Green and Bold: LaDarius Gunter vs. Julio Jones

The Packers defense is taking on the No. 1 wide receiver in football in Week 8 in Altanta's Julio Jones, and their best option for coverage on him looks like an undrafted free agent who is third on the depth chart: LaDarius Gunter.  

The Packers defense is taking on the No. 1 wide receiver in football in Week 8 in Altanta's Julio Jones, and their best option for coverage on him looks like an undrafted free agent who is third on the depth chart: LaDarius Gunter.  

Given that Jones is 830 yards for four touchdowns and is averaging a whopping 20.8 yards per reception, the Packers will want to put their best man on him. The trouble with that is No. 1 corner Damarious Randall is recovering from groin surgery, Quinten Rollins' availability for this week is in question as he also deals with a groin injury, and Demetri Goodson only re-joined the team in Week 6 after serving a four-game suspension. 

Gunter may actually be the best the Packers have got versus Jones and Matt Ryan. 

What can Gunter bring to the table in this matchup? 

The second-year player left very different performances on the field only four days apart beween taking on the Dallas Cowboys in Week 7 and the Chicago Bears the following Thursday in Week 8.

In Week 7, Gunter looked lost. In coverage on Terrance Williams toward the end of the second quarter, Gunter gave up a 42-yard reception after slipping. He was lucky that defensive back Micah Hyde was able to bring Williams down before he reached the end zone. 

But then, on the very next play, Gunter gave up a 20-yard pass to Brice Butler for the score. The Packers headed into halftime down 17-6, and would never recover. 

Gunter didn't have time to wallow in the eventual 30-16 loss he no doubt had a hand in causing. Just four days later, the Packers hosted the Chicago Bears at Lambeau. Once again without Randall and Rollins (and safety Chris Banjo, to boot), Gunter drew the unenviable assignment of covering Alshon Jeffery. 

This time, however, it went much better. With Gunter in primary coverage, Jeffery managed only three receptions for 33 yards. Perhaps most telling: he was targeted 11 times. That's a catch rate of just 27 percent. 

His performance earned Gunter the third-highest grade by Pro Football Focus among Green Bay's defense in Week 7:

So is Gunter prepared to shut down Jones because he blanketed Jeffery? Not quite. Jones is still a caliber above Jeffery. But Gunter is perhaps well-prepared to cover Atlanta's top target, given his length (6'1" and 31½-inch arms). And Jones (6'3", 220 lbs) is smaller than Jeffery (6'4", 230 lbs). 

Gunter also excels in press coverage at the line. Combine that with his dogged attitude, which his coaches and teammates all praise, and suddenly he doesn't look like a grave mismatch with Jones. 

Now, to be clear: almost any cornerback in the league this season has struggled to cover Jones, and Gunter likely will, too. 

But the key to success for Gunter and the Packers' secondary isn't completely shutting down Jones. It's limiting him enough so that the Packers can eke out the win against a tough opponent. 

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Comments (34)

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Nick Perry's picture

October 26, 2016 at 06:24 am

I think Gunter should be on Jones, the Packers don't really have anyone else that might slow him down even a little. Even if Randell was healthy I'm not so sure Gunter still wouldn't be the better choice, especially with how Randell has played this year. I mean common, he's been torched by just about everybody. A few years ago the Packers played Sam Shields on Jones and Shields was eaten alive. Not until they put House on Jones did they slow him down some. Gunter will have to try and be really physical with him and have help. I think it also should be said Matt Ryan will be throwing the ball this week, not Barkley or Hoyer.

I watched the Chargers / Falcons game, just about the whole game and San Diego was able to put some pressure on Ryan. If the Packers don't get pressure quickly it could be a long game. The Falcons use ALL their personal and they do it well, something hopefully McCarthy continues to do this week.

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RCPackerFan's picture

October 26, 2016 at 06:52 am

I didn't watch any of the Falcons - Chargers game.

What was some of your biggest take away's from that game?

