Davante Adams has played his last down as a Packer.
We all know Aaron Rodgers had an occasional case of tunnel vision for his favorite receiver. This year, we can expect the ball to be spread around more to other receivers. Without a clear-cut number 1 receiver, defenses will have a harder time identifying the primary option on each pass play.
Adding a little balance in the passing attack is nice… but it won’t completely offset the loss of Adams.
Adding a little balance to the overall offense might, though.
With a tandem of star running backs in Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon, it seems logical that the Packers will lean on the run more in 2022.
But it won’t just be a consolation prize move made out of necessity – history shows it’s what they should do anyway.
Look at how the Packers offense has fared in the three years since Matt LaFleur took over as head coach:
2019: pass 58% – run 42%
573 pass attempts (6.1 ypa); 411 rushing attempts (4.4 ypc) 376 points (15th)
2020: pass 54% – run 46%
529 pass attempts (7.5 ypa); 443 rushing attempts (4.8 ypc) 509 points (1st)
2021: pass 57% – run 43%
593 pass attempts (6.9 ypa); 446 rushing attempts (4.3 ypc) 450 points (10th)
Under Matt LaFleur, the Packers have passed more than they ran every year. That’s not a big surprise.
What is a bit of a surprise is that in 2020, when they passed the least, their average yards per pass and average yards per rush both increased. Oh, and they had by far the most points per game and led the NFL in scoring.
After an average year of offensive production in 2019, they cut back on their passing volume and saw a huge increase in offensive efficiency and output as a result of running the ball 10% more.
Then, for some reason, they came out in 2021 and reverted to a more pass-happy attack, with predictably diminished results.
Maybe LaFleur was emboldened to pass more after Rodgers broke out of his stretch of three less-than-amazing years of production. Maybe Rodgers audibled to more passes, knowing it was the last dance with his favorite receiver. Maybe some situational analytics in the playbook took precedent over common sense.
Whatever the reason, the results are clear: the Packers did better, by almost every offensive measure, when they ran more.
With Davante Adams gone, there will be less pressure to pass. There will be more flexibility in the offense.
Matt LaFleur knows this and he knows how to build around whatever talent he has. He’s not running a McCarthy offense where pegs have to be forced into holes whether they fit or not. LaFleur built offenses good enough to win with the pass-happy Falcons in 2016 (who threw on 56% of their plays) as well as the ground-focused Titans in 2018 (who threw passes less than they ran) in addition to putting young quarterbacks like Robert Griffin and Jared Goff in a position to be successful without all star supporting casts.
LaFleur is great at adjusting his scheme to the players he has.
Now that he no longer has Adams, he will adjust. While 17 was an immense talent, he did make the offense predictable in some ways and got them away from their more successful running strategy.
Throw in an upgraded defense, and the Packers will have an even easier time sticking to the run to grind out the clock and wear down opponents.
Green Bay’s offense will look a lot different this year, but it just might be more successful.
Bruce Irons has played, coached, and studied football for decades. Best-selling author of books such as A Fan’s Guide To Understanding The NFL Draft, A Fan’s Guide To Understanding The NFL Salary Cap, and A Fan’s Guide To NFL Free Agency Hits And Misses, Bruce contributes to CheeseHeadTV and PackersForTheWin.com.
Follow Bruce Irons on Twitter at @BruceIronsNFL.