Slowing Vikings' pass rush key in Packers season opener

Keeping Aaron Rodgers upright will be a tall task for the Packers offensive line come Sunday.

The Green Bay Packers play football this weekend.

No, not preseason football. Not training camp practices followed by a firestorm of tweets.

Like, real football.

And what better way to open up the season than against an NFC North rival?

The last time the Packers started the season against the Vikings was in 2020, when Green Bay traveled to Minnesota and took it to the Vikings from the jump. Aaron Rodgers threw for 364 yards and four touchdowns, which would prove to be the start of back-to-back MVP seasons for 12.

I'll take another order of that, please.

In all seriousness, I have a lot of things that I'll be paying attention to come Sunday at 3:25 p.m. CT.

How will the Packers offense use both Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon? Will the defense be as good as advertised? Is Rich Bisaccia the savior, or will it be same old-same old special teams?

However, the biggest part of the game I'll be keeping an eye on? The edges of the trenches.

It's no secret that former Packer Za'Darius Smith has had this matchup circled on his calendar since signing with Minnesota in free agency. He's had a lot to say about how much he wants to get revenge on his former team that he feels did him wrong in 2021.

Pairing him with talented edge rusher Danielle Hunter on the other side creates a formidable pass-rushing duo.

But with the news that David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins could both be suiting up to man the two tackle positions for Green Bay, it won't be an easy path to the quarterback for the new "Purple People Eaters 2.0." (Or so they say).

Why is it such a big deal? Well, all four players (Smith, Hunter, Jenkins, Bakhtiari) are considered top players at their respective positions when healthy. And all four players are coming back from injury a season ago.

Bakhtiari (ACL), Jenkins (ACL), Smith (back) and Hunter (pec) all missed extended time in 2021. Seeing all four back healthy will be a treat for football fans alike.

Bakhtiari has had success against Hunter in the past, using a variation of different pass sets to throw off Hunter's timing and move-set. But that was a few years ago, so it will be interesting to pay attention to that on Sunday.

In the same sense, Jenkins has played well when he's had to at the tackle position. But Packers fans know how good Smith is when fully healthy and motivated.

Now, I know it's Wednesday and some of this is a little speculative. Who knows if Jenkins and Bakhtiari will both actually start on Sunday?

*Crosses fingers and prays.*

If they do, it'll seriously be such a fun matchup to watch come Sunday.

As long as the Packers can keep Rodgers upright, I like their chances.

__________________________

Gunnar Davis is a lifelong Packers fan and a recent graduate of Simpson College, where he was a 3-year letterwinner on the offensive line and graduated with a degree in multimedia communications. You can follow him on Twitter at @Gunnar57Davis.

3 points

Comments (36)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
CoachJV's picture

September 07, 2022 at 12:33 pm

Hey Y'all... Back now that it's regular season again... GPG!!!

I'm totally comfortable with Nijman manning either tackle spot if one can't go... But if it's Bak that can't, Put Nij on the Left side. Let Jenk settle before we start musical chairs.

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PatrickGB's picture

September 07, 2022 at 01:01 pm

I have been listening and reading reports that indicate that the Packers lose this game. The consensus is that the Vikings have improved and the Packers will really miss Adams. Of course those who run betting sites disagree with those journalists. To me, it’s incumbent upon the line and the running backs to carry the load until the receivers get up to speed. I do worry a bit because Matt has been coy about who will start and the availability of Lizard. Also, it’s a tough place to play especially with the noise and some rookies at WR.GPG

1 points
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Fubared's picture

September 07, 2022 at 02:38 pm

The Vikes have the best receiver and te tanden in football and the run game is every bit as good as anyones. throw in a new pass rush tandem and they will be formidable. There schedule says they can be 7-0 before they get tested by Ariz at home.
The packers are a patchwork of what ifs. Run game is okay but not great,passing game will be avg at best and the defense, god only knows how bad the pass d will be. Its costs us three playoff games in a row with no real upgrades.

-12 points
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LLCHESTY's picture

September 07, 2022 at 02:59 pm

🤡

Enough said.

5 points
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LeotisHarris's picture

September 07, 2022 at 03:44 pm

No kidding. Could CHTV set Yakety Sax as default audio for any post by ImaPayne?

6 points
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Johnblood27's picture

September 07, 2022 at 05:26 pm

...or change his icon to a small car with a lot of heads in it...

5 points
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NickPerry's picture

September 08, 2022 at 05:51 am

"god only knows how bad the pass d will be. Its costs us three playoff games in a row with no real upgrades."

I can only assume you're talking about the Vikings pass defense and you mean 3 REGULAR season games since the "Vikes" don't go to the playoffs...

7-0... Just LOL!!!

3 points
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CoachJV's picture

September 07, 2022 at 03:34 pm

Word is Lazard was "stepped on" and will be Questionable... Bruised foot is my guess.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

September 08, 2022 at 05:17 am

Well, I think LaFleur should stop the other receivers from stomping on Lazard's foot. I hear Watkins is wearing shoes with steel toes.

