GREEN BAY – Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers believes the offense is on the verge.
With Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison mending, the team’s rookie receivers settling in, and Rodgers’ own confidence he’ll start playing better, the two-time MVP QB expressed on Thursday the offense is about to turn a corner.
“I told you guys Week 1 it’s going to be a work in progress,” Rodgers said. “I don’t feel like we’re far off.”
He didn’t make any run-the-table proclamations, but Rodgers’ feelings are much like two years ago as the Packers’ midseason four-game losing streak was mercifully ending. Back then, it was the emergence of tight end Jared Cook and the health of the offensive line taking shape that produced the vote of confidence.
This time, even as he rehabbed his injured knee again with the hope of returning to practice full-time on Friday, Rodgers can see the potential from the 321-yard, 23-point second half the Packers put together in the loss at Detroit.
With rookies Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown getting more familiar with up-tempo adjustments, Davante Adams playing like “a different breed,” and Cobb and Allison (hamstring injuries) back at practice on a limited basis, Rodgers believes it’s coming around.
In his view, as soon as it no longer takes multiple possessions to find footing and the offense clicks from the start, the outlook of the whole team will change. It all needs to take root starting Monday night at Lambeau Field against San Francisco.
“We’re very close to getting things going and like I said (in 2016), I’ll say again now, I feel like if we can get off to a better start on offense, it makes the entire squad play with a different type of confidence,” he said. “We need to lead from the front as an offense and as a team, and give our defense an opportunity to pin their ears back and get after the quarterback and make them one-dimensional.
“Now, we need to execute at a higher level, but we’re not far off. This league, the difference between being a great team and an average team is very small. It’s a few plays every game, and the difference between scoring 23 a game and 35 a game is plays that we need to make and we expect to make and I’ll make moving forward.”
Rodgers’ confidence is genuine, just as his disappointment with the Packers’ 23-point scoring average is real. It doesn’t sit well because the offense has settled for, whether made or missed, 16 field-goal attempts and scored just 12 touchdowns. Their 50 percent touchdown rate (8-of-16) in the red zone is tied for 19th in the league rankings.
“We’ve got to punch it in a few more times than that,” said Adams, who leads the team with 37 catches for 425 yards and four TDs. “We’ve got weapons all over the place. We’ve got a bunch in the wide receiver room. I think some young guys emerged last week and did some good things. We have to put the ball in the end zone and finish drives.”
The same factors have played into both the slow starts and red-zone failures – penalties, negative-yardage plays and dropped passes. Rodgers knows he’s lost three fumbles in the last two games as well.
Another added challenge this week is cornerback Richard Sherman, now with San Francisco after so many years in Seattle. Sherman has come back from a 2017 Achilles injury and an early-season calf problem to give the 49ers’ defense a coverage presence of which opposing offenses must be wary.
Packers begin work for 49ers
The Packers were back at practice Thursday ahead of Monday night's game against the San Francisco 49ers.
The way Rodgers sees it, the Seahawks’ “Legion of Boom” may no longer be together, but Sherman is still Sherman. Adams won his share of snaps last week against Detroit’s Darius Slay, and while Sherman may not follow Adams everywhere, particularly when he lines up in the slot, they’ll likely get matched up a fair amount.
“He’s one of the top corners of all-time,” Rodgers said. “His instincts and his intelligence on the field is unmatched. His ability to read route concepts and break on the ball, he’s got incredible ball skills, still. He’s a special guy.
“When he’s on the field, you have to be smart throwing his way. That’s just the type of player he is.”
But Rodgers is more focused on what kind of offense the Packers can be, and he believes it’s getting there. In complimenting the Milwaukee Brewers on their current baseball postseason run, he mentioned how progress and positive vibes can build on one another, and that could be the formula for the Packers as well.
“Like I think we can do here, when you just start to get that momentum going and that confidence up, it’s contagious,” he said. “So we have to find that feeling again in this locker room and get rolling.”