GREEN BAY – With the Packers off to more efficient, productive starts on offense lately, another aspect to the benefits emerged on the opening drive against Kansas City last week.
While AJ Dillon carried the ball seven times on the initial TD march, quarterback Jordan Love also recorded completions to five different pass catchers – Jayden Reed, Christian Watson, Tucker Kraft, Dontayvion Wicks and Ben Sims (for the score).
So including Dillon, that's six different offensive weapons who got their hands on the ball within the first half of the first quarter. It's not within the players' control, but getting involved early, right out of the gate, is appreciated and contributes to the sharpness of their game.
"There is something to be said to kind of get in your flow, get in your groove, whatever you want to call it," said Dillon, who's had to wait plenty of times behind Aaron Jones to get the ball on offense. "It gives you a little something, all right, here we go. I'm ready to go, ready to play."
Spreading the ball around early on can't necessarily be planned. First of all, the offense needs to get at least a few first downs to run enough plays on the opening drive just to provide the opportunities.
Head Coach Matt LaFleur can't just dictate a pass play goes here or there, either, as Love's reads and progressions generally decide where the ball ends up.
When all is in sync, it's a combination of the play caller keeping the offense balanced, looking to attack different areas of the field with different guys, and the quarterback keeping the chains moving so they can keep running more plays.
"Certainly when you're putting in these plays, you have an idea of where they could go based on the coverages, but you've got to hit on some of those coverages, and then everything needs to be perfect from a protection standpoint, to the quarterback's rhythm and timing and his decision-making," LaFleur said, referring to the 13-play, 75-yard possession that opened last Sunday night's game.
"It just happened to work out that way, but yeah, all in all it was really good execution."
The six different pairs of hands on the ball after the first drive swelled to nine by the end of the first half as the Packers ultimately put together their most impressive offensive performance of the season, considering the Chiefs came in with a top-five defense in both yards and points allowed.
"I think that's a great sign," Love said of getting so many teammates involved early. "It puts a little bit of pressure on the defense. When you're able to get completions to a lot of different guys, they can't really focus on who they want to cover.
"I think that's just part of our offense. We've got so many weapons, everybody's able to catch the ball and make a play once they get the ball. It's definitely not like I'm picking and choosing who I want to throw the ball to. It's just the way the offense works."
Whom exactly the Packers will have for options Monday night against the Giants remains to be seen. Rookie tight end Luke Musgrave remains on injured reserve for now, and Watson re-injured his hamstring in the fourth quarter against the Chiefs, putting his immediate availability in doubt.
But Jones returned to practice Thursday for the first time since injuring his knee in Week 11 vs. the Chargers, so he could be back sooner than later.
Whoever's out there, the Packers won't be shy about continuing to get the ball in players' hands in various ways. Dillon, Jones, Watson and Reed all have both rushing attempts and receptions this year, giving opponents a lot to prepare for.
"It poses an extra threat to a defense when you never know, is Jayden Reed going to run the ball, is he going to catch the ball, or is he going to block on this one?" Dillon said. "All those guys can do that."
And the earlier each player gets his first crack, the better.
"I just think it gets them into a flow, gives them some confidence," LaFleur said, "and hopefully it goes throughout the entirety of the game."