Something was definitely amiss for quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the offense for the Green Bay Packers in 2015. The Packers were uncharacteristically ranked just 23rd in total offense under head coach Mike McCarthy.
That was sort of an anomaly, as the Packers had been ranked in the top 10 in total offense in eight of the nine years McCarthy had coached the team prior to last season.
More shocking than that, was the fact that the Packers were ranked just 25th in passing offense. The Packers were never out of the top 10 in that category since McCarthy took over as head coach in 2006.
Rodgers did not have a typical season in 2015, at least based on the high bar he had set for himself previous to last season. Before 2015, No. 12 had put together six consecutive years of having a passer rating of over 100.
In fact, if one looks at the production of Rodgers from 2009-2014, it was truly remarkable. Even in the 2013 season, when Rodgers missed seven games due to a fractured clavicle, he was on his way to another fabulous season, which would have averaged out to 30 touchdown passes versus 11 interceptions for 4,508 yards over 16 games.
Based on that number and adding it together with the other years from 2009 through last season, Rodgers has averaged 35 touchdown passes versus eight picks for 4,364 over the six seasons going into 2015. That adds up to a cumulative passer rating of 108.6.
If one was just looking at the stat sheet on Rodgers in 2015, at first glance, everything would appear to be normal. Why? Because Rodgers threw 31 touchdown passes compared to just eight picks last year. That is very comparable to what No. 12 did over the previous six seasons.
But when you peel back the onion, one can see a number of declining stats.
The yards passing for the 2015 season is one red flag. Rodgers threw for just 3,821 yards last season, which is the lowest of his career, based on a full season.
In addition to that, Rodgers also only threw for an average of 239 yards per game in 2015. That is a steep decline based on the previous six seasons which averaged 279 yards per game.
The passer rating also went way down. In 2015, Rodgers passer rating was just 92.8, which is the lowest of his career since he became a starter in 2008.
Just to compare, the career passer rating for Rodgers is 104.1, which is the top mark in NFL history (based on 1,500 pass attempts).
Rodgers also averaged just 6.7 yards gained per pass attempt in 2015. Once again, that was the lowest mark of his starting career by a wide margin. Rodgers had never been below the 7.5 mark before this season.
Rodgers also averaged just 11 yards per pass completion this season, which is also a career low.
The big plays were also missing for Rodgers and the Packers on offense in 2015. No. 12 was tied for 25th in the NFL with just six completions of 40-plus yards.
There were a number of reasons for why Rodgers and the Green Bay offense struggled.
It all started when wide receiver Jordy Nelson went down with a torn ACL in the preseason. No. 87 was the deep threat for Rodgers in the offense of the Packers and also his most trusted receiver.
Because of the injury to Nelson, the Packers re-signed James Jones to help bolster the loss of Nelson. Although Jones had a decent season for the Packers in 2015 (50-890-8), the receiving corp as a whole had a very disappointing season.
Randall Cobb struggled to make an impact as the lead receiver of the Packers most of the 2015 season, as he had 79 catches for just 829 yards and six touchdowns.
But as disappointing as those numbers are, no one has been more disappointing than second-year receiver Davante Adams. Yes, No. 17 struggled with ankle problems for a number of games. But that doesn’t excuse all the dropped passes and the lack of production.
Adams ended up with just 50 catches for 483 and one touchdown.
To be fair, the receiving corp as a whole have had injury issues. Nelson tore his ACL. Cobb hurt his shoulder in the preseason. Adams had the ankle injury. Jones had some hamstring issues.
Another key injury occurred when rookie wide receiver Ty Montgomery sprained his ankle versus the San Diego Chargers in Week 6.
Montgomery was never able to return from that injury and was placed on injured reserve late in the season.
That injury turned out to be a turning point, as the Packers were 6-0 at that juncture of the season. No. 88 was just starting to find his niche in the offense of the Packers too.
The Packers used the 6’0″, 216-pound Montgomery out wide, in the slot and in the backfield. He was a useful weapon for Rodgers to have, as he created a lot of his yardage after the catch because of his running back size dimensions. That is also why he was such a good return man as well.
