Five things to watch in Packers vs WFT: Who will be the 'Robin' to Campbell's 'Batman'?

Five things to watch as the Green Bay Packers take on the Washington Football Team at Lambeau Field.

The challenge facing the Green Bay Packers in hosting the Washington Football Team is not dissimilar to the one they overcame a week ago as they put the Chicago Bears to the sword.

Like Chicago, Washington has a defensive front stacked with talent but a questionable back end, a strong number one wide receiver but a struggling and inexperienced quarterback.

Green Bay will justifiably be the heavy favourites to come out on top and go to 6-1 ahead of a formidable stretch of games to come.

Here are five things to watch as the Packers take on the… Football Team.

Will the Washington defense come alive?

The defense of the WFT has been one of the more disappointing and underwhelming units in the entire NFL so far this season, with last year’s stellar group which carried them to the playoffs a distant memory.

It’s difficult to explain these struggles when you look at the defensive line and pass rush of Washington, which boasts a bevy of former first-round draft picks in Chase Young, Montez Sweat (A.K.A. Young & Sweaty), Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne, as well as the former fifth-rounder and stalwart Matt Ioannidis.

That group is still rushing the passer well, ranking 2nd according to PFF, but the problem lies in the defensive backfield, which ranks 31st for pass coverage. The front has not been able to overcome this, and Washington have allowed the most points in the NFL this year as a result.

If the Packers can hold up along the offensive line and give Aaron Rodgers time to operate, he should have no problem picking apart the Washington defense.

What will the Packers’ inside linebacker rotation look like?

De’Vondre Campbell has been nothing short of a revelation since his summer arrival in Green Bay, giving the Packers a presence at middle linebacker they have not had in years. However, outside of Campbell, the inside ‘backer room is still very much in flux.

It was surprising and somewhat concerning to discover that Oren Burks played more snaps against Chicago than Jaylon Smith, who played more than Krys Barnes. It would probably be a good idea to flip that hierarchy on its head.

There’s every chance that decision was made based on Green Bay’s opponent, with Justin Fields’ scrambling ability no doubt a concern, but it will be interesting to see who gets the most snaps against Washington.

Can Green Bay limit Taylor Heinicke’s off-schedule plays?

Heinicke is far from a great NFL quarterback, but he has shown himself to be frisky at times, staying in a shootout with Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for most of their wildcard round playoff game last season.

For a few plays each game, Heinicke morphs into prime Brett Favre, scrambling around to avoid defenders, keeping the play alive until he eventually finds someone open. The Packers must stay disciplined and assignment-sure when rushing the passer, and reduce the opportunities for Heinicke to create weird magic that could allow Washington to stay in the game.

Speaking of the pass rush…

Who will be rushing the passer for Green Bay?

The question of who will be lining up on the edge for the Packers is still to be answered, but the pass rush has received a couple of boosts this week, as Whitney Mercilus followed Randall Cobb in joining the Packers after escaping from the Houston Penitentiary Texans, and Preston Smith gave himself a chance to play by partaking in Green Bay’s final practice of the week.

For Smith personally, being able to play even a small number of snaps versus Washington would be monumental. Smith has never missed a game in his NFL career so far, and he surely won’t want to miss the opportunity to beat up on his former team. Smith also has several financial incentives in his contract that will make missing a game hard to stomach.

Jonathan Garvin growing into a steady contributor at outside linebacker has been a positive development, but getting some snaps out of Mercilus and Smith would be a big boost to a Green Bay pass rush going up against a Washington offensive line which has pass protected well all season.

There’s no such thing as a ‘trap game’

I believe in the statement above, but there is such thing as going into a game in a state of overconfidence, as Packers fans saw to devastating effect in week one.

On paper, this is Green Bay’s second-easiest game of the early season, with only the Detroit Lions representing poorer opposition. The Packers should romp to victory in this game, providing they match the Football Team’s effort and intensity.

There is always a level of concern when your team is supposed to beat their opponent easily, because if something goes wrong, it’s even more embarrassing. Football can be weird at times, and there is of course a possibility Washington could win this game, albeit a slim one.

If Green Bay can avoid any kind of a slow start, it should be a comfortable afternoon for those of a green and gold persuasion, but the Packers will need to give the WFT the same respect they would any other opponent, and crucially, keep their foot on the gas when in a position to put the game away for good.

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Mark Oldacres is a sports writer from Birmingham, England and a Green Bay Packers fan. You can follow him on twitter at @Marko7LW

10 points

Comments (13)

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PatrickGB's picture

October 23, 2021 at 04:24 pm

My response, yah, they get a few sacks. Barnes plays Robin (close number of snaps at ILB) ,Preston starts but is limited and Hinnie gets his yards and the game is closer than expected.

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Lphill's picture

October 23, 2021 at 04:26 pm

Will anyone be surprised if the Redskins March down the field and score , it’s almost customary.

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packer132's picture

October 23, 2021 at 10:39 pm

I will take that bet. Washington doesn't score on their first possession.

