What to Watch in Packers vs Bears: Make the Red Zone Gold Again

Five things to watch as the Green Bay Packers take on the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field.

Packers look to take advantage of Bears' offensive line

The offensive lines Green Bay has faced have seemingly decreased in quality each week, with the defense feasting on the Bengals last time out. It was encouraging to see plenty of pressure on Joe Burrow coming from Preston Smith, Kenny Clark, Krys Barnes and even the much-maligned Kingsley Keke and Dean Lowry.

The Bears are not blessed with a formidable offensive line, and that provides another opportunity for the Packers to take over up front. All the talk has been about the Bears’ front, which is no joke, but Packers’ defensive line might actually be in a better position to dominate their opposition.

The Bears are down to a skeleton crew at running back, with Justin Fields probably representing the biggest running threat for Chicago. Pair that with a questionable offensive line, and Green Bay should have a great opportunity to get the Bears into obvious passing situations with regularity.

Is Elgton Jenkins playing?

On the other side of the ball, the Green Bay’s offensive line should be better this week with Josh Myers back at centre, but the real question is whether Jenkins will play. He practiced in a limited capacity all week, and has been listed as questionable for Sunday’s game.

The Packers struggled mightily to run the ball with any consistency against the Bengals, because Newman and Patrick couldn’t move anyone up front. If Jenkins does play, it may be wise to slot him in at guard to help open some holes for Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon.

That decision would be made easier if Khalil Mack, who hasn’t practiced all week, doesn’t play. If the Packers can find a way to successfully run the ball, it should limit the effectiveness of the Chicago pass rush.

The red gold zone

When discussing the Packer’s red zone issues on offense, Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams both described a need to be more aggressive, saying they have a lot of scheme which has not been used in the red zone.

Why that’s the case, I have no idea, but if increased aggression is what’s needed to improve the Packers woes inside the 20, it seems like a relatively easy fix.

On defense, the Packers have failed to make a single stop in the red zone so far this season, with every trip inside the 20 resulting in a touchdown.

Based on comments from Matt LaFleur, in which he referenced one or two players not executing their assignments, this seems like the teething problems of a new defensive scheme.

The defense has played well in general over the first five weeks, and is a more aggressive, fun unit than Mike Pettine served up the last two years. However, they must be better situationally, starting this week in a tough divisional matchup.

Can the Packers hold up on the back end?

With Alexander and King out, Eric Stokes is now the undisputed number one corner for Green Bay. While he has acquitted himself well so far, that’s a big ask of the rookie.

The rest of the cornerback group will be made up of some combination of Chandon Sullivan, Isaac Yiadom, Shemar Jean-Charles, Rasul Douglas and Quinton Dunbar, with only Sullivan having been on the roster last season. Cool, cool cool cool…

The Bears wide receiver group is solid, led by Allen Robinson, and will be looking to take advantage of Green Bay’s jumbled cornerback group, although the presence of Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage could prevent the defensive backfield from being a complete mess.

This week, it will be crucial for the Packers to play complementary football on defense. As previously mentioned, the Bears’ offensive line has struggled, and if Green Bay can stop the run and get quick pressure on Fields in the passing game, the Packers deficiencies on the back end will become less significant.

Will we see Jaylon Smith?

Newly acquired linebacker Jaylon Smith was inactive last week having only been in the building a matter of days, but will Joe Barry have something cooked up for him this week?

At this point, we’ve all seen the clips of Smith’s lack of ability to diagnose in the run game, but with Barry’s fondness for putting three inside linebackers on the field at times, it will be interesting to see whether Smith sees the field in certain packages and eats into the snaps of Oren Burks.

It’s worth remembering Smith looked very promising early on in his Cowboys career, and Joe Barry has already worked wonders with one reclamation project in De’Vondre Campbell, who has been a bona fide star. Who’s to say he can’t get something out of Smith in a limited role?

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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

4 points

Comments (12)

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splitpea1's picture

October 16, 2021 at 04:15 pm

How soon do we see Douglas on the field? I have a feeling we're going to need him. And whoever is on Mooney--keep him in front of you.

I hope we use a spy on the QB in the appropriate situations; we don't want any kind of rookie breakout game on the ground or in the air. Our defense should be able to control the LOS and get some nice penetration; the Bears give up lots of sacks.

Offensive red zone woes: Even though we've been missing some players, and it's not the typical m.o., you have to try to pull a surprise once in a while to keep the defense off-balance And although the Packers have previously scored red zone TDs on well-executed passing plays to Jones and Adams, I would like them to try running it more often, especially when they're deep inside on first down.

Bounce-back games needed from Crosby and Bojorquez; we can't afford to lose our few bright spots on STs.

