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Defense, Offensive Line Will Decide Packers' Fate Against Saints

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Defense, Offensive Line Will Decide Packers' Fate Against Saints

When the Packers take the field at Lambeau on Sunday for the first time in the post-Aaron Rodgers portion of the 2017 season, all eyes will, understandably, be on Brett Hundley. The third-year quarterback, who stepped in for the future Hall of Famer in the first quarter of last week’s loss at Minnesota, has said all the right things since assuming the top spot on the depth chart. Hundley’s confidence in himself, plus a fiery vote of confidence from his head coach earlier this week, seemed to quell, at least somewhat, the panic surrounding the team in the immediate aftermath of Rodgers’s injury.

In the lead-up to Sunday’s matchup with the Saints, we’ve heard almost every backup quarterback-related question in the book; will a full week of practice with the starters make a difference? Does he have the same freedom at the line of scrimmage? What is the chemistry with his teammates like? Can he command the offense the same way? How will the offense be adapted to his skill set and preferences?

All of these are perfectly relevant questions with regard to whether Brett Hundley will be able to put the team on his shoulders and pull out a win against New Orleans. Problem is, the outcome of this game will likely not rest Hundley’s shoulders.

Make no mistake—Hundley and the Packers’ offense should have plenty of opportunities to exploit the Saints defense. Despite fielding three players who rank in the top 10 at their positions according to Pro Football Focus—Cameron Jordan (#1 edge), Marshon Lattimore (#4 cornerback) and Ken Crawley (#7 cornerback)—New Orleans ranks 26th in total defense, 28th in pass defense and 21st in scoring defense. Hundley’s three years in the Green Bay system should absolutely serve him well in his first regular season start, and the Saints’ defense is a far cry from the suffocating Minnesota squad he saw last week.

Despite that, the Packers are going to need stellar performances from elsewhere if they’re going to emerge victorious.

 Hundley could very well be starting behind a patchwork offensive line, depending on the health David Bakhtiari, Bryan Bulaga and Lane Taylor. With the offensive line operating at less than full-strength, opportunities for Hundley to make plays could be few and far between. That’s where the Packers, who no doubt will be extremely focused on establishing the ground attack with Aaron Jones and Ty Montgomery in the first place, may have to rely on simply trying to wear New Orleans down with the run.

And then there’s the other side of the ball.

To say the Packers’ secondary has been ravaged by injury would be a colossal understatement. Although it looks like Kevin King, and possibly Davon House, will return to the lineup this week, Green Bay will likely be without Morgan Burnett for a second straight week. Burnett’s absence was painfully visible against Minnesota, and the Saints bring a high-powered attack to the table. New Orleans, led by 39-year old Drew Brees at quarterback, ranks in the top 10 in total offense (372.2 ypg, seventh), passing (258.4 ypg, fifth) and scoring (29 ppg, fourth).

The Packers enter the game with the 24th-ranked rushing defense in the league, surrendering just shy of 120 yards per game. While it doesn’t seem likely the Saints will lean on Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara, this might be where Green Bay helps themselves the most. If guys like Mike Daniels, Kenny Clark and Blake Martinez can continue their dominance at the line of scrimmage, it could go a long way in setting up obvious passing situations for the Saints. If and when that time comes, it’s going to be on the Packers’ pass rush to get Brees off his spot so he’s not playing target practice in the pocket. Against an offensive attack like the one they’ll see Sunday, Green Bay obviously can’t be expected pitch a shutout. That means they will have to find ways to limit big plays, hold the Saints to field goals when the situation arises, and take advantage of any opportunity to force a turnover.

These factors point to one thing being the difference this week, and it’s not Brett Hundley. If Green Bay is going to win and take a 5-2 record into the bye week, it will have to be the product of a total team effort. The narrative surrounding the Packers over the past handful of seasons has been that the team relies too much on Aaron Rodgers and can’t win without him. If the coaches and players inside 1265 Lombardi are going to disprove that line of thinking, this Sunday is the first step.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (28) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Spock's picture

My understanding is Bulaga has cleared the concussion protocol; whether he can play the whole game will be important.

CheesyTex's picture

O-Line, D-Backs, AR... Hard to be optimistic this week. Quite a load for Hundley's broad shoulders, too, but we'll root the Pack on to a big W.

Qoojo's picture

For me, it comes down to the Saints will probably score over 30 points, and I don't see the offense being able to keep up. Even if the defense is 100% healthy, I still see the saints scoring at least 28 points.

The offensive line has been pretty bad this year. It seems to me almost every 5-7 step drop needs to be roll left or roll right to give Hundley enough time. Things should improve after the bye week.

A couple weeks after the bye week, we should know if this team has a chance to make it the playoffs. Then the hope is that Rodgers might be able to make it back.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

To me the biggest decider here is MM and the Offensive Game plan. If McCarthy is going to get what he gets on OLine. But no OLine they could possibly field is going to be successful if they give up on the run and just do 5 step drops and ISO routes.

For the record I think MM is going to come up with a great plan. He's pissed and for better or worse the pissed Mike has always stepped up.

Jonathan Spader's picture

That's exactly what I'm hoping for JJ. If MM can make Hundley look good and do it consistently it'll go a long ways towards trading Hundley.

John30856's picture

Why in the world would you be thinking about a trade at this point worry about this week, then the next,.......

