Maggie's Pre-Game Six Pack - 2020 Week 2

It's a new weekly column with Maggie giving six things to look for each game. 

Welcome to a new, casual column called Maggie’s Pre-Game Six Pack! Each Friday morning during the season, I’ll be giving you six things to keep an eye on going into that week’s Packers game. This could be an impressive stat, a player to watch, a matchup I like (or loath), or maybe even the weather forecast! But with that, let’s dive right into Week 2 against the Detroit Lions.

1. Rookies Ready for Work

In their NFL debuts, plenty of rookies stepped up big for the Packers. Second-round running back AJ Dillon, third-round tight end Josiah Deguara, sixth-round offensive lineman Jon Runyan Jr., and undrafted rookie inside linebacker Krys Barnes were just a few of the players that impressed last Sunday. 

Head Coach Matt LaFleur said earlier this week that he’d love to get Dillon more touches, so expect to see him more on Sunday. Dillon only had two carries against the Vikings in Week 1, but he ran for 14 yards which gives him a seven-yard average. Personally, I’d love to see him get a handoff at the goal line. Predictable? Yes. Worth it? Also yes. 

With Lane Taylor destined for season-ending injured reserve, it remains to be seen if Billy Turner or Runyan Jr. will be the long term solution at right guard, but Runyan Jr. filled in admirably in his limited snaps and proved he’s up for the task if his number is called again on Sunday. 

2. Keeping Streaks Alive

Per the dope sheet, there are some impressive stats on the line at Lambeau Field this Sunday. For starters, the Packers are on a six-game regular season win streak, which is the longest current streak in the NFC. 

Additionally, the Packers have won seven straight home openers (2013-2019). 

Finally, LaFleur swept the NFC North in his first season with the Packers, then extended his record to 7-0 last Sunday against the Vikings. Cheers to what’s hopefully an even more impressive 8-0 streak after the Lions game.

3. Aaron Rodgers Encore Week 2

Yeah...I couldn’t leave him off this list. Such impressive stats from the quarterback in Week 1. Four touchdowns and 364 yards with a completion percentage of 72.7 and a quarterback rating of 127.5. Great stuff. Of course, it helps that despite the unfortunate musical chairs along the offensive line, Rodgers was only pressured four times all game for zero sacks. That’s a testament to the offensive line, and to Rodgers, who looked a lot more comfortable in the second year of LaFleur’s offense. 

While it’s unfair to expect Rodgers to put up gaudy numbers every week, it’s a good sign that the offense was able to put up 43 points with no preseason. Things are clicking. And now for the second straight week, Rodgers is facing a young secondary, as the Lions have almost no healthy cornerbacks on the roster. Look for the two-time MVP to exploit his matchups early and often. 

This season, Rodgers joined Brett Favre and Bart Starr as the only players to play 16 seasons with the Green Bay Packers. It’s great company to be in, and what a way for Rodgers to start his 16th year.

4. Matchup of the Week: Packers ILBs vs Lions TEs

For me, I’m most looking forward to seeing how Christian Kirksey and Krys Barnes match up against Lions tight ends T.J. Hockenson and Jesse James. We know last season the Packers struggled in the middle of the defense, specifically against tight ends, and the Lions have a solid duo. I’d expect Hockenson to get his fair share of looks again this week if wide receiver Kenny Golladay is out of the lineup for a second game. Hockenson had five receptions for 56 yards and one touchdown in Week 1 against the Bears. 

For the Packers, Barnes only played 15 snaps on defense, but he blew up a screen pass to running back Dalvin Cook and made a clean open-field tackle that could’ve gone for significant yards otherwise. He was second on the team in total tackles with six behind only his counterpart Kirksey (12), and posted two tackles for loss. It’ll be another big week for the undrafted rookie.

5. Likely Without Clark for Sunday

Defensive lineman Kenny Clark didn’t practice Wednesday or Thursday, which makes it highly unlikely he’ll be able to play Sunday. It remains to be seen if the Packers will elevate anyone from the practice squad to add to the rotation, or if the team will roll with who’s already on the roster. A bit of good news at least is that Montravius Adams has started practicing again, and even though he’s limited, he should see the field before too long. 

Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine got creative on defense after losing Clark, even utilizing Za’Darius Smith as a standing nose tackle to generate pressure up the middle, with Rashan Gary and Preston Smith rushing off the edge. While this isn’t a long term solution for the run defense, it does help the defense sustain a pass rush in Clark’s absence.

6. Badger Impressing as a Lion

Badgers fans are familiar with an emerging face on the Lions roster, wide receiver Quintez Cephus. In his NFL debut, Cephus was the most targeted player for Detroit in Week 1. Matt Stafford looked his way a whopping 10 times, and Cephus hauled in three receptions for 43 yards. 

