The LaFleur Effect: The Firm of Rodgers, Adams, and Jones Open for Business
The LaFleur Effect: The Firm of Rodgers, Adams, and Jones is Open for Business
This is an update of a previous article in my New Coaching Impact series to reflect roster moves and changes since it was first published on January 24th, 2019. Please enjoy.
Mike McCarthy’s demise can be traced back to a lack of creativity on offense and his ability to adjust to today’s game. In the fast-paced, high-powered offensively charged NFL, we find the top four scoring offenses are in the Conference Title games repeatedly. The offensive gameplan is more crucial now than ever. Enter Matt LaFleur. The young coach has worked under some of the sharpest offensive minds in the game. LaFleur’s coaching journey has landed him under the tutelage of offensive masterminds such as Gary Kubiak, Sean McVay, and Mike and Kyle Shanahan. That is a who is who of offensive gurus to hone your coaching skills with.
Forget About Last Year
It is tough to peg exactly which offensive gameplan we will see LaFleur roll out in Green Bay. The Tennessee Titans offense from last year really does not provide us with much data given that Marcus Mariota was hurt much of the year and the new offensive coordinator was stuck having Blaine Gabbert lead his offense for almost five full games.
If you throw out last year out and look back to LaFleur’s time as the quarterback’s coach with the Washington Redskins (2010-2013) and the Atlanta Falcons (2015-2016) along with the one year as offensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Rams (2017), we get a clearer look at what to expect. As a side note, LaFleur spent 2014 as the quarterback’s coach in the college ranks at Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish were 36th in the nation with 463 pass attempts.
LaFleur is certain to put an offense in place that is a combination of his former mentor’s schemes. With the tools in place for him to work with in Green Bay, there should be lots of fantasy goodness to go around. The newly appointed head man had tools like these in Los Angeles with the Rams and they finished first in points per game, 10th in yards per game, and sixth in yards per play in 2017. The Los Angeles Rams with McVay at the helm and LaFleur as his pupil were fantasy gold. A look at the coaching history tool via FFS shows how well the duo did at each position together in 2017.
We see a QB11 finish for the quarterback (Goff), an RB1 finish for the RB (Gurley), and top-40 performances from all three wideouts (Woods, Kupp, Watkins). Let’s dig into the data.
Room for Improvement
The Packers finished just 15th in points per game in 2018 with 23.5 points per game. That is a full 10.3 points per game behind the league-leading Kansas City Chiefs (34.8 PPG). Also, Green Bay finished just 22nd in rushing yards per game with only 104.2 per week. The passing offense was in the top third of the league finishing with 8th with 264.9 per contest. Look for a marked improvement across the board under the Saginaw Valley State grad.
Aaron Rodgers (QB1)
Aaron Rodgers averaged 493.9 pass attempts per year under McCarthy. This includes two seasons in which Rodgers played in nine games (2013) and seven games (2017). By comparison, the offenses LaFleur was a part of in Washington and Atlanta averaged 567.8 pass attempts per year. This with Redskins attempting only 442 passes in 2012, bringing that average way down. Without 2012 factored in, the average jumps up to 593 pass attempts per year.
This data suggests that Rodgers is primed to chuck it all over the yard in 2019. LaFleur also has experience dealing with MVP type personas as well, coaching Matt Ryan for two years in Atlanta and Jared Goff for one year in Los Angeles. Rodgers finished as the QB1 (four times) and QB2 (three times) out of 11 seasons under McCarthy. If Aaron Rodgers can stay healthy, there is no reason to think LaFleur wouldn’t put him in a position to repeat this feat again.
All eyes will be focused on Wisconsin to see how well the embattled quarterback and rookie head coach appear to get along. Aaron Rodgers ignored his former coach Mike McCarthy and changed plays in the huddle to spite the former Packers front man. It will be interesting to see if the trust of Rodgers gets earned by LaFleur.
This especially holds true because of the lack of head coaching experience LaFleur has and the proximity of their ages. Rodgers is 35 years old and the first time head man checks in a just 39. Keep a tab on reports coming out of training camp on how the two offensive juggernauts cohere together. If it appears the duo are gelling well together, the sky is the limit for the twice voted First-Team All-Pro quarterback.
