Sat, 26 Sep 2020

Third-down situations will be big emphasis on offense

GREEN BAY - By the time the first practice of training camp rolls around in another six days, the Packers probably will be sick of reviewing film in meetings.

But that's sort of the point.

If there's a silver lining to all the limitations and changes regarding how Head Coach Matt LaFleur is preparing his team, it's that the players will mentally be in a better place with their playbooks before the first practice than they've ever been.

After all the virtual meetings in the offseason, followed by walk-throughs on top of meetings through the first two weeks of training camp, LaFleur said the players will have gone through all the playbook installations twice before they take the field.

"We'll have gotten all our installs in, and then when we get to the practice portion, we're going to re-install," LaFleur said Sunday in a media session.

That process begins on the field Saturday, and LaFleur's optimism about the process stems from the positive reviews the players gave regarding the virtual meeting structure in the spring.

The assistant coaches pre-recorded a majority of those playbook installations, which allowed players to review them on their own and make the live sessions with their position groups more productive.

"They could hit the pause button and rewind and take notes and ask great questions when they did get with their coaches," LaFleur said. "So it just really allowed those players, those individuals to learn at their own pace."

The pace promises to be full speed ahead for all when the players do hit the practice field, and LaFleur already has noted a couple of times that a key emphasis on offense will be third downs.

Last season, the Packers converted just 37.6% on third down over 18 games, including playoffs. Only five times did they convert 50% or better. Moreover, of the 13 times they didn't, on five occasions the conversion rate was 25% or worse.

"We've got to be better in situational football," LaFleur said. "And specifically on third-down situations, in order to stay on the field. That's going to be a big emphasis throughout this entire training camp."

In studying the third-down woes in the offseason, LaFleur and his coaches believe some of the inconsistency was rooted in excessive variance in the week-to-week game plans, particularly with the passing game. There may have been too much adjusting going on, especially in the first year of a new system.

That's led to a different approach with the offense as a whole for 2020.

"We've tried to carry more universal concepts so there's more carryover on a week-to-week basis," LaFleur said. "I think it's tougher on our players when you're changing your whole playbook, or a bunch of concepts, each week. The more that we can carry over, it will help benefit us."

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