Offseason Playbook: Packers

A look at Green Bay's philosophy, team needs and a key free-agent move

Originally Published: March 4, 2013
By Gary Horton and Field Yates | ESPN Insider

Clay Matthews Robert Hanashiro/USA TODAY SportsThe Packers need a pass-rushing complement to linebacker Clay Matthews.

In a new offseason series, Insider takes an in-depth look at NFL teams before free agency begins March 12. What is each team's philosophy on offense and defense, biggest needs and one player who could make for an ideal signing in free agency?

Team philosophies

Offense -- This is a well-defined offense that rarely changes, and its philosophy suits its personnel well. It is a pass-first offense led by an excellent and creative playcaller, head coach Mike McCarthy. When the Packers do run the ball, they zone block up front and use a lot of finesse plays -- the stretch, draws and misdirection -- but they are not very effective at being physical between the tackles. Aaron Rodgers runs this offense to perfection with multi-receiver sets and spread formations. He can extend plays with his feet, is uncanny when it comes to keeping defenses confused with his cadence, is terrific at identifying and beating the blitz and will use a variety of personnel groupings.

The Packers like to run the no-huddle up-tempo offense with the ability to run a large volume of plays, and roughly 80 percent of these pass plays come out of the shotgun. In 2012, defenses started to play their safeties deep, so Rodgers was forced to throw a lot more underneath routes and depend on yards after the catch. The Packers have really creative wrinkles -- a lot of two-man route combos with a screen or "pick" play off it, and some "bone" formations (three backs) in which they pass the ball when the defense expects the run. This is a tough offense to prepare for on a weekly basis.

Gary Horton spent 10 years in the NFL as a scout and another 10 years at the college level as an assistant coach and recruiter. He is the founder and most seasoned member of the Scouts Inc. staff, and his extensive experience at all levels of football make him an excellent talent evaluator.
Field Yates has previous experience interning with the New England Patriots on both their coaching and scouting staffs. A graduate of Wesleyan University (CT), he is a regular contributor to ESPN Boston's Patriots coverage and ESPN Insider.