The Packers went 4-6 after that injury to Montgomery.
Besides the passing game issues, the running game was also inconsistent.
Eddie Lacy had the worst season of his three-year career, as he rushed for just 758 yards and three touchdowns, plus caught just 20 passes. This was after averaging 1,159 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns his first two years in the NFL. No. 27 also averaged 19 more receptions per season the two previous years.
James Starks had some nice moments in 2015, as he and Lacy were a tandem again, but he also fumbled four times while he gained 601 yards.
If you add together the inconsistent passing game and the inconsistent running game in 2015, it all adds up to bad play on the offensive line of the Packers.
The Packers were nicked up by injuries all season long on the line. No position was spared. Adding to those woes, the team was really hurt by a lack of depth at the offensive tackle position. That situation raised it’s ugly head in the regular season game against the Arizona Cardinals, when both starters, left tackle David Bakhtiari and right tackle Bryan Bulaga were out of the game.
The result? Rodgers was hit 12 times, sacked eight times and fumbled three times (two of which were returned for touchdowns).
Going into the 2016 season, the Rodgers and the Packers will be getting Nelson and Montgomery back at wide receiver. Plus, the Packers are also exited about the showing that both third-year receivers Jeff Janis and Jared Abbrederis had this past postseason. The Packers also drafted another wide receiver/kick returner in the draft, when they selected Trevor Davis of California.
The 6’1″, 189-pound Davis really opened some eyes due to his great performance at the NFL Scouting Combine.
At the combine, Davis ran a 4.42 in the 40-yard dash (third-best among receivers), plus leaped an outstanding 38.5 inches in the vertical jump. Davis also did an outstanding job in all of the drills, especially catching and tracking the football. When the Packers worked out Davis themselves, he was timed in the mid-4.3 range in the 40.
The Packers also added a seam-stretching tight end in free agency, when they added Jared Cook, formerly of the St. Louis Cardinals and Tennessee Titans. The 6’4″, 235-pound Cook ran a 4.50 40-yards dash at the 2009 combine. In his career, Cook has 73 receptions for 3,503 yards and 16 touchdowns.
The Packers also added some depth for the offensive tackle position, as they traded up in the second round to select Jason Spriggs of Indiana with pick No. 48. Spriggs was a four-year starter at Indiana and he started 47 times in 48 games at left tackle for the Hoosiers.
In the sixth round, the Packers selected picked offensive tackle Kyle Murphy of Stanford. The 6’6″, 305-pound Murphy started at both left and right tackle for the Cardinal. He was named first team All-Pac-12 in 2015 at left tackle and second team All-Pac-12 in 2014 at right tackle.
Based on what they did in the offseason, the Packers seem to be in a much better place in terms of how effective the offense will be in 2016. Rodgers should also be able to be the same type of quarterback he was before last season.
I wanted to get an opinion about that situation from the person who runs this website, NFL scout Chris Landry. I was able to speak with Landry earlier this week on 620 WDAE’s Steve Duemig Show, which was guest-hosted by Todd Wright.
“I’m not worried about Aaron,” Landry said. “I’m more concerned about the offensive line. That will dictate how effective they will be running the football and that’s going to determine the protection level and what he [Rodgers] can do in the passing game.
“Listen, you never know, but you hope for good health, better health. They [the Packers] have got weapons. I think they have better weapons than they have had in the past. But to me, the success of the offense is going to come down to the offensive line play and how well they are able to hold up there.
“If they do, this offense can flip around and be one of the eight or ten best offenses in the league and be a big, big factor for them going deep into the playoffs. If they don’t, they won’t even win their division, because I think this Minnesota team is pretty good and pretty consistent.
“I think it’s pretty clear where the issues are. I don’t have a crystal ball, but I like at least some of the things I’ve seen. The offensive line to me is one you have to see and grow and develop. They won’t be as good in Week 1 as they will be in Week 7 or 8, but I want to see the progress there. That will determine ultimately how good this team will be.”