The Green Bay Packers missed the playoffs for the second consecutive season with the great Aaron Rodgers as their starting quarterback. Rodgers wasn’t his regular self, however. In the Packers week one matchup with the Bears, Rodgers hurt his knee.
It was an injury that would bother Rodgers for most of the 2018 season. The numbers don’t lie. Per Football Focus, Rodgers had the most throwaways in 2018 (59) than any QB has had since 2006, the year they started keeping track of the statistic.
Sure, Rodgers finished with 25 TDs, 4,442 yards, and just 2 interceptions, but he wasn’t the same QB we’ve seen in years past, especially when trying to extend plays with his legs.
To start the 2019 season, Rodgers is healthy and ready to go, which presents a challenge in itself for the Bears. He also has a new head coach calling the shots in Matt LaFleur. If the Packers’ offense has any advantage over the Bears’ defense, it’s the fact that no one has seen the LaFleur-Rodgers run offense yet.
The Packers could surprise the Bears with some of their looks and plays.
Each week during the regular season and hopefully, postseason, I will scout the Bears’ opponents. It will be broken down into two articles per week. This week, the Packers present an interesting challenge.
Players to Watch
- Aaron Rodgers always presents a tough challenge. He’s also healthy, which makes him even scarier. How will he play in LaFleur’s offense though? That’s the question? In a new system, there are going to be mistakes made, even by one of the best QBs to ever play the game. Just how many and will the Bears be able to capitalize? Remember, CB Kyle Fuller dropped what would have been a game-ending pick-6 on what ended up being a game-winning drive for the Packers.
- Aaron Jones looks to have a big season in LaFleur’s offense. With the Titans, LaFleur’s offense ran the ball a ton. Under LaFleur, the Titans’ offense ranked 2nd in the NFL in rush% (48.4%). The only team that ranked higher was the Seattle Seahawks (52.8%). The Packers are going to run the football and Jones is going to the bulk of the workload as long as he’s healthy.
- Jimmy Graham has been so disappointing over the last few seasons. He caught 55 passes for 636 yards and 2 TDs in 2018. The good news is he did play in all 16 games for the Packers. He also had 91 targets, which was No. 6 in all of the NFL. The Packers tried to get him the football. Something tells me they will try to do that again in 2019. Graham is too big and talented not to try.
- Geronimo Allison is going to be the Packers’ slot guy in 2019. He saw a ton of targets early on last year. Allison played on 75% of the Packers’ offensive snaps in weeks 1-4 in 2018 before getting hurt. Rodgers has always talked his game up as well. Look for No. 12 to target Allison on Thursday with the rest of the receivers being fairly young and inexperienced outside of Adams.
How Will LaFleur’s Offense Be Different?
As I mentioned above, LaFleur loves to run the football. He’s even gone as far to say that he wants to run the football on early downs to create balance.
“We want to assemble our offense through the running game,” LaFleur said. “I think it takes a lot of pressure off the quarterback. If we can stay balanced on first and second down, I think it’s an advantage for the offense.”
The Packers face one of the most difficult rushings schedules of any team in 2019. It may be difficult for LaFleur to run the football as much as he wants, especially with Aaron Rodgers under center.
After following the Packers closely this training camp and preseason, there are three obvious changes that will take place for them on offense:
- RBs will be more involved in the passing game
- Quicker from huddle-to-snap (increased tempo)
- More outside the pocket plays
How Will Packers Attack Bears?
Vic Fangio is no longer the defensive coordinator, but the Bears defense is still difficult to game plan for. How may the Packers attack the Bears? By utilizing Aaron Jones’ ability as a route runner and pass catcher.
Jones caught 30 passes in 2014 and 28 passes in 2016 at the University of Texas at El Paso. The skill has always been there for Jones, Mike McCarthy just didn’t put those skills to good use. If LaFleur is telling the truth, then Jones may be the Packers’ second-leading receiver behind Adams by the end of 2019.
In 2018, Jones saw fewer snaps than Jamaal Williams on passing downs. That is going to change in a big way this season.
When Packers RB and El Paso's own Aaron Jones (@Showtyme_33) isn't running drills at training camp, he's focused on his pass-catching skills in an effort to be a more well-rounded back. #KFOX14Sports pic.twitter.com/mFkSxJy6i1
— Patrick Chalvire (@PatrickKFOX14) July 27, 2019
Check out this video of Jones catching passes in college.
LaFleur is going to get him involved in the passing game and it could be the way the Packers try to neutralize the Bears defense on Thursday night.
Nick is the editor-in-chief at TheLoopSports.com. He is also a Chicago Sports fanatic, avid sports bettor, fantasy sports nut, and totally didn’t try to sell his soul on eBay (which he’s still waiting to get back by the way). For more fun, follow him on Twitter @PetroTLS.