The Passing Chronicles: 2022 Week 3

Dusty takes a look at 4 instances of the Packers running the Drift concept in week 3

Another week and another win. It wasn't always pretty and I may be 10 years older now than I was when I woke up on Sunday, but, at the end of the season, you just need those wins. The Packers are clearly still working through some things offensively and experimenting with some different packages/concepts. It's always better to bank wins during that process than to rack up losses.

We're going to look at 4 plays today, but, before we do, let's give an overall look at the passing game.

The main thing I see here is just how many throws behind the line of scrimmage there were. Per Pro Football Focus, Rodgers was 8/10 (80%) for 45 yards (4.5 YPA) when throwing behind the line of scrimmage. That's 28.6% of his total throws. That's crazy. 

As you might imagine from looking at that chart, Rodgers was getting the ball out if his hand quickly. Per Next Gen Stats, he averaged 2.44 seconds to throw this week, which put him 4th in the league for the week. In a trend that is worth keeping an eye on, his Intended Average Air Yards was low this week: 4.7 yards, which was tied for lowest in the league in week 3 (he was tied with Matt Ryan). I'm all for getting the ball out quickly when you can, but at some point they're going to have to start pushing the ball downfield with a little more consistency. They're still trying to figure out their Pony Package usage, which has all been close to the line so far. The offense will have to open up fairly soon, and I have faith that it will.

For now, let's look at week 3.

Rodgers targeted 8 receivers on the day, and had the most luck with Romeo Doubs [87]. When throwing to Doubs, Rodgers was 8/8 for 73 yards and a TD. Nice work from the rookie in only his 3rd career game. 

We're not going to look at all of his targets here (I may be doing that later in the week), but we are going to look at a couple of his targets. This week, we're going to be spending all of our time with a single concept: Drift/Stike.

We talked about this concept last week, so it should be familiar. I considered doing something else in this space, but there were some interesting things to note this week on this concept, so I thought I'd stick with it. Also, it has been the only consistent concept for the Packers this season. I feel like we should get familiar with it both as a core concept and also as something to look for some variations off of.

The Packers called Drift 4 times this week. Rodgers was 3/4 for 43 yards (10.8 YPA). Overall, this concept accounted for 16.9% of their total passing yards. As we've seen in the past from them, the Packers only called this on 1st & 2nd down.

Drift (or "Strike" in the LaFleur playbook) is strictly a play action concept, designed to bring the linebackers close to the line, then quick-turn and hit the bang-dig in the middle of the field. When the play action works, this can be lethal.

Play 1: 2nd & 2, 7:24 remaining in the 1st quarter

Packers are in 12 personnel (1RB, 2TE, 3WR) with Marcedes Lewis [89] motioning to the in-line TE and Josiah Deguara [81] in the backfield with Aaron Jones [33]. Allen Lazard [13] is running a vertical route directly at the single high safety, while Romeo Doubs [87] is running a dig from the right.

Bucs are showing a Cover 3 look, with a single-high safety and the boundary corners playing off and their butts pointed to the sideline. That allows them to keep their eyes in the backfield while also putting them in good position to funnel the receivers to the inside. Against a two-high look, Lazard's route would be pushing almost in a straight line. Against this look, the route bends in to run directly at the safety. Can't have him crashing the dig and ruining all the fun.

Everything is as it should be. Shiny and chrome.

Play 2: 2nd & 8, 10:21 remaining in the 2nd quarter

The Packers again come out in 12 personnel, but it's an entirely different look. They have a YY Wing alignment, with both TEs in-line on the left. Combine that with Rodgers being under center and a single RB (AJ Dillon [28]) and it looks like the Packers are looking for a power running look to the left. Since Doubs is running the dig from the right, that's exactly what they're trying to show. Get the LBs up and over to create a nice, clean throwing lane to Doubs in the middle.

The Bucs are again in a Cover 3 look, with a single-high safety and two boundary corners playing off and outside. The Packers think they have exactly what they need.

But they were, all of them, deceived. Rodgers hits his back foot and sets to throw, only to find Lavonte David [54] sinking back into the throwing window. Rodgers was likely willing to wait until Doubs cleared David, but he didn't have that luxury, as the rush broke through quickly from the right side.

Shaq Barrett [58] hit Elgton Jenkins [58] with a Euro Step and had pressure as soon as Rodgers hit his back foot. Rodgers was able to step up and flip a throw to Dillon, so they were able to pick up 7 yards on the play.

