The Green Bay Packers’ season might be on the brink, but as was promised early in the season by head coach Matt LaFleur and quarterback Aaron Rodgers, their Pony package with both running backs Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon has grown with some inventive wrinkles and looks.
What used to be a package that comprised two to three looks has expanded into a diverse play sheet with the capability to break tendencies and exploit adjustments.
Green Bay has leaned in hard to their stretch pitch and pin and pull plays in the run game. In their Thursday Night matchup against the Titans, LaFleur pulled out a couple of new ways to get to those concepts using the Pony package.
In one of their first plays of the game, Green Bay used push motion from their split-back look with Dillon running the motion and Jones staying in. That look is exactly the same as what the Packers have been running all year with the push motion to a bubble and a handoff the opposite direction as an RPO.
This time, however, Dillon motions, Jones counter-steps inside, and then Rodgers pitches the ball out to him to the same side as the Dillon motion. Now, Dillon is acting as a lead block to the perimeter as the Packers run their toss stretch scheme. The receivers are responsible for pinning the first defenders inside and Dillon is responsible for taking on the corner who is left unblocked outside. The rest of the offensive line is trying to reach and seal pursuit.
The next wrinkle the Packers used was to send tight end Josiah Deguara in motion across the field and run what is supposed to look like split zone with Deguara kicking out the defensive end and a handoff to one of the backs. However, Deguara bluffs the block on the end and instead continues outside. Rodgers, meanwhile, is reading the defensive end. He has the option of either giving the ball on the dive, keeping the ball on the run, or pitching outside. If the end comes inside, Rodgers pitches the ball outside. If the end is slow to chase down the line, Rodgers can hand the ball off.
It’s an interesting way to get to a base concept and add more diversity to the package. It keeps things simple for the offensive line and is one of their base plays, but with window dressing and unique backfield action.
Another way the Packers have started to use their split-back Pony package is to run quick game concepts with the backs running to the flats. Most commonly, they run Stick on one side of the field, and another concept on the other.
Stick uses one receiver coming inside and sticking on the first linebacker inside of them with the running back running to the flats. The idea is to exploit the linebackers in horizontal space and create leverage or a window to throw to. That stick can also act as a rub for the flats if the linebacker is chasing.
While it’s nothing world-beating, the Packers' offense is trying to adapt and add in new wrinkles and looks. They’ve found ways to keep defenses honest out of the package and offer something to build upon going forward.