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Next Gen Stats: Slow WRs behind Packers' woes

With Jordy Nelson's presence glaringly absent downfield and outside the numbers, the Packers' speed-challenged wide receiver corps has come under fire this season.

The scrutiny has increased during Green Bay's three-game losing streak in which the offense has disappeared for quarters at a time.

The Packersrank dead last among 32 teams in average 40-yard dash time for the top three receivers and No. 1 tight end, per's Rob Demovsky.

Next Gen Stats bear that out as well. Green Bay didn't have a single wide receiver record a top-50 speed as a ball carrier in Week 10. Richard Rodgers' top speed of 14.54 mph was 46th among tight ends.

That's especially telling considering James Jones (1,634 yards) and Davante Adams (1,599 yards) finished first and second in total distance covered from scrimmage last week.

As coach Mike McCarthy recently asserted, however, this is not a one-position issue.

Eddie Lacy has gone from the only NFL back to exceed 100 yards from scrimmage in each of the final nine games a year ago to an injured and out-of-shape afterthought this season.

Armed with the uncanny ability to throw with accuracy from different angles and different bases, Aaron Rodgers has lapsed into the bad habit of failing to set his feet even when he has plenty of time to do so. His ball placement has suffered in the process.

Whether it's a distrust of his receivers, his pass protection or a combination thereof, Rodgers' completion percentage and passer rating versus the blitz has plummeted from 63.0 and 106.1 in the first six games to 45.2 and 64.6, respectively, in the last three.

Rodgers isn't without blame, but he's getting precious little help from his surrounding talent without contributions from Pro Bowlers Nelson and Lacy.

Here's what else we learned from Next Gen Stats in Week 10:

  1. The contrast in weapons for Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger is stark. Whereas the Packers' receivers struggle to separate from coverage, Steelers wideouts Martavis Bryant and Antonio Brown finished first and second in maximum speed, hitting 22.30 and 21.76 mph, respectively, with the ball in their hands. Essentially an alien in football pads, the 6-foot-4 Bryant generated three of the eight fastest speeds by a ball carrier in Week 10. In addition to combining for 317 yards and three touchdowns, the dynamic duo drew an astounding 141 yards in pass interference penalties versus an overmatched Browns secondary.

  1. With Matt Forte due to reach free agency as a 30-year-old tailback, rookie Jeremy Langford is staking his claim to the 2016 starting job in Chicago with 324 yards from scrimmage over the past two weeks. Langford reached 20.66 mph on his 83-yard catch-and-run, the fastest speed recorded by a Bears ball carrier this season.
  1. In response to a dreadful September, Chip Kelly has changed his offense in Philadelphia to suit the skill set of DeMarco Murray and emphasize his tight-end duo of Zach Ertz and Brent Celek at the expense of his more pedestrian wide receiver corps. For the second straight week, the Eagles emphasized "12" personnel (two-tight end sets). Kelly was rewarded with 202 combined receiving yards from Ertz and Celek.
  1. The undefeated Panthers aren't about to veer from own run-dominant philosophy, but they are making a subtle change to their come-and-go aerial attack. Rookie Devin Funchess' role is steadily growing, providing Cam Newton with a bigger strike zone down the field. After hauling in three passes for a season-high 71 yards and a touchdown in Week 9, Funchess didn't rank fourth among Panthers receivers in playing time for the first time in Week 10. In fact, Funchess has taken over as the receiver of choice in jumbo packages, playing 12 of the 13 snaps with just one wideout on the field.
  1. The injuries to Dion Lewis and Julian Edelman have resulted in a material change to the Patriots' offensive game plan. New England ran just 21 of 68 plays with three receivers, veering from its spread attack of the season's first half. After Edelman's first quarter injury, the Patriots ran just four of 26 plays in "11" personnel (three wide receivers) during the second and third quarters. It wasn't until Tom Brady was forced into hurry-up, comeback mode that Bill Belichick finally turned to Aaron Dobson alongside Brandon LaFell and Danny Amendola. While the sure-handed Amendola is a fine fill-in for Edelman, the drop-off from Amendola to Dobson or Keshawn Martin as the third receiver will limit Brady's options.
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