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DVOA shows a sluggish passing offense for the Packers through two weeks

Much of the inefficient offensive play from 2018 has carried over so far.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

All stats, advanced or otherwise, don’t really work after just two football games. The sample size is too small, no one knows how to adjust for strength of opponent, and generally speaking, the numbers are just liars. At least for a few weeks.

With all of those caveats out of the way, I still like Football Outsiders’ DVOA for a quick glimpse into what may be going right or wrong. DVOA is fundamentally an efficiency stat and we can at least glean how efficient the team and its players have been, even if playing the Bears and their stellar defense (and anti-stellar offense) are big contributing factors.

To anyone who has watched the first two games, It’s no surprise that the Green Bay Packers’ passing offense has struggled, with Aaron Rodgers sitting at 15th in DVOA with a slightly below average -2.5%. He’s also 14th in DAVE, their efficiency counting stat. Given the level of competition Rodgers has faced, it’s not a terrible start. Last season he finished 12th (5.2%) and if he can improve his performance against some of the weaker defenses they face in the middle of the season, he may find himself in the top ten shortly.

The biggest threat in the passing game is, not surprisingly, Davante Adams, who is 30th in DVOA and 22nd in DAVE. It’s not surprising that Adams hasn’t been hyper-efficient as the passing offense as a whole has been inefficient, but given the level of opposition — Kyle Fuller and Xavier Rhodes specifically — that’s a good showing. More disappointing is, well, everyone else.

The bomb MVS caught against Chicago was a great play, and led directly to the Packers’ victory, but outside of that bomb he has been extremely inefficient. MVS is catching just 58% of targets for paltry sums, ranking him 70th in DVOA with -50.3%. Geronimo Allison has somehow been worse, and while he does have a TD, he also has a costly fumble in only 5 receptions. His -52.7% DVOA would be one of the league’s worst if he had enough work to qualify.

As for the tight ends and running backs, Jimmy Graham actually ranks 10th on the strength of the PI penalty he drew against Chicago. By EPA that was the single most important play of that game, but there is definitely a sample size issue here as well. Graham has been efficient with his catches and a penalty, but he’s hauled in just 38% of targets and no-showed completely against the Vikings, like every other Packer TE. Meanwhile, Marcedes Lewis is 37th with -59.3%. He may still excel as a blocker, but as a pass-catcher he is strictly a gimmick player.

Much was made in the offseason of using the running backs more in the passing game, and the Packers have been true to their word so far, but running back receptions tend to be somewhat inefficient by their nature. While it’s better to hit Aaron Jones than to take a sack, it’s ultimately better to his an outside receiver down the field. The usual suspects like James White and Austin Ekeler dominate the running back receiving list, and they’re pretty efficient, but Jones is just 25th with an almost exactly average receiving DVOA. Jamaal Williams, always an underrated pass catcher, has been much better with 25.5%, good for 13th. If you ever find yourself wondering how Williams gets himself more work year after year, it’s because of his blocking and receiving.

Overall, the passing game been Adams and a bunch of no-shows, especially given the fact that Jimmy Graham has mainly produced while being interfered with. It will be interesting to see what happens against Philly in a few weeks, but it’s disappointing that Allison and MVS could not capitalize against Minny and Chicago with Adams taking the brunt of the coverage.