GREEN BAY, Wis. — The Green Bay Packers appear to have all the right elements to put on aerial shows this season, with Aaron Rodgers throwing to four experienced wide receivers.
But through seven games, Rodgers and his receivers have largely misfired between stints of strong play.
It's been a source of frustration early, and with running back Ryan Grant out for the season after an ankle injury in the opening week, the Packers have seen opponents focus on their passing attack even more.
Rodgers threw for 295 yards against the Vikings in a 28-24 win last week, but the quarterback notably threw behind James Jones twice, tossed a long ball to no one when Jordy Nelson cut off a route and appeared to have the timing wrong with Greg Jennings.
"Probably too much conversation, to be honest with you," Rodgers said of the miscommunication. "We maybe talked about it too much on the sideline, and there was a little bit too much of a gray area on the field, where I was thinking one thing obviously and they were thinking something else."
Rodgers' wide receivers say they're to blame for the uninspiring efforts.
"It don't matter how long you practice together, you're always going to have some miscues," Jones said. "I'll take the blame. We work on things like that everyday in practice. You're going to have games where a couple of plays you aren't going to be on the same page, but you've just got to keep on working through it."
Donald Driver, who had caught a pass in a franchise-record 133 consecutive games until Sunday, has been hurting with a strained quadriceps muscle.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy isn't pleased with the lingering mistakes.
"Well, we've had an opportunity to correct it. We work on it all the time," McCarthy said. "This group here is going to jump up and challenge us man-to-man, and that's what we have to get ready for."
Fixing the problems are important for a team that's about to face the New York Jets' secondary that includes highly regard cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie.
"I think it's going to be interesting to see how they play us. See if they put Darrelle on Greg or Antonio on Greg and Darrelle on someone else," Rodgers said. "When you have two corners like that, and their backups are very talented as well, it's going to be interesting to see how they play us. At some point, you're probably going to have to throw over at Darrelle and hope he doesn't make a play."
Rodgers has thrown nine interceptions in seven games after having just 20 in his first two seasons as a starter and has his lowest quarterback rating so far in the span. He's still on pace to throw for more than 4,000 yards again, but his TD numbers have been lower, too.
Because the Jets play man-to-man coverage more than most clubs, Rodgers and his receivers believe a lot of the issues with failing to follow their techniques will vanish.
"I think if we stick to our rules in those situations, there's really not as many problems. But we got on the sideline, we looked at the pictures, we maybe overanalyzed it, and that's when the inconsistencies with not being on the same page kind of showed up," the quarterback said.Comment on this story
Jennings, who is the Packers' biggest deep threat, has a team high 390 yards receiving on 26 catches. He believes he'll see Revis a lot, but hasn't formed an opinion on just how good the loquacious cornerback is.
"They have a great group of guys back there and it'll be exciting to go up against those guys because they play man-to-man," Jennings said. "I'm excited about the opportunity to get a chance to go up against a guy like that. It's not every day you can go against a pretty good corner. He's solid. You can only say he's solid because you've never competed against him. You've just watched him on film. The film says enough. He's a good corner."
Even with the problems and a spate of injuries, the Packers have managed to stayed tied atop the NFC North division with Chicago. Green Bay lost linebacker Brad Jones for the season on Wednesday, and the Packers are now without six starters heading into the matchup with the Jets. Seven more are on this week's injury report.
"You look at the NFC right now, it's pretty wide open," Rodgers said. "A big step would be to go to New York and get a win. That's going to be a difficult task, obviously. But I think we need to look at this as a two-game season right now, and try to get the one out in New York, then come home and beat Dallas and hopefully get healthy and get some guys back."