GREEN BAY, Wis. — Aaron Rodgers doesn’t view himself as a game manager just because the Green Bay Packers finally appear to have a top-caliber defense. Nor does he want that defense to have the carry this team like it has on the way to its 3-0 start.
Yes, Rodgers expected growing pains in coach Matt LaFleur’s new offense, as he said at the start of the regular season.
But that doesn’t make it any easier to look at the NFL’s rankings and see the Packers at No. 28 in total offense heading into Thursday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
“It’s time for us to do our part on offense,” Rodgers said Tuesday. “Moving forward, we’re going to play a stretch of really good football teams. At some point, we can’t expect our defense to shut everybody down. They have been, but at some point the offense is going to have to wake up and start making some plays.”
Rodgers has thrown for just 647 yards, the second-lowest total of his career through three games of a season. His 57 completions through three games rank as his lowest total to this point in a season since 2009.
Still, Rodgers hasn’t had to carry the Packers like in years past. All the resources that general manager Brian Gutekunst has put into the defense by adding free-agents Adrian Amos, Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith along with recent first-round draft picks Jaire Alexander (2018), Rashan Gary (2019) and Darnell Savage (2019) have helped the Packers lead the NFL in takeaways (eight), rank second in scoring defense (11.7 points allowed per game) and third in sack percentage.
“Well, we’ve never wanted to just manage the football game around here,” Rodgers said. “The standards are very high for us. We’ve got to play a lot better on offense. We’ve played some good defenses, no doubt about it, but the standard and expectations are very high here, and we haven’t met them on offense. Thankfully, our defense has not only been opportunistic but stout, holding them to field goals in the red zone, taking the ball away, putting us in good field position.”
Rodgers suggested after Sunday’s 27-16 win over the Broncos that the key might be getting Pro Bowl receiver Davante Adams the ball more. Adams caught all four passes thrown his way for 56 yards, but Rodgers said: “Four targets for Davante is obviously not enough.”
Last season, Adams caught 111 passes — one short of the franchise single-season record — for 1,386 yards and 13 touchdowns. With 15 catches for 198 yards, Adams is on pace for 80 catches and 1,056 yards but doesn’t have a touchdown.
LaFleur also acknowledged he needs to get the ball in the hands of his top playmakers more, but it needs to come within the rhythm of the offense.
“I’ve never been of the mindset or philosophy of, just force-feed a guy the ball, you know?” LaFleur said Tuesday. “I do think that we can do a better job of making sure that we get some of the things that we want to get called going into games and again just make sure they get called to give those guys optimal number of opportunities.”
Rodgers also would like to get tight end Jimmy Graham more involved. Graham caught a touchdown pass and had three receptions for 30 yards in Week 1 but was shut out the last two weeks. Graham is on the injury report this week with both a groin and quad injury but participated in Tuesday’s walk-through practice.
“Jimmy’s the best,” Rodgers said. “He’s a great teammate. He’s a one of my best friends, not just as a teammate. I love our conversations, getting to talk to him. He is a very positive person. He’s a realist. His focus and preparation has been second to none, as usual.”
The Packers ran only 57 offensive plays against the Broncos and have averaged just 59 plays per game, which is 24th in the NFL.
“It’s just putting him in position to have some opportunities, whether that’s moving him around or giving him motion or messing with a split, I think it’s just giving him some more opportunities,” Rodgers said of Adams. “I think part of it is we’ve been so bad on third down, we haven’t had those conversions that give us more plays. We had 50-something plays last week, which is limiting the amount of opportunities our entire offense has. If our offense has less opportunities, there are probably going to be less opportunities for targets for Davante.”