well-documented inconsistencies as a passer that may not be going away in the foreseeable future, his legs become even more critical to keep defenses guessing and even get him back into the flow of a game. Of course, the zone read cannot be used too much or it will lose its luster, but running the play a few more times to keep the chains moving would be helpful for an offense that routinely goes into a second-half hibernation mode.
3 Things I Think I Know
1. Green Bay’s defensive line is becoming a legitimate strength
Green Bay had a marvelous game from a pass rushing perspective, tallying seven sacks and 13 quarterback hits. Even more than that, the Packers were able to get a fumble return for a touchdown and nearly two interceptions from the pressure created on Jameis Winston. Granted, Tampa Bay’s offensive line isn’t all world, but it was still a great showing from the Packers’ front seven, including Clay Matthews who generated three sacks after coming back from a groin injury. The Packers have received strong individual performances from several edge rushers over the last handful of contests and a lot of that has to do with the defensive line.
Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark worked their way into the sacks column on Sunday - Clark’s first two of his career - and have made Green Bay’s interior difficult to run on throughout the season. Together, they have helped Blake Martinez make plays in the backfield by occupying blockers in double teams. It was particularly noticeable when Clark was off the field against Tampa Bay for the running lanes that opened up. At just 22 years of age, Clark’s best football is still in front of him and that is a very, very good thing.
Dean Lowry also continues to show impressive strength in fortifying the edge against the run and creating a push against the pass. His game against Tampa Bay may have been his best as a pro and not just for his “big man” touchdown. He has had an excellent sophomore season and is becoming more than just a role player. When Green Bay is able to develop a fully healthy Montravius Adams either this season or next, I really like the way the Packers’ defensive line is shaping up in terms of talent and depth.
I thought #Packers Dean Lowry had an excellent game (Fumble/TD - yea yea right place, right time) but he had some solid rushes at DE vs RT.. Didn’t get home but certainly hurried QB process and tightened pocket pic.twitter.com/rh07Uye2sb— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) December 5, 2017
I see ya in there Dean! Fighting off double teams, dumping the LT, getting back up off the ground... Thought Dean Lowry played TOUGH and PHYSICAL yesterday pic.twitter.com/vmxNF23Jk9— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) December 5, 2017
2. The loss of Kevin King is a tremendous blow to the Packers’ postseason chances
In APC’s weekly walkthrough, I gave Green Bay a decent shot at the playoffs if Rodgers could return for Week 15 against Carolina. Only a few hours after that post, the news broke that King was landing on Injured Reserve. That severely impacts my playoff probability for Green Bay.
King, though inconsistent at times as many rookies are, had developed into one of the team’s more sound tacklers and one-on-one cover corners. His size and speed will be missing as Green Bay prepares for Josh Gordon, Golden Tate, and Adam Thielen over the final stretch of games. The Packers were already thin in the secondary and now must make do with:
- Veterans Davon House, Damarious Randall, Josh Hawkins, and the newly-activated Demetri Goodson
- Jack-of-all-trades Morgan Burnett in the slot
- Unproven rookies Donatello Brown and Lenzy Pipkins
While Green Bay may find a diamond in the rough yet with their youth at corner, I foresee a difficult next four games in the defensive backfield.
3. Geronimo Allison’s disappearing act is concerning
When Green Bay enters its final offensive drive of the game with just 54 passing yards, there aren’t too many receivers a) getting the ball or b) making an impact. But I have to wonder what has happened to Allison this season.
The second-year wide receiver had a significant impact on Green Bay’s offense during its winning streak late last season and was being counted on to contribute vertically and over the middle again this season. But Allison received just his first target since November 6th against Tampa Bay last week. Moreover, Allison has been targeted only eight times since Week 4 and posted the majority of his 11-catch, 167-yard season stat line the first three weeks.
One might have thought there would be some chemistry between Hundley and Allison having practiced on the second team last season, but that hasn’t played out so far. Maybe Allison’s opening-week suspension earlier this season stunted his growth or put him in the coaches’ doghouse. But at this point, it’s unlikely Allison will be able to resurrect his season, making his long-term future in Green Bay unclear.