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Wednesday Walkthroughs: Stats that explain the Packers

What do the numbers say about the Packers so far this season?

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Packers are 2-1, and while the win-loss record is the ultimate summation of the team’s performance so far, it may not tell the whole story. So we went looking for the stats that we thought best explained the Packers’ 2022 season so far. Here’s what our writers came up with.

Rcon14: Rodgers has the lowest aDOT in the league

The Packers offense is playing with the training wheels on it. Rodgers’ 5.1 aDOT (adjusted deeznuts over target) is almost a full yard shorter than any other quarterback in the league and his completed passes are over half a yard shorter than any other quarterback. The build of the offense is way too RPO-heavy right now (particularly with the screen/flat/bubble/swing stuff), and like Justis Mosqueda has talked about, a lot of those are in a pony package that is basically just wasting plays. Green Bay wants to get the ball in the hands of their weapons, but they’re giving it to them in inefficient places. Green Bay needs to get a bit closer to league average with their aDOT, otherwise this offense is going to be too easy to slow down when they face good defenses.

Tex Western: The Packers are facing almost no 8-man boxes

Part of the reason for Rodgers’ low aDOT, which Ryan discussed above, may be the fact that the three defenses they have faced to this point simply refuse to put a safety in the box. There are 50 running backs in the NFL with at least 15 carries, and the Packers’ Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon both rank in the bottom 5 in terms of the lowest rate of facing 8 men in the box (according to NextGenStats). In fact, Jones is one of just two backs who haven’t seen an 8-man box on a single rushing attempt, joining fellow Shanahan/McVay tree back Darrell Henderson of the Rams. Dillon is right there too, ranking fifth-lowest with just five percent of his carries (2 out of 40) against heavy boxes.

With teams keeping two safeties deep on almost every play, it’s no wonder why Aaron Rodgers isn’t chucking the football down the field consistently. Of course, there are ways to boost one’s aDOT without going deep all the time, such as throwing the ball in rhythm to in-breaking routes, but it’s clear that defenses are trying to force the Packers to beat them underneath and with the run rather than giving them chances for explosive plays in the passing game. That at least helps to explain the team’s overall approach on offense to this point.

Paul Noonan: The Packers are 14th in Special Teams DVOA

Take any special teams metric you want, the Packers are probably at least average in it! This is a huge improvement from last year where special teams repeatedly cost the team field position, momentum, points, credibility as an organization, home playoff games, etc. Mason Crosby has made all of his kicks, Pat O’Donnell is averaging 49 yards per punt, no one has been blocked, no snaps have been botched, and Amari Rodgers has managed not to accidentally spike himself.

If this keeps up, it will allow for some latitude should they slip in a few other areas, because this improvement is enormous.

Kris Burke: -2 turnover differential

A staple of the Green Bay offense under Matt LaFleur has been taking care of the football. They have been +12, +7, and +13 respectively in each of LaFleur’s first three seasons but this year has so far been a different story.

While not a full-blown trend quite yet, the fact they’re negative three games in is a bit concerning. It’s indicative of an offensive that collapses the moment adversity strikes (though not a turnover, Christian Watson’s Week 1 drop might as well have been) and a defense that hasn’t been playing aggressive enough although that trend appears to have been bucked against Tampa Bay (pun not intended).

Three of the Packers’ giveaways have been fumbles and two of those have been on Rodgers (one in a brutal hit against the Vikings and a botched handoff against the Bears). Throw in his two interceptions and 80% of the giveaways are on the four-time MVP. Not very Rodgers like and it explains why the offense sputters at times.

Take care of the football and the talent will take care of the rest. When the offense does that, they should be off and running.

Jon Meerdink: 0

I don’t know exactly how you’d represent this in statistical form, but I’m going with the number 0 as the stat that explains the Packers since that’s the number of consecutive weeks this season where they’ve had the same starting offensive line.

In Week 1, Elgton Jenkins was still on the shelf with David Bakhtiari, so Jake Hanson and Royce Newman started on the right side In Week 2, Jenkins was back, bumping Newman inside while the left side remained unchanged. In Week 3, Bakhtiari rotated with Yosh Nijman on the left side, though the right side was stable.

That kind of uncertainty has to affect things to an extent, and both Aaron Rodgers and Matt LaFleur have said as much. That the Packers have succeeded despite an offensive line in flux is a big win, and it should bode well for a unit that seems to be getting healthier.