Packers have need and ability to 'shorten the game'
Jay Hodgson, Packers contributor
Eddie Lacy.Photo: Image by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Earlier this week, I wrote about the appearance of another injury bug hitting the Green Bay Packers.
This weekend against the Browns, the Packers are already without some key players on defense, and we’re waiting to hear about a key player on offense.
We already know that wide receiver Randall Cobb is out for at least eight weeks, but James Jones might not be available this weekend.
In fact, the injury bug may be so severe, Tom Silverstein of the Journal Sentinel wrote that the Packers may not have 46 healthy bodies to field an entire active team.
There is little sympathy in the NFL. Injuries are part of the game, and coaches and general managers need to build depth for such occasions.
Opposing teams aren’t going to play short-handed or with one arm tied behind their back to make it fair. Many of them lick their chops when facing injury-depleted teams.
Due to the nature of the NFL, especially in the salary cap era, roster depth is usually built on rookies.
According to Tyler Dunne of the Journal Sentinel, the extraordinary depth that Ted Thompson has built stems from fourteen rookies on the roster, which exceeds the NFL average of 8.9.
The Packers don’t get the luxury of waiting until their starters heal. They must play the games, and their opponents are surely waiting.
In such cases of injury depletion, many coaches often adjust their game plans. With Randall Cobb definitely out, and James Jones possibly out, the Packers won’t have all of their passing weapons at their disposal.
Therefore, it makes perfect sense that they should rely on their newly emerging running game behind rookie Eddie Lacy and a gelling offensive line that includes fellow rookie David Bakhtiari.
This new power running game has two very important game-changing characteristics.
First, it takes the pressure off of Aaron Rodgers and the passing game. Even the best quarterback in the league can’t do everything by himself. He appreciates a little helping hand.
Second, it does what Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells calls “shortening the game.”
A power running game usually keeps the clock rolling because the runners stay in bounds and fewer passes hit the ground. It’s a ball control offense. Each drive may last seven to eight minutes.
Essentially, it bleeds the clock out on the opponent. Stronger, faster, more experienced, and healthier players can’t do anything when the clock has expired.
In an average NFL game, each team usually gets around thirteen possessions each. However, shortening the game with long drives reduces the number of times each team gets the ball. Maybe each team only has eight possessions.
That is the key.
Even though the Packers’ offense is banged up, they have to help out their banged up defense. The offense has to help keep the defense off the field as much as possible.
The youngsters on defense have held up very well, but no team should ever put the balance of a game on a ragtag team of inexperienced rookies. The Packers have the ability to protect these rookies.
If the Packers hope to build on their little two-game winning streak this week, they’ll have to rely on Eddie Lacy to grind out some tough yards and shorten the game.
The power running game isn’t only advantageous during this little injury bug. It’s also a huge advantage later on during the cold months of the season.
By developing the power running game now, and building confidence in it, they will be well-equipped to win games in the snow and ice when passing isn’t easy.
They’ll also, hopefully, have developed that killer instinct when it comes to the playoffs when they will be facing some very high-powered offenses.
I’m not a big believer in moral victories or silver linings. However, with the current injury situation, the Packers will be forced into shortening the games.
This could be a good thing. Once they develop this ability, and trust in themselves that they have it, they will be extremely difficult to beat down the stretch.