Aaron Jones’ big game helped the Green Bay Packers win their fourth game in a row in Week 8.
The Packers are an impressive 7-1, but there are many things to improve on as the second half of the season gets started.
Here are some positives and negatives from Week 8.
Positive: Aaron Jones
It’s almost as if Aaron Jones was the best running back the Packers have had in recent years. The previous coaching regime, for whatever reason, couldn’t understand this reality. Matt LaFleur and Nathaniel Hackett have untapped the former UTEP running back’s outstanding potential. The Packers, for the first time under Aaron Rodgers, have an actual running game.
Jones is just a different type of player in the open field. Defenses are undoubtedly going to pay more attention to Jones as the season wanes on, and in the playoffs. But with Davante Adams returning to the lineup, Jones will be able to face defenses that aren’t necessarily stacking the box.
Negative: Mike Pettine
It just needs to be said: Mike Pettine is not getting it done as the defensive coordinator of the Packers. The turnovers the defense is forcing is great to see, but the amount of yards the team is giving up is unacceptable. There is too much talent across the unit for the team to get shredded up and down the field by Matt Moore.
Pettine is an upgrade from Dom Capers, sure. But against strong offensive lines and above-average quarterback play, the defense is far from special. Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith have had great games, but Kevin King, Kenny Clark, and Rashan Gary continue to leave so much to be desired. Against the Rams, 49ers, or Saints in a potential playoff game, Pettine’s defense will get torched.
Positive: Matt LaFleur
The Green Bay offense looks like a different group under Matt LaFleur. Aaron Rodgers still holds the ball for too long at stretches, but the route tree has grown exponentially in Green Bay. Under Mike McCarthy, Rodgers might not have eclipsed 50 passing yards against the Chiefs with his sorry group of wide receivers.
Finally, instead of just relying on players to always win their matchups, the Packers are scheming their players open and getting their best players the ball. It is no coincidence that Jones and the running game’s breaking out party is in large part due to the new coaching staff and the effect they have had on the offense.
Negative: Kenny Clark
The Packers’ supposed star in the trenches had another one of his classic no-show performances against an offense missing its left tackle and starting quarterback. Clark is easily not in the discussion as a top-10 defensive tackle in the league and shouldn’t be awarded with an exorbitant contract that makes him one of the highest paid at the position.
If the defense is ever going to be as good as it needs to be, Clark has to be better. He’s never been a good run defender, and is inconsistent as a pass rusher. Against the better offensive lines in the NFL, Clark is rendered average at best. Brian Gutekunst was smart to wait on extending Clark given how little he’s provided this year.
Positive: Position in standings
Halfway through the season, the Packers appear to have a pretty clear path to the playoffs. Even with Minnesota breathing down their neck, a wild-card berth is likely, and a division crown is reasonable. It will be tough for them to secure a first-round bye considering how the 49ers and Saints continue to run over their opponents, but a playoff berth and a home playoff game is now part of the equation.
The Packers do have a matchup with the undefeated Niners coming up, but other than that they will have to hope for outside help to secure themselves a bye in the first round. The Packers may be 7-1 and riding high, but there are clear flaws in this team that perhaps just haven’t quite been exposed yet. Three wins in the playoffs may be too much to reach the Super Bowl.
Negative: Trade deadline
Brian Gutekunst is somewhat justified in not making a move at the deadline. For one thing, Davante Adams will be returning to the lineup against the Chargers, and Jace Sternberger and Ibraheim Campbell will also be added to the depth chart. It’s also worth noting that one never truly knows what went on over the phones as the deadline neared, as the Packers may well have been in on a few players.
But failing to add help at wide receiver, linebacker, kick returner or cornerback is disappointing. Defenses do not have too difficult a game plan to devise against this offense, even with the new schematic advantages.
It’s also frustrating to see the Packers be completely inactive despite being armed with an extra sixth and two extra seventh-round picks. Gutekunst and the Packers may really regret not adding another proven player during the second half of a tense playoff game.