Packers tap into Luke Musgrave’s big play abilities vs. Rams

Rookie tight end Luke Musgrave brings big play potential to this Green Bay Packers team, but the offense has not been able to unlock it consistently this season. However, in Sunday’s win against the Los Angeles Rams, he was able to provide that spark on two occasions leading to points.

The first came about halfway through the third quarter on a play design we’ve seen the Packers utilize with Musgrave going back to the preseason. Musgrave began lined up in-line on the right and worked his way over to the left sideline, hauling in the reception behind the coverage for 25 yards. Previous connection attempts between Jordan Love and Musgrave on this similar play often failed, with either Love not putting the ball in the right spot or Musgrave misplaying it.

The second explosive play to Musgrave resulted in a 20-yard touchdown that put the game away late in the fourth quarter. On a beautifully designed play, Musgrave was initially a blocker on the right side as Love first faked a quick pass to Aaron Jones in the left flat, who was in motion, then spun around and faked a screen pass to AJ Dillon on the opposite side.

While all of that eye candy took place for the defense to digest, Musgrave slipped away from his block to the middle of the field where there weren’t any defenders nearby, and he ran it in for six.

“I’m trying to remember how exactly that play got in,” said LaFleur of the implementation of that play call into the playbook. “Who suggested it. But that’s something that we’ve seen around the league. That’s not the first time that play has ever been run. I know for a fact that San Francisco ran it to (George) Kittle a couple years ago. Whether it was John Dunn or Adam Stenavich, one of the guys, and we just got the call and guys went out there and executed it. Definitely a fun moment, for sure.”

Musgrave brings a dynamic presence to the Green Bay offense with his size and speed, but the team has not been able to unlock that element often this season. With that said, it’s not as if Musgrave hasn’t been involved. His 31 targets coming into Sunday’s game were the third most on the team, but he ranked 30th out of 43 tight ends in yards per catch with 8.3, and by average depth of target, he ranked 32nd, according to PFF.

In part, this is likely a product of a number of different factors, including the fact that pushing the ball downfield has not been kind to the Packers this season. Also, with no run game to lean on or any sort of threat in the vertical passing game, defenses are shrinking the field by playing closer to the line of scrimmage, which creates less for the offense to operate in, especially over the middle where the Packers want to target Musgrave.

So, in order to get Musgrave involved, we’ve seen a lot of short area throws towards the sidelines, which gets him the ball but doesn’t maximize his skillset.

Known for what he can bring to the passing game if Musgrave can continue to develop as a blocker – he has already shown a willingness to do that dirty work – that will add a level of unpredictability to the Packers offense, with defenses then unsure pre-snap of whether or not Musgrave is going to be a pass-catcher or a blocker on any given play. To a degree, it was that element that helped set up his touchdown catch and run.

If Green Bay and Musgrave can connect on these types of plays more often, we will really see his gravity start to impact the offense. Along with the big play potential he brings on his own, Musgrave’s presence on its own will help create opportunities for others with the attention he draws.

Musgrave’s skill set allows him to create mismatches just about anywhere he lines up. Having that element at the tight end position, in particular, can help take some of the playmaking burden off of Love’s hands with Musgrave’s ability to create for himself and make plays in space.

“I think we definitely were able to get him in the right position today,” said Love after the game, “get some opportunities down the field, and his speed he’s able to get past the defense right there and he did a really good job just finishing both those plays off. His touchdown, making a guy miss right there and finish in the end zone, (that’s) exactly what you ask for and exactly what you need, so it was big time.”

Story originally appeared on Packers Wire