Since Aaron Rodgers has taken over the helm of the Packers offense, they have been known for a dynamic passing attack with a number of different receiving options and Rodgers just finding the open guy and getting them the ball. That is still true even if some of the names are different and they have a couple injuries they are dealing with, but they used this last offseason to really try to add a legitimate running game to keep defenses honest and give their offense more options. Not only did the Packers draft a couple new offensive linemen such as David Bakhtiari and J.C. Tretter, but they completely redid their running back position by drafting Eddie Lacy and Jonathan Franklin. Not only do the Packers have the fourth ranked passing attack in the NFL, but they also have the fifth ranked rushing offense, so they can put a great deal of pressure on opponents and limit where they can put their focus and how they can attack the Packer offense.
Lacy has been effective when he has been on the field, but he has had some issues that have kept him off of the field. In those situations, Franklin stepped up and the Packers still have James Starks who can make plays as a ball carrier. In a game where many would expect the Browns to put all of their focus on stopping Rodgers and finding ways to put pressure on him, they now have to put significant focus on stopping the run as well.
The offensive line for the Packers is hardly great and there are still issues that need to be addressed, but being able to run the ball and go with the pass has made it so they can keep teams guessing and make it easier for their offensive line to be in a good position. Through injuries, Bakhtiari has been forced into action ahead of schedule as the left tackle. The Packers have two offensive linemen on the PUP list and two on injured reserve.
From a matchup standpoint, the Browns would appear to have an advantage and appear overall as their front seven would do well in this game, but the Packers have managed to average 140.8 yards on the ground per game with a schedule that has included San Francisco, Cincinnati and Baltimore, so the Browns will need to have a huge game in order to really shut down that part of the game.
Part of what might allow the Packers running game to be effective is the fact that Rodgers is as good a quarterback as there is in the NFL and he can carve up defenses. The fear of trying to stop Rodgers and get pressure on him on almost any down might put opposing defenses in bad positions to stop the run and give them some good looks.
Although the Packers have a stable of backs that give them options to give opponents different looks, they have largely been happy to give one back the full load in a game and when healthy, Lacy is that guy. Lacy is a north-south runner who is at his best with his shoulders square to the line and running downhill. The Packers have the tight ends where they can load up the box and run power or spread the opponent out with a bunch of weapons out wide and give the big back the ball without many defenders in the box to stop him.
There is no question that the Browns will have to do everything they can to get pressure and force Rodgers to get rid of the ball quickly and hopefully get some sacks, but the Packers have shown they can not only run the ball to keep opponents honest, they can run the ball to win games. The Browns will have to work to lock down the run and put the passing game in obvious situations so they can pin their ears back and get after Rodgers in hopes of making it tough for him to get comfortable. This offense is as dynamic as the Browns have faced and this will be a huge challenge for them and considering their disappointment in themselves for their performance against the Bills and Lions, this is a measuring stick for a defense trying to establish itself as one of the best in the league.
Tags: Cleveland Browns