Green Bay Packers

Marquez Valdes-Scantling Is Key To Unlocking Green Bay's Offense

Photo Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn (USA TODAY Sports)

We all know the Green Bay Packers are one of the most banged-up teams in the National Football League. However, no one will feel sorry for them because of the success they’ve had, regardless of who’s on the injured list.

But it’s fair to say one reason the offense has been lackluster compared to last year’s league-best unit is due to injury. The offensive line has been a constantly reshuffled deck trying to create the best hand possible to protect Aaron Rodgers and Jordan Love. Naturally, this plays a significant role in the offense’s regression.

Despite this, Marquez Valdes-Scantling is one of the losses most keenly felt by Matt LaFleur’s offense. MVS had a stint on IR due to a hamstring injury he suffered shortly after Week 3’s last-second victory over the San Francisco 49ers.

It’s a next-man-up situation with most injuries, but MVS’s absence was a special case. While the Packers have quality depth in their wide receiver group, no one has the same skillset or physical abilities as Valdes-Scantling. He provides a deep threat that opens up LaFleur’s offense in a way that no one else on the team can.

While the Packers kept winning games without Valdes-Scantling, that element of the offense was missing without the young wideout. Thankfully, Valdes-Scantling returned in Week 9’s loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Unfortunately, Rodgers didn’t play in that game.

Even though MVS and Rodgers played together the following week against the Seattle Seahawks, MVS’s return wouldn’t be fully realized until Week 11’s loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

Green Bay’s first-half offense was bland, resembling the late McCarthy era scheme rather than LaFleur’s. Rodgers held the ball too long as he waited for big opportunities to open up. He looked like a man who hadn’t practiced in a month because he couldn’t connect with Valdes-Scantling on his first three deep-shot attempts. MVS was generally in the right spot, but Rodgers’ throws were off.

This was a common problem even when MVS was healthy. Rodgers’ had multiple errant deep throws targeting MVS against the New Orleans Saints and Detroit Lions that could have been easy touchdowns. Or, at the very least, set-ups for easy goal-line touchdowns.

Let’s go back to the first half of that Minnesota game. Rodgers was playing out of rhythm and forcing deep shots while he and LaFleur ignored the run game. These are the types of throws that, when successful, make viewers go wild with joy. However, when these throws fail, they are viewed as terrible choices. Honestly, I am guilty of this.

After those early missed shots, the efforts finally paid off early in the second quarter, as Rodgers hit MVS with a 39-yard gain on third-and-long.

After halftime, Rodgers looked like his MVP self again and played incredible football. He played that beautiful blend of the quick-play LaFleur offense coupled with vintage Rodgers backyard ball. What was a one-sided affair suddenly became a game.

The Rodgers and MVS connection would later coalesce on a beautiful one-play touchdown. With 2:17 left after a Justin Jefferson TD, Rodgers followed up with an awe-inspiring 75-yard bomb. Unfortunately, this left too much time for the Vikings’ offense, and Joe Barry’s defense fell short in the eventual loss.

Despite the loss, MVS had himself a day with four catches for 123 yards (30.75 yards per reception) and a touchdown. It took 10 attempts, but that was mainly on Rodgers.

It was ultimately too little, too late for the Packers. They couldn’t overcome their first-half offensive struggles, defensive mistakes, and special teams being bad again. Yet the second half was the best Green Bay’s offense had looked all season. It’s hard not to credit MVS’s return and his ability to finally connect with Rodgers as a critical reason.

In his post-game press conference, LaFleur praised MVS’s efforts, saying, “If they want to double Davante, then we need other guys to win. And that’s the way it played out.”

A loss to a division rival is never a good thing. Losing Elgton Jenkins for the season is even worse. Yet the silver lining is what we saw the offense do in the final 30 minutes. Perhaps everything is finally clicking.

After being a polarizing figure in his first three seasons, Marquez Valdes-Scantling has established his place in the offense. He’s the key to their deep passing game. If Rodgers can play within the rhythm of the offense while shaking off that little bit of rust and overcoming his toe injury, Green Bay’s offense can soar again.  

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