GREEN BAY – The Packers’ offense is in a mood this week.
“I would say kind of inspired,” running back Aaron Jones said Wednesday in describing the group’s mentality after its worst offensive showing of the season.
“We want to go out there and get back to us. That wasn’t us. We want to be electric. We want to put up big numbers and be explosive. So last week, that’s not what we did, and we want to get back to that.”
Jones and fellow running back Jamaal Williams will certainly play a big part in that effort. While Head Coach Matt LaFleur has chastised himself for not sticking with the run more against the Chargers when the game was still within reach, quarterback Aaron Rodgers wasn’t shy about saying how much the Packers’ 1-2 backfield punch needs to get the ball.
Rodgers pegged 15-20 touches for Jones and 10-15 for Williams, combining both rush attempts and pass receptions, as targets for Sunday’s bounce-back effort vs. Carolina (5-3) at Lambeau Field.
“I think that’s when we’re playing at our best,” Rodgers said. “Matt knows that and I think he said that as well.”
The numbers certainly bear that out. Through nine games, the offensive production of Jones and Williams has mirrored the success of the team.
In the Packers' two losses plus the Week 1 offensive struggle in Chicago, neither Jones nor Williams totaled 60 yards from scrimmage in any of the three games.
In the team’s other six contests, they’ve combined for seven individual performances of 60-plus yards from scrimmage. Plus, they’ve scored 15 of their collective 17 touchdowns in those six games.
So, as the Packers look to reintegrate No. 1 receiver Davante Adams back into the offense – he said his toe injury is “sore” after his first game in a month, but he had no setbacks in working his way toward full health again – the Packers know they need to ride the two offensive weapons most responsible for their first-place status in the NFC North.
“Yeah we’d love to get Davante going, but we can’t get away from what’s got us to this point, especially the last 3-4 games before last Sunday,” Rodgers said. “We have to find a way to get those guys involved, get them feeling good.”
Attacking with Jones and Williams on the ground may be the best place to start against a formidable Carolina defense. The Panthers’ biggest statistical weakness is ranking 26th in the league in rushing yards allowed per game (133.4) and 31st in yards per carry (5.1).
Outside of that, the Panthers have some scary numbers.
For one, they lead the league in sacks with 34 and have seven players with at least three sacks through eight games. Another two players have two sacks each. Their pass-rush impact is widespread.
“There’s a lot of different guys they send at you and they are relentless,” LaFleur said of the Panthers’ pass rushers, who are led by Mario Addison with 6½ sacks and rookie Brian Burns with 4½. “They are hard-charging. They do a great job of getting on edges. Their get-off, how aggressive they are – they’re really good. They just send so many different people. It’s just a platoon of different guys coming at you on each and every snap. We’re going to have our work cut out for us.”
The Packers had put together a strong stretch of pass protection, with Rodgers getting sacked just seven times over six games from Weeks 2-7, but more breakdowns have cropped up the last two games.
Rodgers was sacked eight times over the last two games at Kansas City and LA, and while they don’t all fall on the offensive line, the Chargers’ early surge with their edge rushers set a tone last week the Packers never changed.
“They care about it so deeply I’m sure they were bummed out,” Rodgers said of his offensive linemen. “I was bummed out I didn’t get out of a couple of those that I’ve gotten out of at times in the past.
“But, it was a tough day for all of us and I’m confident we’re all going to bounce back. They’re the energy guys for this locker room, and I’m sure they’re ready to get back out there on Sunday.”
The Green Bay Packers held a portion of Wednesday's practice outdoors on Ray Nitschke Field.
The other challenge with the Panthers is their takeaway rate. Their 19 rank third in the league, including 12 interceptions, which ranks second. As with sacks, Carolina has multiple guys making plays, with four players posting at least two interceptions thus far in 2019.
Rodgers noted the combination of the Panthers’ successful pass rush with their coverage scheme has produced the obvious success.
“When you know the pass rush is getting home, you can play a little more aggressive, because you know the ball has to come out at certain times,” Rodgers said. “The other thing is a lot of their coverages, they have vision to the football.
“When you have a pass rush and then you have eyes to the quarterback, you’re going to be in position I think to have your hands on the football a lot more often.”
Rodgers’ counter is to use his eyes to disguise where he’s going with the ball, but that also requires time from a protection standpoint. It all goes hand in hand.
Just as the Packers’ best games this year have required their running back duo to lead the way offensively.
“We just want to go out and show the team we are,” Jones said. “We didn’t like the result (last week), so we’re determined it’s something we’re going to fix.”