With a quarter of the season already in the books after this weekend’s slate of games, the Green Bay Packers are entering a crucial three-game stretch before their bye week.
An organization that underwent a thorough cleaning of house on the coaching staff in the offseason must re-energize a team that has looked largely confused and out-coached through the first three games of the regular season. Adjustments to the game plan are especially needed in light a few concerning figures affecting the team’s all-around performance in the early going, especially among one of the team’s impressive units a season ago.
Here are three numbers that Green Bay must address immediately against Buffalo this week.
The number of catches Marcedes Lewis has recorded through the first three games of his Packers career.
When Green Bay signed the veteran tight end in the offseason, there were visions of an increase in 12-personnel sets. A praised run blocker, Lewis was expected to bring stability in that respect while increasing the offense’s productivity in short-yardage and goal line sets.
So far, any ideas of Lewis becoming an integral part of the offense have been far-fetched. The Packers haven’t used 12 personnel formations with regularity and Lance Kendricks has totaled far more snaps than Lewis. Meanwhile, Lewis has just one target in a mere 23 snaps over three games. Green Bay has struggled in key third-and-short opportunities, and a big-bodied tight end that can block and catch would seem to be a logical weapon in these situations.
Here’s hoping that Green Bay finds a way to employ Lewis sooner rather than later.
Football Outsiders’ ranking of Green Bay’s defensive line according to “adjusted line yards” and “stuffed percentage.”
The defensive line was starting to be considered as one of the NFL’s best heading into the 2018 season after seeing significant growth from younger players like Kenny Clark and Dean Lowry. However, in three contests this season, the line has been far from a strength.
The interior of the Packers’ line has been noticeably bullied early in the season and took yet another hit when Muhammad Wilkerson was lost for the season during last Sunday’s game against Washington. Each game has been a regression for the defensive line, which is allowing an average of 124.3 yards rushing per game. It hit a low point last week when 33-year old Adrian Peterson rushed for 120 of the Redskins’ 166 yards on the ground.
Furthermore, the stats back up the disappointing nature of the line. Football Outsiders ranks the unit last in the NFL with 5.19 adjusted yards allowed per carry. As a reference, New Orleans tops the list with just 2.95 yards per rush. In addition, the Packers rank dead last thus far in stuffed percentage, the rate at which the defensive line stops ballcarriers either at or behind the line of scrimmage. The Packers do so just 8% of the time, while the NFL’s best unit, Philadelphia, boasts a 35% clip.
Green Bay’s defense hasn’t proven it can rush the passer with any consistency. It can’t afford to struggle against the run as well.
The average number of yards the Green Bay offense has needed in order to convert on third down attempts this season.
According to Pro Football Reference, the Packers have averaged exactly 10.0 yards to go over 41 third downs faced this season. By comparison, the NFL’s average third down distance in 2018 is 7.23 yards. This stat alone paints a clear picture of just how difficult a predicament Green Bay has created for itself to sustain offensive drives throughout the first three games. While the Packers have gained a little over seven yards per third down attempt, it’s still not enough to earn a new set of downs most of the time.
In addition to reducing penalties, the simple answer to improve this trend is to be more effective on first and second downs. The Packers are more than two yards below league average on those downs and rank 30th in the league in rushing attempts, a method of creating manageable third downs. Aaron Jones averaged seven yards per carry last week, yet only received six hand-offs. Green Bay’s most explosive running back must see the field more often this week and help the team’s overall efficiency and time of possession.