The Green Bay Packers offense has entered a new era. There have been bumps in the road, but a big part of their season turning around is a renewed emphasis on the run game, and, even more-so, the adaptability of the run game and how it has progressed through the season. Head Coach Matt LaFleur and Offensive Coordinator Adam Stenavich have increasingly used gap-scheme runs. In the past three seasons under LaFleur, the Packers have been an almost exclusively zone team with a sprinkle of Duo for some physical, downhill running. This version of the Packers create a physical identity by pulling linemen, kicking players out at the line of scrimmage, and wrapping unexpected skill positions in as lead blockers.
Pin and Pull
The Packers’ Pin and Pull scheme has been one of their most consistent runs this season. By stressing the edge, they make the defensive line chase and the defensive backs tackle. The scheme gets running backs Aaron Jones or AJ Dillon into space while allowing their offensive line to pin scraping defenders inside. Jones has been good at reading the angles of defenders outside the tackles and finding space for cutbacks and creases to create explosive gains.
Pin and pull, as its name describes, is a run scheme that stretches to the sideline with blockers pinning down the edge defender while interior linemen pull around to the outside. The pulling linemen will hunt inside out for flowing defenders. The backside offensive linemen fight to cut off pursuit with aggressive angles. It’s a particularly good scheme against teams with a strong front four where those players now have to chase to make an impact. Pin and pull eliminates the need for the Packers to win battles at the line of scrimmage straight ahead and instead utilizes Jones’ ability in space outside.
The horizontal stretch is part of the foundation of their other gap scheme runs. When you see linemen pulling now, defenses have to respect that they may be pulling to get outside. Instead, as we’ll see, they also kick out and attack vertically off of similar looks.
Against teams that run a lot of 4i alignment on the defensive line, like the Rams, the Packers like to run counter. This is especially true if the defense is giving an outside alignment with their walked down Sam linebacker against the Packers’ two tight end set. The tackle and tight end now have better leverage to downblock on the 4i while the Sam is wide enough that it gives time for the pullers to get to their landmarks and create a lane.
The Packers have become increasingly inventive in their ways to get to counter. They’re using motion, unexpected personnel and formations, and creating creases down the middle of the defense. The Packers are lining up against the Eagles with 12 personnel, but with tight end Josiah Deguara lined up in the backfield with AJ Dillon. Green Bay uses motion, just as we’ve seen on some of their pin and pull looks, but instead of wrapping outside to lead block, Davis is now kicking out the defensive end for counter. Deguara, aligned in the backfield is able to insert and Dillon follows the crease that opens up off the center. The motion moves the linebacker out of the hole while also acting as a way to kick out the end, blocking 1.5 men with one. Deguara, who is responsible for that playside linebacker, chases him outside, but the motion by itself already created a lane and it gets Dillon immediately up onto the free safety.
G Slot Counter with Cobb
Against the Rams, they had the guard kicking out and wide receiver Randall Cobb, aligned tight to the formation, wrapping through. With the Jet motion from wide receiver Allen Lazard on the snap, the passing strength and run threat is to the defensive right. Green Bay has run Stretch Toss and Pin and Pull schemes out of the exact same alignment and with the player in motion lead blocking. The motion bumps defenders while the run scheme adds blockers the opposite direction. Due to the formational alignment, the play also doesn’t ask Cobb to pick up a linebacker one-on-one. Instead, with tight end Marcedes Lewis downblocking to the middle linebacker, Cobb is left to pick up safety Taylor Rapp who is down in the box.
Toss stretch has no pinning, but it still wants to attack the outside. The offensive linemen are working hard to gain the edge and wall off pursuit to the outside while the Packers toss the ball to get outside as fast as possible. Green Bay loves to use Aaron Jones outside, occasionally with motion to help lead block. Jones is by far the more twitchier of their two backs and is great and finding cutback lanes and attacking the edge of the defense.
Green Bay’s run game is littered with RPOs and alerts. They are some of the differentiating factors between Matt LaFleur’s, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan’s, and Rams head coach McVay’s offenses. Where LaFleur sacrifices some of the motion to allow quarterback Aaron Rodgers to survey the field and better work tempo, he has to supplement the offense with some perimeter stretch to help slow down the run fits on defense. That is where the RPO comes in.
Even if they aren’t always thrown, they’re present on almost every run the Packers use – even under center.
In 2×2 formations with two receivers to the backside of the run, the Packers often run flash/seam(or slant). The #1 receiver runs the flash and the #2 receiver runs the seam/slant to replace filling linebackers.
The Packers like to throw the flash when the corner is playing off coverage. It gets the ball into the hands of their receivers with space to operate.
When the Packers have a single receiver with a tighter split, they often run a short bubble to the sideline. The read is similar. If there’s cushion by the corner, Rodgers is free to throw it.
Green Bay runs arrow concepts attached to their run game as well. It immediately threatens the flats and pulls defenders away from the run. They have multiple ways of getting to the concept. The simplest is out of a 3×1 formation with the #3 receiver running the arrow and the #2 and #1 receivers blocking. Against New England’s man coverage, it pulls a minimum of three defenders away from the run with the potential to move a 4th. Motion and RPOs are trying to remove an additional half a man from the run game. If a 4th defender takes a step to defend the RPO, that’s a small crease that is added to the run scheme. Since the offense is at a man disadvantage with the quarterbacking not being part of the run game, the offense has to find a way to steal numbers back to their side.
The Packers will also motion and crunch to the same concept with a player threatening the flats and blockers on the perimeter.
Lastly, the Packers like to run bubble. They’ve recently gone to more stacked formation looks to force defenders to play off coverage and give space due to the fear of rubs and pick plays. They’ll use motion and different formations to create the same read and concept with new looks.
LaFleur and Stenavich have come up with inventive ways to get to what is turning into their new identity as a gap scheme team. Those pulling linemen are also being used as layers in the Packers offense. We’ve seen their pin and pull scheme become lethal with running back Aaron Jones on the edge. Now, with defenses working to protect the perimeter, Green Bay is punishing teams by running vertically underneath that horizontal flow while still pulling players and giving the illusion of stressing the edge. The Packers have adapted to become a team that is built from the ground up.