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Because trading Hundley is probably in the best long-term interests of the GB franchise. Because watching Hundley play well is entertaining in the short term while at the same time also producing nice thoughts in anticipation of next year's draft. Because we can walk and chew gum at the same time.

Finwiz's picture

I like that analogy.

Finwiz's picture

X

Jonathan Spader's picture

It's called light at the end of the tunnel John. If I watch the Packers get taken apart by the Saints I'm hoping to find solace in the fact that Hundley held his own at QB. Watching Aaron Rodgers go down was like watching the season end. If Hundley can impress other teams in his performance in Aaron Rodger's stead than it won't feel like Aaron went down for absolutely no reason which is how it feels now.

TXCHEESE's picture

The DL needs to get a big push up the middle. With Brees being sub 6 foot, a crowded space in front of him works. I wonder if they move Lowrey inside to maybe get some batted balls. Playing these guys on grass is a good break for the defense. When Brees gets on a roll in the dome, he can out score almost anyone.

Nick Perry's picture

And Dial. Isn't he like 6'5", something like that. They've got to get to bree's quick and watch out for that rookie RB Kamara coming out of the backfield. THAT dude is something, and he hasn't even scratched the surface.

A HUGE thing to watch will be King on Michael Thomas (At least I hope King is on Thomas) This kid is going to be a superstar WR. Should be a good test for King.

NWPackersfan's picture

This game really boils down to both lines stepping up. If they can force a turnover or two on defense that will be a game changer. If the O-line can protect Brett that will be a game changer, too. The defense has to get off the field in 3 downs or it will be a disaster for the Pack!!! Go Pack Go!!!

Samson's picture

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Samson's picture

Really, really difficult to know what will happen in this game. The injury situation for the Pack is still up for grabs at this point. How good (really) are the Saints?

This is what I'd hate to witness on Sunday. ---- MM waits until GB gets behind (2nd half) by a couple TDs before he becomes aggressive in the play calling.

Still -------- GB 27 N.O. 24

GBPDAN1's picture

Just read that Our OTs are both playing, Bak and Bulaga. Lane Taylor is doubtful and now Lindsley is questionable ( wtf). So, having tackles is huge.

The D will have King, however, Burnnet is out and Randell and House are Questionable. Need either House or Randell to play, hopefully both. If so, we have a chance because we're home. Brees could carve us up either way, but a pass rush and some CBs would make a difference. Go Pack! ....... So happy the bye is next week!

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

AR has been placed on IR.

Jonathan Spader's picture

Offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga cleared the concussion protocol, coach Mike McCarthy said. Bulaga was a full participant in Friday's practice. Tackle David Bakhtiari (hamstring) was limited in practice all week and his status for Sunday is unknown. Cornerback Davon House (quadricep), center Corey Linsley (back) and cornerback Damarious Randall (hamstring) are all listed as questionable. Guard Lane Taylor (ankle) is doubtful.

GBPDAN1's picture

Bak is playing

Jonathan Spader's picture

I would have liked to see the Packers keep Callahan on the PS and sign Taysom Hill off the Saints PS to our 53. Thought Hill showed a lot more in preseason don't really understand MM's love for Callahan.

flackcatcher's picture

Hill is on the Saints 53. (He was the last time I looked)

GeorgiaCheesehead's picture

I just don’t see our D keeping the Aints under 30. I don’t think we can keep up. Also Coaching/ game plan to Saints. Hope I’m wrong and we pull out a win. Maybe stay in the hunt til mid December possibly get AR back. Sunday will tell us what we need to know.

Lphill's picture

Need to not give up on the run , use the 3 tight ends , plus Hundley has all the receivers at his disposal , slants short passes just work your way down the field. It's not impossible and we need a good push from the D line .

Tundraboy's picture

Going to need the D to come up with some turnovers and ideally a scoring one or two.

porupack's picture

Chris....nice job pulling out that anomaly; despite 3 top ten ranked players at their position on D, Saints are still low 26th on Defense and 28th on pass despite 2 of them being CBs. Great nugget. Must be some scheme issues. Get on it Capers, get on it man.
Packers score 31 and win.

PETER MAIZ's picture

Can we count on Hundley not being the pinata at the party? Brees has been a star quarterback for 15 years or so. But I find it sad that the O line is so beat up. I believe the Saints injury list is composed of 3 (!) players. Green Bay has about 14 players either on the injury report or just coming off the IR list. I'm one of those guys that kinda think Rodgers does carry the team most times especially with the pack so prone to injuries. It seems that the patchwork of the O line "protecting" Rodgers is probably why he got a broken collarbone.

Jonathan Spader's picture

Go back and watch the play he got injured on then Peter. Rodgers rolls out to his right outside of the protection of his offensive line. Yes the injuries on the offensive line led to more rollouts than ever this year but Rodgers has always extended plays by being on the move. What led to the broken collarbone was being driven to the ground with a helmet being driven against his shoulder.

lou's picture

As of now it looks like only Taylor will miss the game and if last week was an indicator Bahkt will be on a snap count. Taylor was playing so much better than last year when he held his own and Evans is solid and a team leader, things were great when all 5 were healthy,. On the D-Line, Daniels can't be 100%, he was unblockable against the Seahawks but average at best since coming back, without his push inside at his best and Perry one handed plus Brooks has been ruled out even if our DB's were all healthy Bree's would still be licking his chops. The Defense has to surprise for to win this one.

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