Cephus is only 22 and likely climbed the depth chart quickly with Golladay’s injury and Geronimo Allison opting out of the season. He could be a sneaky x-factor in Sunday’s matchup. The Packers know who they’re facing in Marvin Jones Jr., Danny Amendola, and even running back Adrian Peterson. Cephus is an unknown commodity who’s already garnered some attention from Stafford. Keep an eye out for #87 on Sunday. 

 

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Maggie Loney is a writer for Cheesehead TV, podcaster for the Pack-A-Day Podcast and Pack's What She Said, and hosts a weekly live show called Happy Hour through Game On Wisconsin. Find her on Twitter at @MaggieJLoney.

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Comments (42)

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Sureshot's picture

September 18, 2020 at 07:19 am

Oh yes, last year defense against TE was... not very good.
Hopefully, more speed and better coverage skills in the ILB unit will keep us out of the nightmare we've seen this past season.

I really look forward for the defense to shake off the rust and improve their play in the first home game of the season.

Offensively, I didn't notice any rust last week...

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Leatherhead's picture

September 18, 2020 at 11:19 am

So you didn’t notice any offensive rust in the first quarter when we were stopped twice in the red zone, but you noticed defensive rust in the fourth quarter when we were way ahead after squashing them for three quarters?

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dobber's picture

September 18, 2020 at 12:27 pm

How was being stopped at the goal line rust? They did it in fine form last couple years, too! ;)

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Since'61's picture

September 18, 2020 at 03:10 pm

A cookie for Dobber! Thanks, Since ‘61

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JosephMiller1967's picture

September 18, 2020 at 07:20 am

I'm so excited for this new NFL season. I wonder how things will go. I'd like to see another game with the Bears and the Packers beat them with ease :D

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dobber's picture

September 18, 2020 at 08:03 am

Fully expect that Sunday's game with the Lions will be tight. Packers haven't won vs. the Lions by more than one score since 2014, and over that span are only .500 against the Lions. Now, some of those Lions teams were actually pretty decent, but this one is not so good. Still, even last season the Packers had to claw out late wins against the fourth-quarter-chokers.

I think this is a high-scoring, close game even with Golladay sidelined. Jeff Okudah is trending toward playing, but will have his hands full with Tae. Packers 37-Lions 30.

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RCPackerFan's picture

September 18, 2020 at 08:15 am

Last year the Lions lead for 120 minutes in both games. Packers won both. Crazy stat to think about.

I completely agree that this will be a closer played game. Lions have played us very tough the last however many years. It will be a tough game this week too.

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dobber's picture

September 18, 2020 at 08:58 am

Just like last year, the Packers went on the road and opened with a big, in-division win. Can't come home and lose a division game you're supposed to win and squander the leg up they've already given themselves...especially with the Saints on the horizon.

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RCPackerFan's picture

September 18, 2020 at 09:20 am

Absolutely!
This is a huge early season game. With the injuries the Lions have, this is a very important game for us to win. Have to take advantage of the opportunities in front of us!

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Coldworld's picture

September 18, 2020 at 09:35 am

I think it will be an interesting test of our run D without Clark, which I’m sure most foresee, but I also think we may get to see a better window in our offense. Minnesota are strong at ILB and safety and inexperienced outside. While the Lions have issues at CB due to injuries, I expect the middle to be more open opening opportunities for the TEs, HBack RBs and Ervin in the passing game.

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dobber's picture

September 18, 2020 at 09:59 am

Agreed. Packers didn't even really try to attack the Vikes' safeties and ILBs with the TE position. I think we'll see the ball more spread out among pass-catching groups this week.

I love how you gave Ervin his own position group.

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RCPackerFan's picture

September 18, 2020 at 08:06 am

1. Rookies Ready for Work-

I was surprised with how well the rookies performed in week 1 without any offseason, no preseason games. They played well! I'm excited to see how they develop. Barnes was by far the biggest surprise in week 1. I don't know if they will entrust Runyan to be the starter at RG, but he performed well and they had no problem starting Barnes an UDFA at ILB. Will Runyan be our starting RG?

The one player that I kind of am expecting to see get more playing time is Dillon. I think we will see him more in the goal line situations, or short yardage. When its first and goal at the 1, why not role out with the new 250 lb RB. Nothing else it would make for a good decoy for a play action pass!

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murf7777's picture

September 18, 2020 at 09:10 am

Yes RC agree, also sure looks like the so called reach for Deguara was false. You can see why in just one game why MLF didn’t let another team get him. This guys loves to play smash mouth football and football IQ is very high.

