GREEN BAY – The Packers’ coaches will be trying to beat each other this week.
Well, sort of. They won’t be devising full-fledged game plans, but Head Coach Matt LaFleur’s offensive and defensive staffs are going to spend a portion of the bye week self-scouting their counterparts on the other side of the ball.
The offensive coaches will study the defense, and vice versa, to see what the fresh eyes of an enemy might be noticing in their own game-planning sessions as the 2019 regular season soon hits the home stretch.
“I think it just gives a different perspective of how opponents would attack one side of the ball, where we think there could be holes or potential holes,” LaFleur said on Monday, just after dismissing his players for their week off.
“The focus will be on what we need to do better moving forward, because there’s a lot to improve upon. I think our guys know that as well.”
The Packers are 8-2 and in first place in the NFC North, but there’s no shortage of things to clean up.
The offense continues to lack urgency at times, leading to a delay of game or a timeout. The defense continues to have trouble with crossing routes, as receivers or tight ends are breaking wide open due to coverage failures. LaFleur attributed the struggles on both sides to communication, but in different forms.
Offensively, the play call needs to be sent in sooner, and the communication of substitutions needs to be cleaner so it doesn’t look “chaotic” or “disorganized” on the sideline.
Defensively, the pre- and post-snap communication needs to improve so players know when checks are being made in time to adjust and still defend effectively.
“We’ve just got to make sure our communication is on point,” LaFleur said. “We talk about it all the time and it starts with us coaches.”
On the positive side, LaFleur also wants to focus on what the Packers are doing well and keep those concepts in the forefront. The 1-2 punch at running back with Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams, along with the recent return of top receiver Davante Adams, are the obvious elements.
With other players, LaFleur and his coaches have spent all season continually learning what they do best, and the bye week should cement their handle on all of them.
“What's been cool about our offense is we've found different ways to do it, it seems like almost every week,” he said. “We’ve got to make sure that we continue doing that moving forward because it does present a little bit of a question I think for defenses going in in terms of how we're going to attack them.”
As for the drama that ended each half of Sunday’s game vs. Carolina, LaFleur took the blame for a poor play call on the Williams run from the 1-yard line that was stuffed on the final play of the first half. He confessed the call wasn’t something the offense had practiced against a goal-line defense.
Meanwhile, the defensive goal-line stand featured a stroke of luck, as the front was shifting around and players weren’t set in their stances at the snap. Yet Kyler Fackrell was able to beat the block of Greg Van Roten to make first contact with Christian McCaffrey, while an unblocked Preston Smith swooped in from the outside to help hold McCaffrey out of the end zone.
“Yeah, we were pretty fortunate right there, if I’m being honest, because we weren’t lined up and it kind of threw them off,” LaFleur said. “Kyler made a heck of a play and we had some other guys get in the mix right at the end.”