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Packers Snap Counts, Week 14: Defense makes do with skeleton crew at cornerback

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Damarious Randall shadowed Josh Gordon with great success on Sunday, while Jamaal Williams continues to get the lion’s share of the work at running back.

Green Bay Packers v Cleveland Browns Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Green Bay Packers ended up with a fascinating list of snap counts in their week 14 game against the Cleveland Browns. The interesting point comes particularly at the cornerback position, which saw the team severely shorthanded coming into the game.

Kevin King just went on injured reserve in the past few days, and Davon House played after being listed as doubtful for the game. However, House left midway through the game with a serious back injury, and did not return.

That normally would have indicated more playing time for Josh Hawkins opposite Damarious Randall, but instead the snap counts show that the Packers played with a single traditional cornerback on the field for a significant period of time, apparently with Morgan Burnett lining up both in the slot and on the boundary at times. It largely worked, however, as Josh Gordon had virtually no impact on the game after the Browns’ opening drive.

Here’s how the playing time broke down.

OFFENSE (76 plays)

Brett Hundley was not explosive with his passes on Sunday, averaging just 5.8 yards per attempt on the day. However, much of that was due to the Packers utilizing a dink-and-dunk passing attack, and doing to with great success late in the game. The Packers’ final three drives in regulation consisted of the following:

  • 13-play, 75-yard touchdown drive
  • 9-play, 37-yard drive to flip field position after being pinned at the 3-yard line
  • 7-play, 25-yard touchdown drive

Furthermore, the only other drive of the second half was a 13-play, 69-yard drive that ended in a turnover on downs at Cleveland’s 10-yard line.

It was a slow, methodical approach on offense late in the game, but one that ended up working thanks to Hundley completing those short passes. On those final three series plus the overtime drive, Hundley completed 21 of 26 passes — an 80% completion rate that lent itself to moving the chains consistently. The first half was ugly, to be sure, but Hundley’s performance late was Packers fans should want to see from the young quarterback.

Offensive Line

LT David Bakhtiari 76, LG Lane Taylor 76, C Corey Linsley 76, RG Jahri Evans 76, RT Jason Spriggs 76

Mercifully, the Packers have had a steady starting five on the offensive line for the past few weeks after having that unit be ravaged by injuries over the first half of the season. Hundley was sacked only once, and although he did have to escape pressure a few times, the line appeared to hold up relatively well in front of him overall.

Running Backs

Jamaal Williams 50, Aaron Ripkowski 11, Aaron Jones 8

Williams has firmly established himself as the Packers’ go-to running back, even with Jones now back healthy. He has also posted 120 yards from scrimmage in each of the Packers last three games, and has caught four or more passes in three of the last four.

This should be a really fun group to watch the rest of the year, especially if Jones works his way back into maybe a 70/30 split of the snaps.

Wide Receivers

Jordy Nelson 70, Davante Adams 64, Randall Cobb 57, Geronimo Allison 19, Trevor Davis 3

No surprise here - the Packers stuck with 11 personnel for much of the game again. Adams led the way with 14 targets, catching 10 of them for 84 yards and his two huge touchdowns. Meanwhile Nelson had his best day in several weeks (though that’s not saying much), catching four of five balls for 33 yards. He has not exceeded 40 yards receiving in a game since the contest in Minnesota when Rodgers was hurt, however.

We also saw a slight return for Geronimo Allison, who caught all four of his targets for 29 yards, while Cobb was a PPR stud with eight catches but for just 39 yards.

Tight Ends

Lance Kendricks 49, Richard Rodgers 40

There’s not much to say here. It was a typical playing time split. However, Kendricks did see a season-high five targets; he only caught two of them for 11 yards, however.

DEFENSE (58 plays)

Defensive Line

Mike Daniels 53, Kenny Clark 39, Dean Lowry 27, Quinton Dial 8, Montravius Adams 3

Holy cow. Daniels had over 90% playing time, perhaps the first time he has done so in his career. However, that may have been due in part to the Packers’ offense holding the ball for a long time in this game and keeping him fresh. He still was a monster in the pass rush, being credited with three pressures by Pro Football Focus and recording a pair of stops in the run game to go with his five total tackles.

Perhaps the reason for Daniels’ heavy playing time was also the Packers’ tendency to use a base defense more often in this contest. They averaged 2.24 linemen per snap, likely gearing up heavily against the Browns’ rushing attack early on and daring DeShone Kizer to beat them.

Outside Linebackers

Clay Matthews 49, Ahmad Brooks 33, Kyler Fackrell 30, Vince Biegel 15

Matthews and Fackrell each had a sack on Kizer, and though Fackrell’s was clearly a coverage sack, he continues to play solidly as a rotational player. He has definitely taken a step forward over the past month or so and is establishing himself as at least a capable role player.

Clay also had the pressure on Kizer on the Browns’ interception in overtime, hitting the QB at the point of release and forcing the errant throw. He also recorded a TFL in the run game.

Inside Linebackers

Blake Martinez 58, Jake Ryan 44

Following their trend over the past few weeks, Martinez lined up on every play with Ryan getting about 75% of the snaps and some combination of Josh Jones or Morgan Burnett getting the other quarter of the snaps in the Nitro. The linebackers were the Packers’ two leading tacklers in the game, with nine and seven total tackles respectively.

Safeties

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix 58, Morgan Burnett 58, Josh Jones 49, Jermaine Whitehead 15

Where is Marwin Evans? He has clearly been surpassed by Whitehead as the team’s number four safety, which is odd.

Speaking of Whitehead, let’s call out his huge play on special teams, when he took a fake punt and laid a marvelous stiff-arm near the line to gain to pick up seven yards and a first down.

Clinton-Dix had one of his better games this season, as the Packers seemed to play a lot of 2-man-under coverages (two deep safeties with man coverage underneath). He had a great interception late in the first half and made a few nice tackles against the run. That said, he was tentative on occasion again in the open field, particularly on a 37-yard run by Isaiah Crowell.

Burnett lined up all over once again, mainly in the the slot and a little bit of Nitro. He also appeared to play a bit of boundary corner after an injury to Davon House, which we will address shortly.

Jones’ play allowed those two-deep safety looks, and he had one of his better games in coverage of his rookie year. He recorded the interception in overtime, but also had two other pass breakups including a crucial one on David Njoku on a play that was originally called a catch but that was successfully challenged by Mike McCarthy. That forced a Browns punt, which Trevor Davis returned 65 yards to set up the tying touchdown.

Cornerbacks

Damarious Randall 57, Davon House 30, Josh Hawkins 11

I thought this was a typo in the NFL’s stats originally, but the Packers apparently only gave 98 snaps to their traditional cornerbacks in this game. That equates to at least 18 snaps on which the Packers had just one of them on the field, which probably corresponds to the plays in which Burnett had to line up outside.

House’s injury obviously played a part here, but the fact is that the Packers did not trust Donatello Brown or Lenzy Pipkins enough to play either one of them on defense in this game, even with several of their top corners out.

Randall’s coverage on Josh Gordon was marvelous all day long, however. Both of Gordon’s catches on the first drive came against zone coverage, so Randall allowed just one reception on a quick slant that moved the chains on third down. Perhaps learning from that play, he pressed Gordon with a magnificent jam on third-and-two in overtime, erasing Kizer’s initial read and forcing him to go through his progressions. That led to Matthews’ pressure and the Jones interception.