Aaron Jones (RB1)
Matt LaFleur is already in a better spot than when he arrived in Tennessee to coach the Titans offense. LaFleur employed a zone blocking scheme similar to the one McCarthy ran while in Tennesse. This means the Packers will already have the offensive linemen in place to run his type of offense. In Tennessee, before LaFleur arrived, he predecessor offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie and head coach Mike Mularkey ran a power blocking scheme.
Learning under Kubiak, McVay and the Shanahans’, we can project bell-cow type work from Aaron Jones if he is indeed the RB1. Last year in Green Bay, everyone except McCarthy knew Jones should have been the lead back. Also, the targets in the running game should be there for Jones. Assuming some form of a Shanahan offense will be run, we will see above-average targets for the running back position under LaFleur.
The three years (2012-2014) that the targets were below average, Alfred Morris was the running back in Washington and Isaiah Crowell was the back in Cleveland.
The 2018 data is not shown but Shannahan targeted his backs 107 times as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers. Look for a better screen game from the Packers as well with the bunch/stack formations opening up the running back to run a route down the field. Expect similar usage under LaFleur. By the way, the rushing lines for Morris the two years the targets were not there are 335-1613-13 (2012) and 276-1275-7 (2013). Morris finished as the RB7 and RB19 respectively those two years.
Draft Jones in all formats. His ADP is currently 47.67. This is a pretty good place to grab him in your redraft league. Dynasty owners need to be trying to buy also.
Jamaal Williams (RB2)
Jamaal Williams will just not go away. For whatever reason, Mike McCarthy kept the underperforming running back heavily involved in the rotation. This is despite Aaron Jones averaging 5.5 yards per carry to just 3.6 yards per carry for Williams in 2017. Williams played all 16 games both years in the NFL. Meanwhile, Jones played just 12 in each of his first two campaigns due to injury and suspensions.
Jones is clearly the more athletic and explosive back of the two. A glance at the combine performances of the backfield tandem reinforces what we have watched on the field with our own eyes the past two years and Jones played better. The UTEP product performed far better than Williams in many key metrics.
Let’s hope that LaFluer sees Jones as we all do. As a featured back in his up-tempo offense.
Davante Adams (WR1)
The vibes coming out of Title Town are all positive for Davante Adams. Randall Cobb departed for Dallas and opened up some snaps from the slot position. Adams himself said this will create mismatches by taking the number one cover man away from him while lining up. Adams ran approximately 20% of his snaps from the slot last year. The former Bulldog performed well in that role in 2018
Regardless of if LaFleur employs more of a Sean McVay or Kyle Shanahan type offensive scheme, the WR1 will not struggle for targets. McVay is more of a spread it around type coach. First, the WR1 averages 103.5 targets per year under McVay. Second, the WR2 averages 91.75 targets per year. Finally, the WR3 averages 72.75 targets per year.
Shanahan leans on his WR1 a little more. Julio Jones saw a whopping 203 targets in 2015. Prior to this year, the Shanahan WR1 averaged a cool 146.2 targets per year over the last five years. In Tennessee, the offense featured a lot of bunch formations. This will force zone coverage and more open looks for Adams. Whichever of these philosophies LaFleur implements, Adams will be the stud he has been in the past.
The down years in 2012 and 2014 featured wideouts Santana Moss and Andrew Hawkins as the WR1 respectively. While serviceable players, the two are not on the same level as Davante Adams. The Fresno State alum finished as the WR4 last year with 327.6 points. The perennial stud wideout caught 111 balls (6th) for 1,386 yards (10th) and 13 touchdowns (2nd). Draft Adams in all formats. He can arguably be taken as the number one receiver overall based on his potential finish with a healthy Aaron Rodgers in a Matt LaFleur run offense.
