The Green Bay Packers aren’t playing like a playoff-caliber team, let alone a Super Bowl contender. While the team is dealing with a ton of different problems, it’s the passing game that looked more broken than anything on Sunday.
The Packers lost their third straight game in Week 7, falling 23-21 to the Washington Commanders. The box score looked solid for Aaron Rodgers, who completed 23 of 35 passes for 194 yards and two touchdowns, but the film shows a passing game that desperately needs to turn things around.
For all of the arguments for and against Green Bay’s weapons, the receivers had their worst game of the year on Sunday. Drops were a major issue throughout the game, including a couple from tight end Robert Tonyan and running back Aaron Jones.
It’s worth noting that not all drops are created equal, and that drops and inaccurate throws don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Some of these throws from Rodgers weren’t as accurate as Packers fans are used to, especially one specific pass to rookie wideout Romeo Doubs.
Packers OL might have had its best game in pass pro on Sunday.— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) October 24, 2022
Clean pocket, but Rodgers is still double clutching and throwing at Doubs' feet. pic.twitter.com/gPLlXqT8An
The pass protection might have been its best of the year on Sunday. Despite David Bakhtiari being a surprise inactive, rookie Zach Tom did a solid job holding down the left tackle position without being asked to do too much, while Elgton Jenkins looked solid moving inside to left guard.
According to Pro Football Focus, the Packers only allowed a single pressure on Rodgers against Washington, far and away the lowest number of the season. Unfortunately, Rodgers still felt uncomfortable in the pocket, resulting in sloppy mechanics and bad throws like the one to Doubs above.
The combination of constant pressure earlier this season and Rodgers not going through his progressions has led to the back-to-back MVP making some brutal decisions in the passing game. The next play is a perfect example of that, with Rodgers panicking while still having some time. He throws a checkdown for a loss to Aaron Jones while ignoring Doubs wide open crossing the field.
Rodgers bails on his dropback early with initial interior pressure (Allen falls down) and throws a checkdown to Jones on the flat, where he gets murdered for a loss. pic.twitter.com/IlOWIr2iTV— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) October 24, 2022
It was a particularly brutal game for Doubs, who was targeted four times without registering a single catch. Along with a handful of drops, he’s also struggling with handling plays off-script, including this missed opportunity on a play-action rollout.
Miscommunication between Rodgers and Doubs on the PA rollout.— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) October 24, 2022
Doubs' instinct is to cut inside while Rodgers wants him to keep breaking outside.
He would have been WIDE OPEN. Instead it's an incompletion (and also a penalty). pic.twitter.com/lKWdOFa9kK
Despite Rodgers rolling out to the right on this play, Doubs broke his route inside towards the middle of the field. Rodgers saw Doubs wide open, but assumed he would be breaking towards the sideline considering he was rolling out that way.
Matt LaFleur said on Monday after the game that Doubs ran the route that was called on the play, but that the best move would have been to recognize the blown coverage and adjust accordingly to the corner route into empty space. Clearly that’s what Rodgers expected him to do, but LaFleur suggested that Doubs’ inexperience has him so focused on running what’s called that he didn’t adjust on the fly.
Ultimately, it wouldn’t have mattered, with the play being called back for a penalty. Still, these are the kinds of plays that Rodgers used to make on a regular basis, but his new cast of receivers is struggling to get on the same page.
The timing still isn’t there for Rodgers with his new weapons, which is likely a big reason why he’s struggled so much throwing the deep ball. The absence of Christian Watson certainly hasn’t helped, but the extended absence of Sammy Watkins made it difficult for the two to connect deep downfield on Sunday.
Rodgers just doesn't have the timing down with his new WRs to consistently be throwing deep balls. pic.twitter.com/h3lct8tE6h— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) October 24, 2022
With injuries at receiver, constant shuffling of the offensive line, and a future Hall of Fame quarterback taking a significant step backwards, the passing game is having a serious identity crisis. If it doesn’t get figured out soon, then the Packers may be watching the playoffs from home for the first time in the Matt LaFleur era.