The Packers can steal a lot from Sunday's games
The Packers don't play until Monday night, but plenty went down over the weekend which affects their short- and long-term outlook.
Tonight, the Green Bay Packers will play their first Monday Night Football game of the season, a tilt with the Las Vegas Raiders and #oldfriend Davante Adams. The Leap previewed the matchup extensively last week, so today's edition of the newsletter will focus on the important developments from the weekend that will affect the team moving forward.
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Based on Sunday's games, what can the Packers take from the NFL's top offenses?
Jason B. Hirschhorn: While the Packers have systematically remodeled their offensive roster to feature young, explosive athletes, they still lack speed in some areas relative to the league's top offenses.
Take the Miami Dolphins, who have one of the fastest receiving corps in league history. While only Christian Watson approaches the speed of Tyreek Hill or Jaylen Waddle among the Packers' weapons, the two groups at least prioritize that physical tool in one way or another. However, Miami also hunts for speedsters for their backfield, a notable departure from Green Bay.
The value of electric playmakers in both position groups becomes apparent seemingly every time the Dolphins take the field. A simple motion can move the linebackers just out of position, the offensive line clears a sufficient opening, and then the speed takes care of the rest.
Green Bay could exploit defenses in the same way with an injection of speed into the backfield. Aaron Jones has enough juice to make these sorts of runs, but his hamstring injury has effectively made him a part-time player until further notice. AJ Dillon, however, never offered that degree of juice and never will. If the Packers want to revive their ground game this season, they might need to do more than hope Jones makes a full recovery after the bye.
To do so, Green Bay will probably have to look outside the building. The trade deadline arrives on Halloween, so a deal would have to come together in the not-too-distant future. Multiple potential targets highlighted by The Leap in September have come off the market while some others don't provide top-end speed. Still, this direction could offer the best, most realistic path toward an explosive, versatile run game.
What, if anything, do you expect to change for the Packers offense this week?
JBH: In a short period of time, the near-term outlook for Christian Watson has shifted in a positive direction. A week ago, Watson's hamstring seemed likely to limit him to a part-time role until some point after the Packers' Week 6 bye. That perception tracked with the team's conservative reputation when it comes to player health, particularly with soft-tissue injuries. Given that Watson dealt with hamstring injuries as a rookie as well, it seemed a fait accompli that Green Bay would keep him on a "pitch count."
However, the Packers had a surprise in store when head coach Matt LaFleur issued the injury report on Friday. Unlike several of his ailing teammates, Watson came off the report entirely, removing any doubt about his status heading into Monday's game.
The Packers might still exercise some caution with Watson's snap count but likely not to the same degree as previously expected. Watson could realistically play over half the offensive snaps against the Raiders and perhaps even hit the two-thirds mark. That should open up more of the playbook given his top-shelf speed and the gravity that creates for the defense.
Still, some of the ways the Packers could have deployed Watson on limited snaps still apply now. In particular, LaFleur can dial up the "heat-spear" concept with Watson running the deep route. That exact concept proved highly effective for other teams this weekend, most notably the Cincinnati Bengals.
With the game close and the offense in need of a jumpstart, Bengals head coach Zac Taylor dialed up heat-spear with Ja'Marr Chase running the field post. The back-side deep-whip route pulled down one of the safeties, leaving nothing but green grass for Chase.
Chase has impressive wheels and burst, but Watson has some of the easiest speed and acceleration in the NFL. Heat-spear seems tailormade for the skill set of the Packers' lead wideout, especially when facing an undermanned secondary. LaFleur can rip the soul out of the Raiders defense by calling this concept or a variant of it at some point Monday night.
What other Week 5 developments should the Packers keep an eye on?
JBH: Though it can't become official until April, the Carolina Panthers might have traded DJ Moore and Caleb Williams to the Chicago Bears for Bryce Young.
Let's recap. Earlier this year, the Panthers, ostensibly at the behest of impatient owner David Tepper, traded Moore, the team's first-rounders in 2023 and '24, and some other draft consideration for the No. 1 overall pick this year. That selection turned into Young who has thrown almost as many turnovers as touchdowns (four versus five) and has to this point appeared overwhelmed by this level of competition. The team now owns the NFL's only winless record.
Meanwhile, the Bears used the first of those Carolina picks to trade back again, allowing the Philadelphia Eagles to land Georgia defensive lineman Jalen Carter. That might prove to be a massive mistake, but it won't matter if the Panthers' ineptitude results in Chicago landing the top draft choice the year Williams emerges from USC.
While can't-miss prospects don't truly exist, Williams comes as close as possible. His latest heroics came Saturday night, overcoming a middling offensive line and a receiving corps lacking its most electric weapon to help the Trojans win in triple overtime. And his stats, while impressive, don't tell the full story. Williams displayed the type of lower-body strength on a "tush push" more commonly associated with Jalen Hurts.
Williams' combination of arm talent, athleticism, and sheer power doesn't come around often. If the Bears get their hands on him, the NFC North will have a very different outlook than it does presently.
And while a lot can change between now and the 2024 NFL Draft, consider that the Packers could have plausibly prevented this scenario from happening. Back in October 2022, Green Bay inquired about Moore's availability prior to the trade deadline as The Leap reported at the time. Had general manager Brian Gutekunst somehow managed to pluck the star wideout from the Panthers, the trade that sent Young to Carolina and a future first-rounder to Chicago might not have come to fruition.
Instead, the NFC North will now have to keep an eye on the Panthers. Their upcoming schedule doesn't have many obviously winnable games. The one apparent exception -- a Week 10 trip to Chicago -- would still help the Bears should Carolina emerge victorious.
The Bears have made a lot of mistakes in their recent past, but their trade with the Panthers doesn't seem like one of them. Soon, the Packers and the rest of the division might realistically have to deal with the consequences.
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