Packers have improvement in mind coming out of bye week

Injuries, inconsistency have contributed to team’s 2-3 start

Packers vs. Raiders - Week 5

GREEN BAY – After possessing the latest possible bye the past two seasons, the Packers finally came out on the early end of the NFL's scheduling gambit this year.

And it couldn't have come at a better time.

Green Bay entered its Week 6 bye sitting at 2-3 after Monday night's 17-13 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders, the first time the Packers have lost heading into their bye week in Head Coach Matt LaFleur's five seasons at the helm.

While the break offers players a chance to heal, LaFleur and his coaching staff will have a chance to take stock of where the Packers stand after an up-and-down first quarter of the season.

Speaking to the media on Tuesday, LaFleur said he plans to use the open week to dive into his team's tendencies while also studying league trends in hopes of finding ways to help Green Bay's offense start faster. So far, the Packers have scored just 26 points in the first half compared to 87 in the second.

"We've got five games that we can really look back at," LaFleur said. "We've just got to take a good hard look at maybe how our opponents are seeing us and what teams are doing to us from a defensive perspective that is giving us some problems, and maybe we can get in front of some of these things so they don't re-occur."

The reasons behind Green Bay's 2-3 start are complex. While the Packers won't use youth or injuries as an excuse, it's worth mentioning their top four players on the offensive side of the ball have all missed time with injuries.

Left tackle David Bakhtiari (knee), left guard Elgton Jenkins (knee), receiver Christian Watson (hamstring) and running back Aaron Jones (hamstring) have combined to miss 12 games, with Bakhtiari already ruled out for the remainder of the season.

It's pushed more onto the plate of first-time starting quarterback Jordan Love and a hungry, but still developing, supporting cast.

Love got off to a prolific start as Green Bay's new QB1, completing 29-of-52 for 396 yards with six touchdowns and zero interceptions in his first two games, but has thrown six INTs in Green Bay's last three contests.

The offense currently ranks 28th in total yards (281.6 yards per game) but 14th in scoring (22.6 ppg). While Green Bay has struggled on the ground without Jones (81.6 ypg), the Packers have turned around their red-zone (62.5%, tied for ninth) and goal-to-go (90%, tied for sixth) offenses from last year.

"It's good to have a bye week around this time, so we'll be able to reset, look at the things we did good, look at the things we did bad and just be hard on yourself," Jenkins said. "We've got a lot of talent on the offensive side of the ball, the defensive side of the ball, we've just got to do our 1/11th, do our job and go out there and execute."

The Packers have battled injuries on defense, as well, with their returning two All-Pros – cornerback Jaire Alexander (back) and linebacker De'Vondre Campbell (ankle) – missing a combined four games.

Although Alexander returned against Las Vegas, Green Bay finished the game down its other starting inside linebacker, Quay Walker (knee), and safety Darnell Savage (calf).

The Packers held Las Vegas largely in check but still enters the bye ranked 27th against the run (143.4 ypg) after allowing 200-plus rushing yards in losses to Atlanta and Detroit. Green Bay is ninth in pass defense (194.4 ypg) and tied for eighth in sacks (15).

"Only thing we can do is just (go) up from here and be critical of ourselves and get better from here," defensive lineman Kenny Clark said. "We're definitely going to look at ourselves and be critical about ourselves and get better."

Perhaps the biggest positive for Green Bay thus far has been the return of fifth-year linebacker Rashan Gary, who leads the defense with seven quarterback hits and 4½ sacks despite playing just 107 defensive snaps (30%).

The Packers have been cautious with Gary since he returned from the torn anterior cruciate ligament he suffered last November in Detroit, but he's parlayed patience into production.

Gary made his first start of the year against the Raiders and played a season-high 30 snaps. In the fourth quarter, the 6-foot-5, 277-pound linebacker sacked quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo on third down to knock Las Vegas out of scoring territory.

"After five games, we're growing," Gary said. "We're still fixing mistakes but we're right where we want to be. It's still early season. We still got everything that we want in front of us. We just gotta lock down and be consistent."

The Packers hope to have Jones, Walker and Savage back after the bye but also recognize it's going to take the entire roster – not just one or two players – to bounce back in a big way.

With 12 straight games waiting on the other side of this week's bye, the players know it's time to pull together.

"I'm just gonna think about ways I can improve myself," said receiver Christian Watson of his plans for the bye week. "If I can find a couple ways to improve my game a little bit and be better – and more guys do that – then we're going to be a better football team, week in and week out.

"We just gotta keep finding ways to get better. It's still early in the season; still got a lot more season to go. We just gotta be better."


Action Needed: Update your Packers Mobile App!

Fans attending any games during the 2023 season should update their Packers mobile app due to important upgrades and enhancements.