All offseason long, or at least since the league’s schedule came out in April, the beginning of the season has been highly scrutinized by the Packers for facing dual-threat quarterbacks in Weeks 1 and 2.
After paying a visit to the dangerous Colin Kaepernick out in San Francisco this past Sunday, the Packers come home to greet the similarly threatening Robert Griffin III this weekend.
As far as the Packers defense goes, they’re ready to put these teams that are liable to use the read-option behind them.
“Going into the season, thinking two option teams, get them out of the way Week 1 and 2,” said defensive lineman B.J. Raji. “That’s better than seeing them Week 8, Week 9. We look at that as a positive, and we gotta get this one.”
Preparing for the option in football––any option, triple or read––stresses a defense. More time is needed to prepare for an offensive system that’s out of the ordinary. The Packers were dealt the benefit of seeing teams known to run the read-option at the beginning of the season, allowing them several months to prepare.
There’s no guarantee Green Bay won’t see the option in the middle or late in the season, but the likelihood decreases dramatically.
The quarterbacks they’ll be seeing, especially within the NFC North twice a year, are the more typical pocket passers––Jay Cutler, Matthew Stafford, Christian Ponder.
But for the time being, they still have to be prepared for option football and RG3 invading Lambeau Field.
“At the end of the day, you have to go play football,” said head coach Mike McCarthy. “He’s a gifted football player. He’s a big part of their offense obviously, like most quarterbacks, but he has a dynamic that’s different, and that’s what we’re preparing for.”
If Washington’s season opener was any indication, however, Griffin might not be the threat the Packers envisioned.
After partially tearing the ACL and LCL ligaments in his knee last season, Griffin was brought back slowly under coach Mike Shanahan, not playing a single snap during preseason action.
Perhaps that’s part of the reason Griffin appeared rusty in the team’s season opener on Monday Night Football against the Philadelphia Eagles, although Griffin wouldn’t admit it.
“That’s an excuse. I’m not in the business of making excuses,” Griffin told Packers reporters in a conference call. “We were responsible for the way we played. We didn’t play very well in the first half. We turned it on in the second, but it was too late by then. So we just got to make sure we play 60 minutes.”
Griffin insists he feels good, putting trust in an entire offseason’s worth of practice that laid a foundation. But his statistics from Washington’s first game speak for themselves.
On the night, Griffin completed 30 of 49 passes for over 300 yards, which on the surface, seems good. But it was his two interceptions that were most costly. And on the ground, Griffin took off only five times for 24 yards, hardly the rushing output people have come to expect.
In fact, Washington ran the read-option only two times in the season opener, according to Chris Russell of the ESPN Radio affiliate in Washington.
With the way the Packers shut down the 49ers run game in Week 1, combined with concerns about RG3′s health, perhaps Washington will be scared to operate out of the read-option at all.
So will all the Packers preparation have been for naught?
“We’re playing what we see on film and what they’ve done in the past,” said Raji. “He still presents himself as a good player. We obviously know he’s not the same as he was last year, but he’s pretty effective still.”
Dealt an 0-1 record, the Packers can’t afford to take Griffin or Washington lightly. The loser of Sunday’s game, after all, will be forced to dig themselves out of an 0-2 hole and face an uphill battle to even qualify for the playoffs.
“The bottom line is Green Bay didn’t win. We didn’t win,” said Griffin. “You got to teams that are hungry to get a win and they’ve got to meet on the field in Green Bay.”
Brian Carriveau is the author of the book “It’s Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America,” and editor of Cheesehead TV’s “Pro Football Draft Preview.” To contact Brian, email email@example.com.