Equanimeous St. Brown/Geronimo Allison (WR2)
This pair of wideouts is currently listed atop the Green Bay Packers depth chart with Marques Valdes-Scantling slotting in at the WR3. As mentioned above, Randall Cobb departed for Dallas. This left a small void within the receiving corps. Expect a hotly contested camp battle between the three young up and coming pass catchers. Looking at the 2018 passer rating per intended target courtesy of FFS for Aaron Rodgers, we actually see Rodgers with a better rating when looking Allison’s way. The former California Golden Bear quarterback had a rating of 131.9 when targeting Geronimo Allison.
Not only that, but we also see Allison well ahead of the other two competitors he is fighting with for the WR2 spot. The data chart above shows the WR2 position should be a valuable one if we can peg who will take over. This spot averaged 91.75 targets in four seasons under McVay and 77.64 under Shanahan over 11 years.
The young duo gained experience last year due to the departure of Jordy Nelson and the injuries to Randall Cobb. It will be an interesting camp battle between all of them. Also, take note that Geronimo Allison signed a one year, $2.8 million contract on March 15th. The Packers obviously value his talent. The Illinois product caught 66.7% of his targets last year. Best on the team behind only Jake Kumerow at 72.7%.
Marques Valdes-Scantling/Jake Kumerow (WR3)
While the depth chart shows Valdes-Scantling as the WR3, there truly are four players competing for two important roles in a potentially high-octane offense. As mentioned above, a camp battle should help things out here.
Jake Kumerow is listed here due to his preseason success in 2018 before being injured. The rapport Kumerow appears to have earned with stud quarterback Aaron Rodgers also helps his cause. Kumerow hauled in 6 catches for 190 yards in 2 touchdowns in just two preseason games.
This projects as a valuable spot in the fantasy world as well. However, until we know who will occupy it, it’s hard to get too excited. Green Bay may look to the draft for a Hunter Renfrow (Clemson) or Andy Isabella (UMass) to fill the slot. However, they have a lot of needs elsewhere so it could be best to let a camp battle sort things out.
Watch how things do shake out at camp. Adjust your strategy and rankings accordingly when we find which of these wideouts separate themselves from the pack. Draft them in later rounds with a Rodgers and Lafleur pairing now in town.
Jimmy Graham (TE1)
Tight ends in a Sean McVay/Kyle Shanahan run offense are somewhat easy to predict. If there is a stud at the position, they are fed looks. Jordan Reed compiled 65 targets in 11 games (2014), 114 targets in 14 games(2015), and 89 in 12 games (2016) playing under McVay. Kyle Shanahan most recently turned George Kittle into a stud and always fed Owen Daniels in Houston and Chris Cooley in Washington.
The problem is, Graham is not a stud anymore. Actually, he may be a liability to the offense. The tight end position in the LaFleur offense needs to show some semblance of an ability to block. Graham cannot do that. Graham caught a career-low 2 TD’s last year, has a large contract and is increasing age. This all means there is a good chance the Packers attack this position in the deepest TE draft since 2006, when a record nine tight ends were drafted.
Graham was due a $5 million roster bonus on March 15th. There has been no news on whether or not it was paid. He has not been cut so we can assume it was and he will be back playing on the frozen tundra in 2019. This chart from FFS shows how his production has dropped the past two years.
Rumblings abound that the Packers will draft a tight end in 2019. Graham is 32 years old and just does not have anything left. Stay away from him even if the Green Bay does not draft a tight end. There are better options. See the rankings from the experts at FFS and discover who are better options at the position.
It is difficult to predict exactly who LaFleur will model his offense after. It would make the most sense for the rookie head coach to mold the two schemes together. The approach taken to this article was to give you the data from both McVay and Shanahan and try to predict what positions will thrive in this offense.
Aaron Rodgers will flirt with QB1 numbers again. It would be a good bet that Aaron Jones sees a huge uptick in usage. Davante Adams will be his usual dominant self. The Packers will draft a pass catcher of some sort.
After that, wait until April 26th to see how Green Bay adjusts the roster. A pass catcher is needed. It may be a wideout or a tight end. It would behoove the Packers to start and rebuild the offensive line as well. Draft any of the newly formed firm of Rodgers, Adams, and Jones with confidence in your fake draft. Regardless of the real draft results.