2 points
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Tundraboy's picture

September 08, 2022 at 09:42 am

I guess in old school language that would be spiked. Maybe Caleb Jones stepped on them. That would certainly hurt.

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Jonathan Spader's picture

September 08, 2022 at 04:54 am

Sports journalists get paid for the amount of clicks they get on their articles. There's 0 accountability when they are inevitably wrong. They're more or less the weather men of journalism. Betting sites get paid for being right more often than they're wrong. Both can be insightful but 1 literally puts their money where their mouth is then other does not.

0 points
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splitpea1's picture

September 07, 2022 at 01:08 pm

Keeping the ZDS/Hunter tandem in check is mandatory if we're going to be able to win this one. We don't want to see how much real progress Love has made in the preseason just quite yet... I think the way to victory is to control TOP will a heavy dose of Dillon and Jones, but maybe easier said than done. And what's the deal with Lazard? Either way, we're going to need contributions from our rookie WRs.

On the flip side of the ball, we've invested a lot of resources in our defense, so they need to shine right away (hopefully that includes a strong debut from Q. Walker). The secondary certainly needs to do a MUCH better job than they did the last time at Minnesota.

Special teams: Who knows? As has been said a million times, they're going to be a work in progress. Crosby: Hopefully no hiccups--we'll probably be needing him at least a couple of times.

We don't want to see Bakh and Jenkins out there if they're compromised in any way....the first game of the season, even if it's against the Vikings, isn't remotely worth the risk.

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PatrickGB's picture

September 07, 2022 at 01:15 pm

And hopping on what you brought up about special teams, I wonder as well. They did not impress during the preseason. But I am sure things got changed a bit. The Vikings added a stud at returner just recently and that worries me more. Also, Coco and ODonnel look ok but who knows about Crosby?

1 points
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splitpea1's picture

September 07, 2022 at 03:35 pm

But the good news is that a lot of the players who were on ST in the preseason are no longer with the team. And R. Ford was signed, which should be a big help and nix any ideas of using Stokes in a similar position.

From what I gather (who knows how reliable that is), they'll be using starting offensive linemen (also Slaton, an ex-OL) for the FG/PAT protection units, including the left wing. On punt protection, they'll be starting Quay at RT.

I haven't seen any articles on how we plan to block for our own returners yet.

1 points
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CoachJV's picture

September 07, 2022 at 03:29 pm

Word is Lazard got "stepped on" and will likely be Questionable... hopefully just a bruise.

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Fubared's picture

September 07, 2022 at 02:35 pm

Pack fans better hopt this O line can run and pass block or its going to be a long season. Rodgers needs time to survey the field and if he is forced to run he just tosses it out of bounds.
I say its going to be a long and painful year for the packers starting sunday.

-13 points
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T7Steve's picture

September 07, 2022 at 02:54 pm

If the line can run block, pass blocking will take care of itself.

People make predictions like this just to be able to say "I told you so".

It's like people predicting every year that the stock market is going to crash. No one remembers if you're wrong, but, sooner or later you can claim you were right.

0 points
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LLCHESTY's picture

September 07, 2022 at 03:03 pm

I say the Vikings secondary sucks and it will be a sore spot all year. I also would be more worried about the Vikings OL than proclaiming the Packers OL has problems if I was a Vikings fan like you.

5 points
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Todd's picture

September 08, 2022 at 06:38 am

You really believe it's going to be a "long and painful year for the packers"? Based on the O line?

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Eric Zenk's picture

September 08, 2022 at 08:33 am

A new season but the same old Viking trolls coming on a Packers site to talk smack. If I were a Vikings fans, I'd be worried about the Clark/Bradbury matchup, Reed on one of their guards, Preston Smith and Rashan Gary against the Vikings tackles. The Vikings couldn't block the guys the Packers had in that 31-34 loss last year. And Gary & Alexander missed that game as well. The Packers secondary dropped two potential game winning interceptions. That is a lot of good fortune for the guys in Purple. This should be a very entertaining game. If the Vikings o-Line blocks the Packers defensive front, they'll win. If the Packers can block the Vikings front seven then Dillon and Jones will have big days both in the run and passing game.

1 points
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PackfanNY's picture

September 07, 2022 at 02:41 pm

I feel good going into this game but it will be tight. The Vikings have a good offense and the Packers have a good defense. Strength on strength. I do think the Packers offense is being sold a little short. That’s still Aaron Rodgers at QB and they have a strong two headed running back tandem. I think the receivers will be fine. If Bakh AND Jenkins both don’t go things will be a lot tougher. If one goes then we have enough depth. The problem is really if both are out. Crowd noise and pressure will have more impact on inexperienced players.

0 points
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LambeauPlain's picture

September 07, 2022 at 03:28 pm

Z Smith seems an odd, ungrateful man made a millionaire by the Packers.

I guess he wants revenge on Sunday...for something. Circled on the calendar for months now.

