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Can Packers’ no-huddle offense find yet another gear?

Posted Aug 20, 2014

Return game, run defense also in spotlight vs. Raiders on Friday

GREEN BAY—The no-huddle offense is meant to stress the defense, but it’s a lot of work for the guys with the ball, too.

It’s not easy running a play every 26 ½ seconds on average over the course of two long drives, which is what the Packers did to open the preseason game in St. Louis last week. Those back-to-back, 12-play possessions by the No. 1 offense ended with a touchdown and field goal.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers confessed after the game he got a little winded, and his offensive linemen certainly recognize the challenge it presents them. They embrace it, but only when it gets results.

“If we don’t score, it’s really annoying,” left tackle David Bakhtiari said on Wednesday. “That’s why I was really (mad) on the second drive that we ended up settling for three points. I mean, yeah, it’s points at the end of the day, but you work that hard, you might as well get seven.”

That’s what the Packers will be after on Friday night in preseason game No. 3, against Oakland at Lambeau Field. Work fast, move the chains and finish.

In last week’s two drives, Rodgers got the ball to six different skill-position players – seven if you count receiver Jordy Nelson, whose 10-yard TD catch was nullified by a penalty.

Running back Eddie Lacy, who had five rushes and two receptions on the first drive, said everyone on offense was “on the same page.” Spreading the ball around while moving so efficiently would seem to be proof of that.

“Just continuing what we started last week with our tempo, continuing to move the ball like we have, and just really pressing the defense,” receiver Randall Cobb said of what he’s looking for on Friday night. “We have a lot of explosive guys on offense, a lot of playmakers, and we’ll just continue to get those guys the ball and let them do their thing.”

The return game will get attention as well, perhaps with rookie receiver Jeff Janis in the spotlight. Janis got several chances at punt return in last week’s game, but only returned one (for nine yards) with two fair catches and two others going out of bounds.

He also took a few reps in practice this week on kickoff return, a job for which running back DuJuan Harris has been the leading candidate, but Harris’ fumble on a running play against the Rams has perhaps left the door open.

Cobb said Janis has asked him questions about the return game, and the veteran has passed along pointers to a young player who might be able to make an impact there as a rookie, much like Cobb did.

“He could. That will be the coaches’ decision to make. That’ll be their call,” Cobb said. “I do see that he has that ability. He catches the ball well and has great speed. It’ll be great to see what happens with that.”

On defense, the primary curiosity lies with stopping the run, which the Packers have done well through two games, particularly last week. Rams top back Zac Stacy was held to just six yards on six carries, getting tackled in the backfield multiple times.

The Raiders should provide a better assessment, bringing two proven producers at running back in Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden.

“This is the test. This is the test we’ve talked about in meetings,” outside linebacker Julius Peppers said. “These guys are going to run the ball. It will tell us where we’re at as far as stopping the run. We’re excited to see where we’re at ourselves.”

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