The Green Bay Packers still possess the league’s slowest group of wide receivers. This was a problem that began to manifest three seasons ago, and hasn’t improved at all since.
The Packers have been infamous for their defensive shortcomings over the years, and with good reason. Dom Capers and the rest of the defensive staff did a consistently poor job of getting the defense on par with the rest of the league. But what has been equally disappointing in recent years has been the offense’s inability to strike fear into opposing defenses, despite Aaron Rodgers‘ greatness.
Mike McCarthy has a small share of blame when it comes to the offense’s poor play. McCarthy is known to have the simplest scheme in the NFL and has done a poor job of adapting to the league’s quicker defenses.
But this is not to say that he has had much to work with. The personnel department trotted out a wide receiving group over the last several seasons which included four players that share essentially the same skill set. Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Davante Adams and Geronimo Allison comprised the most one-dimensional air attack in the NFL and didn’t give defenses anything to game plan for.
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The Packers have tried to rectify the problem by signing three different free agent tight ends in three straight years. Jared Cook took a while to get going, but once he did, he became a force for the Packers towards the end of his lone season in Green Bay and eventually in the playoffs. Ted Thompson let him out the door, and brought in Martellus Bennett only to quickly realize that Bennett had no interest in being a Packer after Rodgers went down.
Now, they are rolling the dice on Jimmy Graham. The former basketball player at the University of Miami is the best tight end Rodgers has ever played with, but it does not mean the Packers’ offense will be any better than it was a year ago. Nelson’s departure was necessary after the signing of Graham for salary cap purposes, but the Packers haven’t replaced him with anyone who can provide any speed on the boundary.
Adams is strong in a number of areas, but lacks the top end speed to scare anybody on the outside. Cobb was never the fastest player in the league to begin with, but early in his career possessed elite agility and quickness that made him extremely challenging to cover. Allison is essentially a clone of Adams, and Trevor Davis has never flashed even the slightest bit of ability at wide receiver.
It’s not like the team will be in a position to add a speedster at wide receiver in this year’s draft either. Because of the countless deficiencies on the roster, Brian Gutekunst will have to prioritize other positions before making a game-changing move at wide receiver. The Packers will have to draft a cornerback early.
They will also have to draft a capable edge rusher to help improve the team’s non-existent pass rush. The Packers will need an offensive tackle should they decide to part with Bryan Bulaga. Bulaga has suffered three ACL injuries during his career and simply can’t be trusted to stay on the field for a full season. The Packers also need depth at tight end, and a linebacker who can actually run a 40-yard dash in under 6.5 years.
The Packers, in all likelihood, will be the same offensive group from top to bottom that they have been over the last three seasons. The team’s best offensive weaponry will again be Rodgers dropping back to pass, not finding an open receiver, and improvising in ways only he can to eventually find a narrowly open receiver. The Packers are also betting on inexperienced, injury-prone running backs to provide balance to the offense.
The re-arrival of Joe Philbin as offensive coordinator will be helpful, but does not cure all that ails. Philbin was in charge of the offense from 2007-2011, during which the Packers boasted one of the league’s most feared offenses for four straight years. But until the Packers add some speed on the outside, they won’t have much to scare opposing defenses with.