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dobber's picture

October 16, 2021 at 06:26 pm

"I hope we use a spy on the QB in the appropriate situations; we don't want any kind of rookie breakout game on the ground or in the air"

This is where speedy LBs like Cambpell and Jaylon Smith make a difference.

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dobber's picture

October 16, 2021 at 06:34 pm

"The Bears are down to a skeleton crew at running back, with Justin Fields probably representing the biggest running threat for Chicago."

Last week, rookie Khalil Herbert ran for over 70 yards at better than 4 ypc. Apparently, he doesn't catch the ball, though. The Bears are a run-first team, though, so we'll see him get his shot. Fields is averaging fewer than 5 rushes per game, and only about 3 ypc. This is not a good offensive football team. They need their defense to generate short fields and give their offense a chance.

"Can the Packers hold up on the back end?"

Zone. Lots of zone. I think the Packers take advantage of the fact that Fields is not yet good, play with their front 7, and keep the game in front of their secondary.

"If Jenkins does play, it may be wise to slot him in at guard to help open some holes for Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon."

Assuming he can move well enough, I would be putting him at LT to make sure Robert Quinn and Mack don't kill ARod.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

October 17, 2021 at 02:31 am

I tend to agree with the notion of playing Jenkins at LT if he can go. Playing Jenkins at guard makes some sense, but only if the guard that gets the boot is Newman. It looks like Newman could have used a year like Runyan got.

But I don't know if Jenkins can play RG or if Runyan can effectively flip from LG to RG. Coach's decision, I guess.

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NickPerry's picture

October 16, 2021 at 06:40 pm

You have to wonder how much more damage to the ankle Jenkins did while playing on adrenaline against the Lions after injuring it at some point in that game. I just want him to be as close to 100% once Bakhtiari is back without any setbacks for bringing him back too soon.

On offense in the red zone or ANYWHERE else on the field I'd like to see our QB start using guys like Allen Lazard, Big Bob, and maybe a play for Amari Rodgers here and there. I would have said Malik Taylor too but he's on the COVID list. ESB isn't doing a thing, doesn't look like he's going to do a thing, and it's time to get EVERYBODY involved. I suggest they look at last years film. I think they'll find they were most successful when everybody was used. When the ball is going to one guy 80% of the time its making it to easy for the defense.

Am I the only one who doesn't see this as a tough matchup for the Packers? Obviously we have issues at CB, but Justin Fields hasn't exactly been lighting it up. Lets bees Jones, Dillon, and a sprinkling of Hill get 40 plus carries and shorten this game up. Chew up the clock and the Bears ass running the ball, Jenkins and Meyers would help that become a reality.

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jont's picture

October 16, 2021 at 07:46 pm

I've been wondering about Jenkins' ankle too. After he finished that game, I assumed the injury couldn't've been that bad, but here we are three weeks later and he's 'questionable' which, I gather, means 50-50 to play.

Meanwhile, Bakhtiari is eligible to resume practice with the team on Monday (or anytime within the next five weeks). Once he does, there is a 21 day window to decide if joins the 53 or sits out the season. I will looking forward to reports pretty eagerly.

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croatpackfan's picture

October 17, 2021 at 03:12 am

As Winfree is elevated to the roster (replacement for Malik), he will be, also available for some snaps on O, as surprise factor.

Who knows, maybe they have few plays made for him.

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Leatherhead's picture

October 16, 2021 at 07:24 pm

I think our offensive red zone problems are mostly related to injuries on the line.

Our biggest challenge defensively is going to be keeping Fields from breaking the pocket.

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Thegravedigger's picture

October 16, 2021 at 08:35 pm

to make the red zone gold again, it will take one thing and one thing only to improve. the return of the left side of the line from injury. when rodgers and adams have a few seconds to run a crossing route or a mesh route, the red zone will turn gold again. but until then, we will have to live with rodgers hitting his first option and hoping it works.

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PatrickGB's picture

October 16, 2021 at 09:25 pm

Red zone, gold zone or pink zone, maybe even kick 10-12 field goals. I don’t care. Just win baby!

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LayingTheLawe's picture

October 16, 2021 at 11:12 pm

The Packers are the 21st ranked offense and 6th ranked defense. We have obviously gone into some weird bizarro world.

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CoachDino's picture

October 17, 2021 at 04:50 am

good point on how the trenches pan out being an interesting matchup. the corner situation is scary at best. no big plays mantra, force fields to beat you with the short game. time to play very soft. i heard smiths injury stripped him of lateral quickness as well, dont count on him to move the needle. biggest key to success is the same every week. ar and the offense play up to their capabilities... fields vs ar is by far the biggest gap between teams and hence gb adv. still also wonder how much the 3ilb personnel is by choice vs losing your 1,4 and 6 olb. if z was playing burks wouldt be,

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