GREEN BAY, Wis. – The faster the better.
That's what Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy has planned for his offense this season.
And why not, especially with Aaron Rodgers on board with the idea?
McCarthy and his quarterback have one primary goal in mind for 2014: Run 75 plays per game.
Do that, and everything else -- big numbers for Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson, Jarrett Boykin and possibly one of the new rookie receivers; another 1,000-plus-yard season for Eddie Lacy; solid pass protection -- will fall into place.
"That seems to be the answer to some of the different things that defenses are doing," Rodgers said during an interview this offseason.
The first hint of McCarthy's plans came in February, when he stood at the lectern at the NFL scouting combine and declared that he wants Lacy -- and all of his running backs -- to turn into three-down players in order to limit the need for substitutions, which, of course, slows down the game.
"We play pretty fast, but you always want to play faster," McCarthy said during an interview near the end of the offseason program last month. "With a guy like Aaron, he plays faster than anybody I've ever been around."
McCarthy's offense isn't Chip Kelly's, which averaged 80-plus plays per game when he ran the fastest game in college football at Oregon. But Kelly's offense in the NFL -- despite 53 plays in the first half of his first game as the Philadelphia Eagles' coach last season -- wasn't Kelly's offense in college, either.
The Eagles finished last season 13th out of 32 teams in total offensive plays with 1,054, an average of 65.875 per game.
The Packers ranked 11th with 1,074 total plays (67.125 per game) -- their second-highest total in McCarthy's eight seasons as head coach -- but averaged nearly 69 plays in the games Rodgers finished last season.
"Aaron Rodgers is a beast the way he plays the game, the way he attacks the defense, whether it's his cadence, his ability to recognize defenses to take advantage of a certain pressure, and then on top of it he's so well-rehearsed in this offense," McCarthy said. "If anything, you worry about him just sometimes playing too fast. Not that he's playing too fast, he has the ability to play at such a fast level, it's keeping everyone coordinated to be able to play with him."
And that's where the running backs come into the picture.
As Lacy pounded his way to well-earned yards on first and second down last season, he usually came off the field on third down -- not because he needed a blow but because McCarthy and his offensive staff felt better about using another back (often fullback John Kuhn) in pass protection. That plan usually worked (remember Kuhn's game-saving block on Julius Peppers in the Week 17 division-clinching win over the Bears), but the Packers had to downshift in order to make the change.
This year, McCarthy sees no need to change speeds and no reason to give the defense time to adjust.
"We've always been a fast-tempo offense," he said. "To me, there are two approaches to playing the game of football. Historically, in my opinion because I don't want to offend anybody, defensive coaches want to slow the game down, run the ball, shorten the game. Your offensive coaches more want to pick it up.
"I've always been of the belief of getting as many shots as you can, so we've always emphasized playing as fast as you can. When you have as many three-down players as you can possibly have, obviously your substitution patterns are cleaner. You're not subbing because you have to, you're subbing just when you need to."
That could mean even more no-huddle series this season. Rodgers, who has excelled in the no-huddle offense, likes the plan.
"We always kind of struggle with that, trying to get guys to stay on the field and play all three downs," Rodgers said. "We've had so many injuries over the years, it's made John Kuhn such an irreplaceable guy because he can be the guy who can run and get you a few yards and also be a third-down protection back. He's been amazing at it in two-minute drills. I mean, last year, he made the block of the year. But it would be nice if we could have drives where Eddie can go three plays in a row or James [Starks] could go three plays in a row or DuJuan [Harris] could go three plays in a row and not have to take them out, so we could not have to bring in any subs and you could stay pressuring the defense.
"There’s a lot of substitution that goes on by both teams. The key substitution is usually for third down, because teams run so much on third down. After second down, if you're subbing four or five guys on and off, it's tough to run an offense where you're up-tempo, because everybody has to get the call, and it just takes a little longer. We'd like to play a little faster."