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Guam's picture

September 18, 2020 at 09:42 am

One game isn't much of sample, but so far this rookie class has been better than advertised. Dillon, Deguara, Runyon and Barnes have all played well; Martin looked like a starter until his injury; Stepaniak was highly regarded by the draft experts and might help our interior OL when he can play; and Galeai and Garvin have played okay in spot duty. So far, so good.

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murf7777's picture

September 18, 2020 at 10:29 am

I don’t think Tipa played good in spot duty at least in the first half on All 22 I watched. Those 3 plays I saw him in on Cousins ran for 33 and Matteson for 6. Didn’t see any from Garvin thou.

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RCPackerFan's picture

September 18, 2020 at 10:00 am

Deguara is a perfect fit for this offense and what LaFleur wants to do. He is going to be such a big part of the offense moving forward.
I think we will see him having a bigger impact as a receiver also. The Vikings have really good LB's. Against teams that don't have as good of LB's, Deguara will definitely get more receptions.

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CoachDino's picture

September 18, 2020 at 06:26 pm

You also hear how it was a reach in the third, as most had him as a 4th-5th rd guy. What isn't mentioned is the Packers pick in the 3rd can practically be considered a 4th. By the time the 4th rd pick would of came up it would be close to a 5th. Perspective. Reach, maybe, if it was it was a vey small one and considering the position need and fit turned out not to be a reach At ALL.

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jannes bjornson's picture

September 18, 2020 at 08:05 pm

Football players. If you watch college ball closely, none of the performances by these players is a surprise.

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Doug_In_Sandpoint's picture

September 18, 2020 at 09:21 am

When Barnes plays well as he did as an undrafted FA with no preseason games, maybe the strategy of not stressing too much about ILB play is correct.

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Coldworld's picture

September 18, 2020 at 09:38 am

Be happier still if Greene is back. Lions have strength at TE and use it and that will test us as we all know.

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CoachDino's picture

September 18, 2020 at 06:32 pm

Good point CW..

Maggie hit on something I haven't see mentioned much, TE play. Packers Bane last year and though TJ didn't have much of a year 1 he is an elite prospect and should be that much better year 2.

I'm a Greene fan yet if they can field an ILB that can run/cover TE's it's going to help against the run. It's a lot to expect of Greene to play in that box against the Big Boys on 75% of the snaps.

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dobber's picture

September 18, 2020 at 10:02 am

I give the coaching staff credit for (by appearances) using rookies where they were best suited to be successful...making sure the square pegs were fitting square holes. It didn't seem like any rookie was asked to play more snaps than they were comfortable in.

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murf7777's picture

September 18, 2020 at 10:33 am

I was really surprised how much Deguara played. That position has a big learning curve. That shows his high level football IQ. I really liked his college football tape and it’s nice to see it transferring to the NFL game.

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Matt Gonzales's picture

September 18, 2020 at 11:54 am

I would love to see a power package that has Dillon and Deguara in the backfield with 2 TEs. Would give DCs fits since either backfield guy could be a ball carrier, blocker, or receiver. When we had the personnel to run it that Jumbo/heavy look worked great in the past and there are new wrinkles now that could make it work even better.

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CoachDino's picture

September 19, 2020 at 06:46 pm

If jones gets hurt you will this year. Your preference is exactly what they are moving toward. Starting in 2021 it will be the base Offense. In my opinion.

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CoachDino's picture

September 19, 2020 at 06:46 pm

If jones gets hurt you will this year. Your preference is exactly what they are moving toward. Starting in 2021 it will be the base Offense. In my opinion.

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cheesehead1's picture

September 18, 2020 at 10:02 am

Not holding my breath, but the D needs to step up. We haven’t had a top D since 2010. It’s like a broken record every year.

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murf7777's picture

September 18, 2020 at 10:36 am

Agree cheesehead, although progress was made last year being I think the 10th best D by points allowed. No one stat tell the whole story, but points allowed obviously is one of the important ones.

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PackfanNY's picture

September 18, 2020 at 11:24 am

Agreed. I can’t even put my finger on the problem. Pettine is in his 3rd year. Resources have been dedicated to fixing the inconsistency. Certainly draft picks until this year. Free Agents (Smith and Smith and Amos). Yet Clark gets hurt (1 player!?) and we all, rightfully so, are nervous that our run defense is in big trouble. Damn. We have 11 players on the field. Tired of hearing about the defense.

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Matt Gonzales's picture

September 18, 2020 at 04:39 pm

It's the natural consequence of salary cap football and spending so many years drafting near the bottom of the draft order. When you're paying big boy money to your QB there is less to spread around elsewhere, and when you draft low the players you draft are more likely to need more time to develop. Add to that the number of miscues we've had drafting, losing Raji, etc., and it's a hard to dig out of unless you want to put yourself in a future cut and gut situation.