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Nick Perry's picture

October 26, 2016 at 07:10 am

Atlanta has so much speed EVERYWHERE. On Offense and Defense. Coleman is hurt and probably won't play which is good for the Packers. They'll line up Coleman or Freeman wide a lot to go with their WR. They also have 2 pretty good TE's and they use them a lot. They'll have a 2 TE set and are just as likely to pass as they are to run because both TE can catch and block. They attack, attack, attack.

They are leaking in their Secondary but they have a lot of speed on Defense. Dion Jones, the rookie from LSU is all over the field and can cover. Vic Beasley, last years #1 pick is going to be a beast. He's so fast/quick I'm concerned about Bulaga going against him. They also run a lot of stunts when rushing the QB ( Just Like Seattle) and were pretty effective, at least at times against the Chargers. The Chargers had Melvin Gordon which obviously helped Rivers a lot. I'm hoping with 10 days off the Packers will have Davis up to speed at least a little bit because they'll need more than what just Ty can bring running the ball.

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RCPackerFan's picture

October 26, 2016 at 07:48 am

Thanks.

If Coleman can't go that will definitely help the Packers out. Even with Coleman though I felt pretty good with being able to cover them out of the backfield with our ILB's. Martinez and Thomas have been really good at covering RB's this year.

One of my biggest concerns is Bulaga up against Beasley. Beasley is really fast off the edge. Bulaga has struggled with rushers like him in the past.
Especially if they are going to be dropping back and throwing 50+ times again.

I do think they will have to establish some sort of running game to take pressure off of Rodgers.

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croatpackfan's picture

October 26, 2016 at 08:29 am

Nick it is Randall - not Randell! Just for info!

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Nick Perry's picture

October 27, 2016 at 06:13 am

Oops Thanks Croat!

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RCPackerFan's picture

October 26, 2016 at 06:48 am

The 1 CB I would feel good about covering Jones is currently on IR. Out of the next 3 with Randall, Rollins and Gunter, I think Gunter has as good of a chance to do well against Jones as Randall and Rollins would.

Jones is going to be tough to cover no matter who is on him. But Gunter at least brings size and can press at the line which will at least slow Jones down.

The key for me is if he can press him at the LOS and disrupt his route just long enough to allow the pass rush to get to Ryan. The pass rush has to get to Ryan often.

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Razer's picture

October 26, 2016 at 06:52 am

... Matt Ryan will be throwing the ball this week, not Barkley or Hoyer...

Matt Ryan has been playing well and this is a big factor. Gunter won't be helped by a 3 string QB. Still, as you point out, if the Packers can get pressure on Ryan - everything changes.

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RCPackerFan's picture

October 26, 2016 at 07:00 am

That is a great point. Ryan will be throwing the ball.

That doesn't take away what Gunter did to Jeffrey last week though. He did a terrific job covering him regardless who the QB was.

Jones though is playing out of this world this year. Probably the best WR in the league right now.

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Razer's picture

October 26, 2016 at 07:00 am

Sorry - I meant to post this as a reply to Nick Perry. Here's to you Nick.

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Razer's picture

October 26, 2016 at 06:58 am

Gunter's success against Jones will involve a team effort. Pressure on the QB and overall solid play by the secondary. All too often we see confusion between the corners and safeties. With all the rookies, we can't afford to have the Atlanta WR running free.

I am hoping for big games out of Daniels, Perry, Peppers and maybe even CM3 will show up. If our front-end plays well, the back-end will have a chance.

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Nick Perry's picture

October 26, 2016 at 07:17 am

This is exactly what needs to happen for the Packers this weekend. Last year with Matthews in the middle they blitzed him from everywhere and it was effective. This season reminds of 2014 where Matthews only had 2.5 sacks in the first 8 games and like 8.5 the last 8 games when they moved him. My point is what Mr. Razer brought up.."Maybe CM3 will even show up".. It seems he's so much more effective when he's just as likely to come up the middle as he is from the left or right side.

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rdent's picture

October 26, 2016 at 10:02 am

I have to agree, for the secondary to have any success slowing down Jones the defense must get pressure on Ryan or it may be a long day for anyone covering Jones.