Not how they drew it up, but it's like what John Lennon said: "Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans." Or, "Life is what happens when Shaq Barrett is trying to rip your head off." Same thing, really.

Play 3: 1st & 10, 6:22 remaining in the 3rd quarter

Rodgers is back in shotgun and the Packers are in a different grouping: this time they're in their 21 personnel Pony Package. Pony Package is a package that has both Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon on the field at the same time. As I mentioned near the top, they're somewhat limited with how they've used this package so far, but this shows them playing against type a bit. Dillon is the lone RB in the backfield, while Jones is the under man in the stack on the left. At the snap, Jones runs a bubble motion, which is something they'll do a lot with their RPO game in this look. Since it's something the defense is looking for, that draws one of the defenders away from the middle.

The Bucs in a press, single-man look. Once again, Lazard will be running a vertical route at the safety while Doubs is running a dig underneath. Lazard has trouble getting off the contact at the line and ends up shoved a little further inside than we normally see, making the spacing of this concept tighter than I would like to see.

Still, everything looks right again. The linebackers are pulled up to the line, then widen to fall into their passing zones after they recognize the fake. That gives Rodgers a clean lane and he whips a throw to Doubs for a 15 yard gain.

You can almost hear this ball humming.

Play 4: 1st & 10, 5:57 remaining in the 4th quarter

This last play is going to look a lot like the second play, but without the Rodgers magic to save it. Packers are in shotgun in 12 personnel, with Jones and Deguara in the backfield.

The Bucs are - once again - in a single-high, cover 3 look. Lazard runs directly at the single-high safety, while Doubs runs the dig under. But the Bucs have seen enough. Devin White [45] takes a small hop-step on the fake, but is able to maintain depth. As soon as he recognizes the fake, he falls back under the passing lane and keeps his eyes on Rodgers, drifting under the potential second-window throw. Rodgers tries to look elsewhere, but that's the rub with this concept: there isn't really another option. The vertical route is strictly meant to occupy the safety. There's an alert on that route for the QB to throw it if the conditions are right, but you don't ever really see that thrown. It would also be the initial read in that case: if you determine that the dig is the read, you don't really have a shot at the vertical route.

There are some checkdowns that leak out late, but the Bucs are all over those. Rodgers briefly looks to Jones, thinks better of it, then just tries to get outside the tackle box and chuck a ball in the general vicinity of Lazard.

It's a beautiful concept, but, as you can see here, you can get in a bit of trouble if the defense takes away the dig.

I don't think the Packers are in danger of overusing this concept just yet, but it is something to keep an eye on. If defenses start looking to really take this away, I'd love to see a blaze-out option on the dig (give a nod to the inside before breaking hard to the sideline), or an angle route from the backfield to attack the area that has been vacated by the retreating linebackers. 

I hope you enjoyed this look. I always find it fascinating when an offense spams a concept like this in a game, so I hope you do as well. The Packers seem to be trying something differently offensively each week, so I'm very much looking forward to seeing what they do next week.

Albums listened to: Rihanna - Talk That Talk; Taylor Swift - evermore; The Wonder Years - The Hum Goes On Forever; Maya Hawke - MOSS; Rocky Votolato - Wild Roots




Dusty Evely is a film analyst for Cheesehead TV. He can be heard talking about the Packers on Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter at @DustyEvely or email at [email protected].


3 points

Comments (4)

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splitpea1's picture

September 28, 2022 at 03:55 pm

One of my favorite plays was the one immediately following Play 2, where the OLB drops coverage on T. Davis and elects to go after the QB instead, resulting in a big gain down the sideline. Nothing complicated, and easy pickings for Rodgers.

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jannes bjornson's picture

September 28, 2022 at 06:43 pm

Rub and release, classic TE plays.

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Bure9620's picture

September 28, 2022 at 05:33 pm

I was nearly field level and I the TB Linebackers were flying, they can absolutely move. I Ioved the RPOs it brought those LBs near the LOS. I think thwy really missed Watson, his speed vertically abd also on the jet sweeps or fake jet sweeps can jeep then off balance. We saw in the ssocnd half. The Packers need to have more vertical threat to strech the defense out.

1 points
GregC's picture

September 29, 2022 at 05:24 am

Maybe that can happen if the OL improves. I don't think the OL has earned the trust of the coaching staff or the QB yet. The pocket was collapsing fast against the Bucs.

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