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CoachDino's picture

September 19, 2020 at 07:19 pm

Exactly...
My daily why down on Pettine post.
He improved the PFF defense grade 50% last year.
We supposedly had huge issues with Arod/Weapons yet won 13 reg season games and advanced to the NFC Conference Finals. That's a big deal.

So what did they do to help him from last year to this year?
IDL? Nope
Big Time ILB? Nope

So though I still believe the D should improve because it's not just getting better players but the growth of current players and #1 Assignment Integrity!!!! #2 better run support from DBs. #3 Less 3 and outs by the offense

Now I'd love to replace Lancaster and Lowery as well but they have ZERO cap space.

OK Packer Nation I'm with ya but lets not give up yet, I still think they can have a top 10 defense and be good enough to compete with the big boys.

To be fair, in sports, thats all one can ask, Compete, win or lose, there are ZERO teams including the Chiefs that are expected to win the SB, best probability compared to other teams, yes. Probability of actually doing it - Never.

As a fan my issue is they DIDN'T compete against SF - So I'm with ya but I still have faith in the DC that as an overall defensive until, weakness and strengths, they will compete in 2020/2021..

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Leatherhead's picture

September 18, 2020 at 11:21 am

I think we’ll win by two touchdowns.

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Since'61's picture

September 18, 2020 at 11:48 am

I’d like to see Deguara as a lead blocker for either Jones or Dillon on the goal. Another possibility is Ervin on the goal because he hits the hole really fast.

We’re playing at home. We should play with a lead and keep the Lions one dimensional. If our defense can play seriously for 4 quarters we should be fine. I’d prefer to see the defense shut down the opponent for 4 quarters rather than just 3.

Barnes played well at ILB and should get the start this week. I hope Raven Green can play to solidify our run defense.

Rodgers just needs to run the offense as he did last week, hopefully without the time outs. Keep Rodgers clean, play penalty free and we’ll be fine. Thanks, Since ‘61

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cheesehead1's picture

September 18, 2020 at 06:41 pm

D was good for 3 quarters. Why do teams go into prevent and not just stick with what’s been working? Keep the pressure on and quit giving up these easy big plays.

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Since'61's picture

September 19, 2020 at 09:10 am

I’ve never understood the prevent defense approach either. I’m an advocate for keeping the pressure on the opposing QB as he tries to bring his team back. The way the Packers gave up quick TDs against the Vikes tells me that their prevent D is flawed. They spent less than 19 minutes on the field so they should not have been gassed.
Hopefully Pettine has some answers for this week. Thanks, Since ‘61

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splitpea1's picture

September 18, 2020 at 01:44 pm

If our secondary plays well and we manage to keep Peterson in check (that includes any two-point conversion attempts), this game shouldn't be a problem. At least that how it looks on paper.

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JohnnyLogan's picture

September 18, 2020 at 02:36 pm

Clark being injured is a killer. We needed a big DL alongside him and now we need two. We're really light in the interior. Lowry and Lancaster were awful last week. I watched their play closely and they were easily shoved aside and often knocked flat on their faces. This is a huge issue that teams will exploit. The Vikings would have if Rodgers and company hadn't put them in a hole early forcing them to throw. Keke also was a non-factor. If Kirksey and Barnes have to play close to help stop the run the TE's are going to have a field day in the middle. The DL is what will lose this team games this year. Gute needs to make a trade or find a big ugly somewhere, and fast.

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Matt Gonzales's picture

September 18, 2020 at 05:25 pm

I wouldn't be surprised to see Gary line up on the DL this week for some plays. He's undersized for an NFL 3-4 DL but he has some experience there and it keeps the Smiths on the edge.

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jannes bjornson's picture

September 18, 2020 at 08:13 pm

Play a 4-2 scheme. If Pettine can't figure it out , move on.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

September 19, 2020 at 02:57 pm

I didn't watch Keke, Lancaster and Lowry closely. I do note that PFF gave Keke and Lancaster high average grades. PFF gave Lowry a 55, which is low average.

I will try to watch more closely this week. Last week due to circumstances I didn't get to sit close enough to the TV to really discern the line play.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

September 19, 2020 at 02:57 pm

I didn't watch Keke, Lancaster and Lowry closely. I do note that PFF gave Keke and Lancaster high average grades. PFF gave Lowry a 55, which is low average.

I will try to watch more closely this week. Last week due to circumstances I didn't get to sit close enough to the TV to really discern the line play.

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mamasboy's picture

September 18, 2020 at 05:02 pm

The good news is Montraveus Adams is practicing again? I question her definition of good news.

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