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Rossonero's picture

October 26, 2016 at 08:06 am

Gunter does better matching up with size vs. speed. He's definitely the guy for Julio Jones. Jones is also fast, so safety help will be needed over the top. As someone else noted, Davon House was the only guy in the past who had any success covering Jones.

Aside from the Dallas game, Gunter has earned high Pro Football Focus grades in other games too.

The pass rush will be key to take pressure off the secondary.

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stockholder's picture

October 26, 2016 at 07:11 am

The packers need to keep Jones outside and not give him the middle. He's much like Beckham. Take away the middle and push him to the sidelines. A good shot by the LBs couldn't hurt. The safeties are going to have to help over the top. This is Gunter's chance to shine.

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Spud Rapids's picture

October 26, 2016 at 11:18 am

Agreed, I think HaHa over the top is just as important to mitigate the deep ball and middle of the field. The nice thing about Gunter is he big for a corner which will prevent Jones from being overly physical with him.

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Duke Divine's picture

October 26, 2016 at 01:24 pm

Pressure cures all. Gunter will survive. Shut down the run and get after Ryan and Ha Ha might actually make a play this season. Seriously, the 2 safeties have been close to invisible on the back end. Don't get me wrong they are great so far when close to the line of scrimmage but minus one bad throw from Dak they have not offered that much in pass defense to help the young corners. I am missing something here because people have been praising the safety play? I can understand it regarding their play near the box and vs the run but on the back end I haven't seen them do anything.

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holmesmd's picture

October 26, 2016 at 07:14 pm

"Quiet" at safety in the passing game is not necessarily a bad thing. The picks haven't come yet but no news is good news on the back end;) Doing your job quietly does not equate with being ineffective.

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Lphill's picture

October 26, 2016 at 07:12 am

Safety help on Jones and pressure up front keep rotating the OLB s to keep them fresh , we all thought Odell Beckum was going to have a big game, he did not so et's see how Dom handles Jones , Packers receivers are a bit faster on turf so let's hope for a solid passing game , this could be the breakout game we have been waiting for.

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Handsback's picture

October 26, 2016 at 07:34 am

IF the Atlanta Falcons Oline protect like the Cowboys did....Gunter/Green Bay will have a hard time maintaining coverage on Jones. If the Packers can get some pressure on Ryan, then Gunter will look great. I think the defense will hold for the most part. If Rodgers and the offense can't keep that ball and score TDs then Atlanta will win.

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Donster's picture

October 26, 2016 at 07:44 am

Jones is playing great and with a chip on his shoulder. There have been two legit pass interference calls that he didn't get at crucial times in the past two games. He is mad and is channeling that into his play. No one on the Packers, or most teams, are going to be able to cover him every single play. Pressure on Ryan will be key. The second is to stop their run game in its tracks. Atlanta is fast. Could be the fastest team on offense they will play this year. Got to hit Ryan and get him into that "happy feet zone". The other is for the GB offense to sustain drives, eat some clock to keep Jones and Ryan on the sidelines. And score TD's from outside the red zone. The Pack gets into the red zone and fizzle. Just kicking field goals won't win this game. They have to get out of "field goal syndrome" and score TD's. Hopefully Allison can help if they get into that red zone.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

October 26, 2016 at 07:54 am

Ryan throws into tight windows to get the ball to Jones quite a bit. Might almost say he forces it in there. A lot of passes go over the middle. DBs need to fight for the passes and not drop possible INTs. Otherwise, mostly scheme is the only real answer or partial solution to Jones.

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Bearmeat's picture

October 26, 2016 at 08:18 am

Gunter with safety help over the top almost all game and taking your chances 1v1 with their other options in the passing game (Goodson... gulp). Control the run and play action with the front 7.

Try to establish some sort of running game. Turnovers to an absolute minimum. Score a lot.

This is a BAD time for GB to run into an offensive juggernaut. I'd rather play anyone else right now.

Hope we can come out with a win, but if I'm being honest, I think we're just as likely to get our doors blown off.