Why is he so mad? Maybe the Packers did not pay him enough during rehab? Maybe he's upset because they choose not to pay him an additional $15 M for 2022, bad back and all? Or maybe people just weren't nice to him. I really don't know.

I did read Z Smith stated after the Pack let him go, he decided to go to the Vikings, so he could play the Packers twice a year.

Of course that is not true. He signed first with the Ravens...who subsequently cut him because he wanted more money than earlier agreed to.

3 points
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LLCHESTY's picture

September 07, 2022 at 03:47 pm

That's not true at all. He agreed to a deal with the Ravens but hadn't signed and then backed out when another Edge rusher signed a massive deal. He bet on himself when he signed the deal with the Vikings which, IIRC, is worth more money but has an easier out for the team after two years. He never signed anything with the Ravens and they never cut him.

As far as being butthurt by the way the Packers treated him it might have to do with him waiting til the last minute to inform them he was having back issues. I'd be pissed if I was the Packers as well.

6 points
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LambeauPlain's picture

September 07, 2022 at 04:15 pm

Packers Wire today said it was true:

"Smith’s tone of spite is a tad strange, considering he signed with the Baltimore Ravens before Minnesota. However, that deal fell through after the star edge rusher wanted more money. "

2 points
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LLCHESTY's picture

September 07, 2022 at 05:29 pm

There's a big difference between signing a deal and agreeing to one. Ask the Cowboys. I don't know who wrote that article but they're wrong.

"Pen was never put to paper, the deal fell through and the two-time Pro Bowl linebacker ended up signing a three-year, $42 million deal with the Minnesota Vikings instead."

https://vikingswire.usatoday.com/2022/05/20/zadarius-smith-sets-record-s...

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

September 08, 2022 at 05:35 am

Yeah, LLC, but you're arguing semantics. He was not cut, but there was a handshake deal in place. Players can back out but teams cannot. MN has an easy out after one year. It would be one year, $6.5M (plus $3M in game active bonus money, so possibly $9.5M) with $3.3M dead in 2023, but almost $11M in cap savings. IIRC, and I am pretty sure, the Baltimore deal was better in terms of guarantees.

2 points
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LLCHESTY's picture

September 08, 2022 at 06:09 pm

Yeah I get that and if I was a GM of an NFL team I'd expect a player to honor a handshake deal but I don't think you can be totally shocked if they don't. I think Gregory did the same thing to the Cowboys just a few days before.

OTC has $11.5 million guaranteed but I also saw just $6.5 million guaranteed so I'm not sure. I am sure he doesn't see year 3 unless he suddenly turns into a 15 sack a year guy.

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Johnblood27's picture

September 07, 2022 at 05:32 pm

just run at his ass.

He cant hold the edge.

He might be an OK pass rusher, but he is a liability in the run game.

Stomp a mudhole in his ungrateful ass. Early and often.

You heard it here first.

7 points
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Tundraboy's picture

September 07, 2022 at 10:12 pm

That's right. Play to win. , Not to lose.

0 points
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NickPerry's picture

September 08, 2022 at 05:56 am

YES!!!

Just look at the Deboo Samuel 1st down run on 3rd and 8. They ran to Smith's side and he was whiffing at air.

The man sucked in the run game!

1 points
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Johnblood27's picture

September 08, 2022 at 07:32 am

...but - he does have a top notch t-shirt comment game!

what a wanker! I never liked all the histrionics.

1 points
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wildbill's picture

September 07, 2022 at 08:11 pm

There was a reason he wasn’t picked as a captain, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone cry about not being picked as one before. Quite childish IMO

8 points
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porupack's picture

September 08, 2022 at 05:50 am

Glad you brought this up. I was wondering the same, what made Zsmith vengeful. Maybe its just competitive banter to ingratiate himself in the new team, and palliate himself for not succeeding with more lucrative deal back at Baltimore. If so...then whatever. I would get it. But seems he got the better of the Packers in 2021 as a packers player than what he might ever do against the packers in 2022. Or so we hope.

1 points
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Leatherhead's picture

September 07, 2022 at 06:07 pm

An alternative approach would be to pass 10 times and pound out 30 points on the ground. The purple had a poor defense last year and it still looks pretty shaky and kind of undersized up the middle. Their starting FS is 33.

4 points
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Johnblood27's picture

September 08, 2022 at 10:46 am

Let's just see if MLF has learned anything at all in his 3 year head coaching internship in GB.

Maybe... just maybe he can understand that there is actually a RIGHT time to POUND THE ROCK!

I'm pretty sure that Love can hand the ball off when told to...

2 points
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Leatherhead's picture

September 08, 2022 at 11:05 am

JB, Once Upon A Time, a poster on this very site was criticized for saying "Run more, pass less".

Running does a lot of good things, but generally speaking, you have to have some success passing the ball if you want to score points. There are many more passing TDs every year than rushing TDs.

Fortunately, we're in a perfect spot to enjoy the benefits of both this year. A good running game combined with a very good QB.

1 points
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