Yes, Week 1 was bad. But what, specifically, was the worst part of Week 1? We polled our writers and this is what they came up with.
Rcon14: New year, but same institutional issues
There have been a lot of changes to the team, and while that can cause some things to change, it can also exacerbate the very issues we have become so familiar with. In Week 1 we saw talent eval at a key position completely fail, as Jake Hanson played one of the worst games in recent NFL history. This was after everyone on the outside kept screaming that this was a terrible idea. On defense, Joe Barry, who has no real indications from his past as to why he should be employed as a DC, has decided the quarters-match defense is going to be this version of homework copying of better defensive minds, and continued to spam the same coverage setups as OPOY candidate Justin Jefferson found one advantageous matchup after another.
Finally, Aaron Rodgers can’t let go. He can’t let the McCarthy era die. With this group of receivers, the offenses he ran from 2009-2014 are dead, and they must remain dead if this offense is to perform at the level it needs to.
Fortunately, the OL problems could solve themselves if Bakhtiari ever is comfortable with his knee again, and once Jenkins comes back into the fold. The defensive coordinator may be bullied into a change by the players in a come to Jesus moment that we saw in past years. Rodgers is the toughest nut to crack, most likely. He still grips the West Coast offense like a blankie, even when it best serves everyone involved if he would just let go.
Matub: Loyal to a fault
What are we doing here? I mean, WHAT are we doing here? We are on year two of the coaches sticking up for Amari Rodgers and what he can do and blah blah blah. Guess what? The Packers scored SEVEN points in a game where Aaron stared down his buddies while icing out every other pass-catching option. Do you know how many offensive snaps Amari got? None. Not a single one. This is the EXACT game where you get him in and at least let him see SOME kind of action.
Also Jake Hanson. “He was one of the best five at the time.” Yeah, Matt, I can lie too.
Amari and Jake must have compromising photos of the coaching staff.
Paul Noonan: Safety play
What they said, but in the interest of bringing something new to the table, safety might be a bigger problem than we anticipated. We spent a lot of time praising the defensive starters in the offseason, most of whom are in fact quite good, however when we get to the safeties it’s always been “and we still have Adrian Amos! Please, no further questions.” Assuming that Darnell Savage will take a step forward is something we’ve been doing since 2020, and while he flashes, he’s never consistent. He gets a few picks, he’s very fast, but still constantly out of position, and often slow to react.
Compounding things was Amos’ incredibly poor outing on Sunday, likely the worst game of his career. Maybe it was a one-off for Amos, as those do happen, but he is in his age 29 season, and even if he does rebound, he’s the lynchpin holding this whole thing together. There is no other safety on this roster worth anything (maybe Abernathy but that’s speculative), and if Barry is going to allow offenses to dictate receiver matchups all day, the safeties will remain prime targets. There are 1000 other things to be worried about, but I think this one may have some staying power.
Justis Mosqueda: Secondary has no chemistry
Every defensive back other than Jaire Alexander gave up an explosive play to Justin Jefferson when they were put in a position to cover the route he ended up winning. Motion messed up Adrian Amos and Eric Stokes’ communication for a touchdown. The safeties had maybe their worst collective snap of football in Green Bay on the deep post shot Jefferson caught early on in the game. Rasul Douglas didn’t trust his rules to pass off a crosser and it led to Jefferson’s second touchdown.
The worst part is the last two examples were just stock Cover 4 and Cover 3 calls. For all the talk about the Packers needing to play preseason ball (the Vikings didn’t!), those play calls were coverages that these guys have probably been playing since high school. Maybe that gets fixed as early as Week 2, as we all thought the secondary was going to be a strength of the team, but it was really disappointing to see on Sunday.
Jonathan E. Barnett: Devotion to Plan
The single greatest thing Bill Belichick does is change. In-game adjustments are a big part of it, but he is completely willing to change his entire defense or offense from week to week to match up better. LaFleur started with some flexibility, but he might be falling into the success trap. Winning can make some coaches convinced they found the magic code. Run this system and magic awaits. With LaFleur putting up maybe the best first three seasons ever, he might be touching this madness.
The Packers stuck with a failing plan. The idea was that if they just do it harder it will work. The lack of flexibility can only be fixed inside LaFleur’s mind. The inability to know their need to change and self-scout hurt and could be more lasting than the chemistry issues on the offense.
Jon Meerdink: Empty words
What we saw on Sunday was bad enough, but it was disappointing in the days after to hear Matt LaFleur and company defend some of the decisions that produced that outcome.
Player execution was bad, but the Packers’ defensive scheme didn’t seem set up to put their secondary in the best position to play to their individual strengths. How did LaFleur defend that approach? Essentially by saying “we played zone because we play zone.” I don’t expect him to lay out the full blueprint, but some version of an explanation as to why they felt that was the best approach would have been great to hear.
On offense, everybody suspected going in that Jake Hanson would struggle, and struggle he did. But this week all we hear from LaFleur is that they’re playing Hanson because they think he’s one of the best five lineman. I don’t recall ever having heard him articulate why they think that.
Bad coaching decisions happen, but having some reason for those decisions can lessen the sting. LaFleur declined to really offer any, and it’s hard to not be concerned about the long-term coaching decisions at work in Green Bay as a result.
Tex Western: Aaron Rodgers’ confusingly poor play
Look, the Packers’ offensive line should be fine, provided David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins ever actually take the field. I also believe in this secondary to play much better against most other offenses, if for no other reason than because few other offenses have a receiver like Justin Jefferson.
What I’m probably most concerned about is Aaron Rodgers, who posted a second straight game that was simply, and confusingly, bad. Did Rodgers get spooked by Christian Watson’s drop on the opening play of the game? Nobody knows for sure, but what’s certain is that he threw exactly one deep pass over the course of the rest of the game, in large part because he wasn’t pulling the trigger on throws to open receivers. It’s not that guys weren’t getting open – either he wasn’t seeing them or wasn’t willing to send the ball their way.
Additionally, he seemed to have terrible pocket presence on Sunday and took multiple sacks when throwaways would have been a better choice; the interception falls into that category as well, especially given that it happened on first down. That kind of play from Rodgers didn’t work in the playoffs last year with Davante Adams, and it sure won’t work without him this season, so I suggest he start getting comfortable with taking an aggressive shot and actually throwing to an open receiver down the field once in a while