Starter Pack: Rodgers forced to adjust

October, 15, 2013
10/15/13
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A roundup of what’s happening on the Green Bay Packers beat.

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- On Monday, after it became apparent the Packers were going to have to play without receiver Randall Cobb for four to eight weeks, we looked at how it might impact their offense.

Thanks to ESPN Stats & Information, we can define that even more clearly now.

Entering Sunday’s game against the Baltimore Ravens, where Cobb and receiver James Jones (knee) both left the game in the first half, the Packers had utilized a three-receiver set on 90 percent of their plays. No other team in the league used three receivers more often.

And almost always, it had been the same three receivers -- Cobb, Jones and Jordy Nelson. They combined to play 872 snaps in the first five games of the season. The only other receivers to take the field were Jarrett Boykin (65 snaps) and Jeremy Ross (7), who is no longer on the team.

What’s more, the Packers relied almost exclusively on four players -- Cobb, Jones, Nelson and tight end Jermichael Finley -- in the passing game. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers has targeted each of them at least 29 times this season. No other Packers player had gotten more than seven targets.

Rodgers combined to throw 79 percent of his passing attempts -- excluding spikes of throwaways -- to the big four. Rodgers completed 69.6 percent of his passes to that foursome, averaged 10.4 yards per attempt and threw all 10 of his touchdown passes to them. On the other 21 percent of his targets, he completed just 59.5 percent and averaged 5.6 yards per attempt with no touchdowns.

Now, Rodgers may be forced to rely on some other targets.

“We’re going to run our offense,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “That’s important. We have players that you feature, and then we have players that have roles. Our quarterback runs a system the way it’s supposed to be run. He throws the ball where it’s supposed to go. The people that are in there need to get open in the passing game, and we need to keep running it and running it with the attitude, with the finish that we have been. That part, our offense won’t look any different. There will just be some numbers that are changed out there.”

Elsewhere:
  • We also looked at how the latest player to go down -- linebacker Nick Perry (foot) -- will impact the defense and further examined the hot topics following the Ravens game in our weekly ESPN.com Upon Further Review piece.
  • At ESPNWisconsin.com, Jason Wilde wrote that “for the third time in four years [the Packers] are facing a health-care crisis. Unlike the U.S. government, however, they’re not about to be shut down.”
  • In the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Weston Hodkiewicz noted that defensive coordinator Dom Capers views Mike Neal, who began playing outside linebacker only a few months ago, as the veteran among the group now that Perry and Clay Matthews are sidelined.
  • In the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Tyler Dunne, who was the first to report that Cobb had fractured his fibula, wrote that in a season filled with injuries Monday’s news might have been the most significant blow to date. Bob McGinn gave high marks to the linebacker group in his review of Sunday’s win over the Ravens.

Rob Demovsky

ESPN Green Bay Packers reporter

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