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jh9's picture

October 26, 2016 at 04:21 pm

I'm not feeling good about this game, either. Ryan gets the ball out fast and accurate and that's the kind of quarterback the Packers have shown they have little defense for. (Think Phillip Rivers last year.)

Gunter against Julio Jones... Gunter may hold up for a few plays but for a whole game... I don't care if Gunter has help, Jones is just too damn good.

The Packers, offensively, haven't played a complete game this year. They've played well for a couple of quarters and a couple of halves. If the Packers can play well offensively for a full sixty minutes, then I expect this game to look more like a track meet than a football game. If the Packers don't play well offensively, than Bear, I expect you'll be right. We'll get our doors blown off.

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Doug_In_Sandpoint's picture

October 26, 2016 at 09:16 am

Perhaps they will call that "break the qb's arm" play. Not wanting anyone to get seriously hurt, they could call the "bruise the qb's arm" play. Matt Schaub is still better than Barkley though. Probably best off having Capers just call the "intercept the ball" play repeatedly.

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NMPF's picture

October 26, 2016 at 09:18 am

Middle collapse of the pocket by DL/LB. Ryan can get a little Eli-like with inside pressure. If D gets its hands on the ball make the INT. The O has a real possibility of lighting up the ATL defense. TD's over FG's please.

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Since'61's picture

October 26, 2016 at 09:23 am

Atlanta has plenty of speed on offense. Matt Ryan is having an MVP type of season so far this year. Our best defense needs to be our offense and we can't let up regardless of the score or the time remaining. Atlanta can score quickly and from anywhere on the field. Gunther with safety help seems to be our only choice against Jones but we should not underestimate Atlanta's other weapons. Jones can be a decoy to open up the field for their other receivers. Tough challenge for Caper's defense this week. Go Pack Go! Thanks, Since '61

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Tarynfor12's picture

October 26, 2016 at 09:49 am

This is a type of game that the defense cannot afford a let down. It's also a game where Perry must show a deserving of the contract many want him to get. He has had his moments, but any level of disappearing cannot happen whether Matthews plays good or not. Doing well against bad offenses is good but doing good against top offenses is a must. I will happily thumbs up a new deal if he gets it done here.....no excuses.

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dobber's picture

October 26, 2016 at 12:16 pm

I think we give Atlanta a lot of credit, and they have been productive offensively this season, but they're a team that has had trouble sustaining success in recent years. Certainly, they were good enough (and SDs defense is not great) that they should have pounded the Chargers at home...but they didn't.

Atlanta's offense funnels primarily through Jones and their RB. They really don't use their TEs all that much, and their second and third WR are afterthoughts. The OL is at least average. Ryan is a prototypical pocket passer, and is not a threat to run. It all comes down to forcing the Falcons to do things they don't want to do.

Contain Freeman (both in the passing game and running game) and Jones, make Ryan move around the pocket and hit him. Their defense is not formidable...the Packers should be able to score points against them. The question is whether or not they can do that for 60 minutes.

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Tundraboy's picture

October 26, 2016 at 12:20 pm

Yes I know its not likely, but anything less than 200 yards would be a victory in and of itself.

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Rossonero's picture

October 26, 2016 at 05:04 pm

The Packers have rebounded well after losses, but not after some wins. How they handle last week's success vs. Chicago will be telling of this team's preparation and focus.

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al bundy's picture

October 26, 2016 at 08:14 pm

Gunther can handle it he was a ted draft pick. If the guy cant play why daft him right.?

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RCPackerFan's picture

October 27, 2016 at 06:36 am

Well I guess he can't handle it then. Cuz he wasn't a Ted draft pick.

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dobber's picture

October 27, 2016 at 08:36 am

With Rollins being a DNP on Wednesday, we need to resign ourselves to the fact that it's going to be Gunter, Goodson, Hawkins, Hyde and a bunch of Safeties in coverage this week.

In the past, the Packers have done well when they've had time to get those "next-guys-up" prepped for their roles. It could be that Jones will go for 200+ (I think it's unlikely...200 yd games don't happen all that often), but if you look at Atlanta's track record this year, his going off doesn't guarantee them a win.

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