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Since'61's picture

October 23, 2021 at 04:27 pm

I would say this game defines the "trap game" scenario. The Packers are a heavily favored home team against a much weaker team "on paper" with much more difficult opponents on the road over the next 2 weeks. It is easy for teams to look past their weaker opponents in these scenarios, hence the term "trap game"

I do believe that MLF is too competent of an HC to allow his team to fall into the trap however. The Packers have the better team and they are playing at home.
As long as the Packers don't beat themselves they should do fine against the WFT. I like the Pack 38 - 16. GPG! Thanks, Since '61

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SanLobo's picture

October 23, 2021 at 07:41 pm

We will take this 35 - 14. At least two turnovers by Washington. Over 150 ground yards for the A.J. & AJ dynamic duo.

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NitschkeFromTheGrave's picture

October 23, 2021 at 07:25 pm

I've said this before, Packers in the past few years have been guilty of playing down to a weaker opponent. The Bear game was great in that it did not go that way, but lets remember... A.R "Owns the fucking Bears, He has owned them his whole fucking life" LOLOLOL. (yes I'm still gloating over the win and beat-down over the Bears.) This game needs to be a decisive win if we are to continue to believe the progression we have been enjoying has some real meaning and foundation to the playoffs. If the game is a squeeker or goes down to a winning field goal and not really won until late in the 4th, this would be a very bad sign. Don't get me wrong I'm always happy with a "W" but:

While many people are simply passing this off as it should be an easy packers win, I'm looking for that watershed moment game in the schedule where the law gets laid down and the CLEAR message is sent, "Packers are a force and on the move". I'll be happy to take a "squeeker win" next week but not against the Skins, this needs to be a Thumping.

Oh, and one more thought, can we get the defensive kickoff return squad in the game? It would be nice to see a couple "pin backs" inside the 10 or 15. Enough with the damn 25, 35 or 40 yard returns !

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Since'61's picture

October 23, 2021 at 08:04 pm

Actually it would be a much more definitive and clearer message if the Packers thumped the Cardinals and or the Chiefs over the next 2 weeks. Thumping the WFT would not be unexpected but thumping the Cardinals and/or the Chiefs would clearly send the message that the Packers are a force to be reckoned with.

A solid win over WFT would be good, but a thumping of AZ or KC would be great. GPG! Thanks, Since '61

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NitschkeFromTheGrave's picture

October 23, 2021 at 08:32 pm

I appreciate your comment and you're right but that would almost be looking past this game and I was saving that for next week. My point was, if we had to have a squeeker but still a win next week would be easier to swallow without the vibe of questioning weakness of a lesser opponent. Meaning a close win game this week with a weak team leaves doubt, whereas a squeeker win next week does not leave doubt. Of course (looking past the Skins) and saying a thumping next week would also send the message we want to be known and heard.

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packer132's picture

October 23, 2021 at 10:46 pm

I can see a solid win over Washington, and they are not in the top teams of the NFL. The offense and defense have played well at times, but have not put together a solid team win in all phases (Special teams, offense, defense). Packers will not thump anyone unless it happens in week #14 against the Bears. There are too many starters injured, and newer players are still learning the defense. Packers should beat Washington 34 -17

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Since'61's picture

October 24, 2021 at 11:28 am

I agree Packer132. I predicted 38-16 Packers yesterday so we’re in the same pew. Thanks, Since ‘61

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Leatherhead's picture

October 23, 2021 at 08:39 pm

We should go to 6-1.

There’s a simple formula: Win your home games, beat your division opponents in their place and you’ll have at least 11 wins and win the division. This is our 3rd home game and we should stay unbeaten at home. WFT isn’t as good as us.

A good offense, at home, should score 30+ against the league’s weakest defense, and I’ve been waiting for our offense to bust loose. Fact is, we’ve played a lot of good defenses…..Saints, Bears, Bengals, 49ers, and Steelers.
These teams are all decent defenses, and we’ve had some injuries, but I keep thinking we’re better on offense than the scoreboard shows.

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NickPerry's picture

October 23, 2021 at 09:33 pm

I'm not surprised or concerned over Smiths play last week. He's been with the team what, 4 or 5 days, a week? Whatever it was I just don't think he's had nearly enough time in this system to be very effective, ESPECIALLY last week. Now playing Burks over Barnes may have been more surprising but Barnes had been injured too.

Personally I think the Jaylon Smith signing could prove to be one of Gutes best signings of all this season. I just believe he needs time to get acclimated to Barry's system and how the Packers can BEST use him too.

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Harold Drake's picture

October 24, 2021 at 02:53 am

Well done, Mark! Mercilus will help the pass rush if he suits up. However, the Packers still have the worst DL in the league, Kenny Clark notwithstanding, and Gutekunst still operates under the grand delusion that Lowry, Lancaster, and Keke are anything more than reserve players who should only set foot on the field in case of emergency.

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