Are Packers Ready? Even They Are Not Sure

Week One is finally here. Training camp is over. The initial roster is set. A critical season opening contest against the division rival Vikings looms on Sunday. Are the Packers ready? It's anybody's guess. Without preseason games to get at least a bit of a handle on how the team is looking, nothing will be known for sure until kick-off at Noon Central time.

Even the coaches will admit they are somewhat in the dark as to how the team stacks up against the Vikings. "There's no tape out there", says Matt LaFleur. "The thing that you never quite know. especially in a week one, is how have you evolved? I'm sure they're asking the same questions about us."

Whatever evolution the Packers will make from last year will have to come from within. When all is said and done, Green Bay basically stood pat from last year. This was expected. The Packers didn't have the cap money to sign any team-changing newcomers. Depending on how you look at it, as many as 19 preferred starters from last season are returning. Just one new starter on defense where Christian Kirksey replaces Blake Martinez. On offense, tight end Jimmy Graham will be replaced by a committee of Marcedes Lewis, Robert Tonyan, Jace Sternberger and Josiah Deguara. The only other sure change is at right tackle where Rick Wagner was signed to replace Brian Bulaga.   It remains to be seen if Billy Turner returns to his right guard spot or if Lane Taylor supplants him.

It is possible that none of Green Bay's 2020 draft picks will play a significant role this season.   None will be starters.   In fact, the Packers top three selections are not even second string at their positions at this point.   First round selection Jordan Love is behind Aaron Rodgers and Tim Boyle at quarterback.   Second rounder A.J. Dillon is third behind Aaron Jones and Jamal Williams.   Third round pick Josiah Deguara will battle for time on the field behind Lewis, Tonyan and Sternberger.

So Green Bay basically will put the same team on the field against the Vikings that finished 2019.   That's not all bad.   It was, after all, a 13-3 team that went to the NFC title game.   The Packers will trot out a Hall of Fame quarterback, one of the best running backs and one of the best receivers in the game, an all pro left tackle, the best outside linebacker tandem in the game, a top five nose tackle, a young but talented and feisty secondary, and a placekicker who is the franchise's all time leading scorer.   There are many, many teams in the NFL who would love to start out this season with that kind of line-up.

But if they are to get to the next level, there has to be improvement in their most glaring weakness, run defense.   It won't take long to find out if they have made any progress.   DC Mike Pettine will face the Vikings powerful running attack led by Dalvin Cook, one of the top ball carriers in the league.   Pettine says the Packers have tried to reconstruct what they think Minnesota's running game will throw at them, but its hard to know how effective that's been.   "It's difficult.   We have to simulate it the best we can in practice.....I'd like to think that our guys in practice present a pretty good challenge, so being able to carry that over to an opponent, in my mind,  isn't that big of a leap."

Linebacker Rashan Gary will be among those trying to wreak havoc on Kirk Cousins and the Vikes passing game, but he says the Green Bay defense is under no illusions as to what it must do to win.   "Of course, their run game and them having a good quarterback, you know, we've just gotta stop the run."   

The Packers also need to become more consistent on offense.   The Vikings will present their usual excellent front seven, but they could be vulnerable on the back end, having replaced three of four starters in the secondary.   A big key is whether the right side of Green Bay's Oline can hold up.   If Rodgers gets a little time, there should be plays to be made down field.   And even though there's no current tape on Minnesota, the Packers are not completely in the dark as to what to expect.   "We're pretty familiar with the defense that's been run there over the years, and the scheme", LaFleur told the media.   The Packers coach was also on Gary Kubiak's staff when Kubiak was the head coach of the Houston Texans.   Kubiak is now the Vikings offensive coordinator.   "I worked with Coach Koobs for two years, so I've got a pretty good understanding of what he's trying to get accomplished."

And then there is the Covid-19 wild card.   Will entire position groups be wiped out in midseason?   On Sunday the Packers, along with every other team, stocked their practice squad with up to 16 players and every one of them could be needed by season's end.   Coach LaFleur makes the understatement of the year when he says "The key is we've just got to be fluid and flexible."

And so begins the most enigmatic season I can recall in my many decades of being a Packer fan.   Nobody knows if anybody is any good.   No one has been able to scout anybody.   Anything can happen.   One thing is for sure, the Packers are chomping at the bit to get started.   "Our guys are sick and tired of going against each other", says Pettine.   "Now you get to take it out on somebody else.   So I'm sure I speak for a lot of teams in the NFL that we're ready to go after somebody in a different uniiform."

Expect the unexpected.   Here's hoping all the surprises on Sunday are pleasant ones.

-----------------------------------

Ken Lass is a former Green Bay television sports anchor and 43 year media veteran, a lifelong Packers fan, and a shareholder.

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10 points

Comments (31)

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

September 07, 2020 at 06:11 am

Well said. Thanks! Go Pack Go!

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Bure9620's picture

September 07, 2020 at 07:16 am

The Packers should win this game with the number of young players the Vikings are counting on with a truncated offseason.....They will not be able to cover Adams

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jannes bjornson's picture

September 07, 2020 at 09:39 am

Harris will be doubling Adams all game long. Have to pierce them with the other guys. A.Jones, again. should be a factor.

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stockholder's picture

September 07, 2020 at 07:39 am

Well said. Rookies -------------- None will be Starters. Ouch! All those positive articles just went down the drain. And that is the true Grade of BGs draft. So he had Covid- 19 and didn't tell anybody. Next up Loyalty. 19 starters from last year. Thats got us at 8-8 right now. Fact: They will make the playoffs. Fluid and Flexibility? Thank God we have Arron Rodgers. Expect the unexpected. As long as their not injuries, they will be pleasant. - Adapt and overcome.

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13TimeChamps's picture

September 07, 2020 at 10:11 am

"Rookies -------------- None will be Starters. Ouch! All those positive articles just went down the drain."

I disagree. The fact that no rookies are starters Game 1 of the season really isn't that unusual. But more importantly, it's an indication that this is a veteran team that rookies will have to earn their playing time. I view that as a good thing.

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stockholder's picture

September 07, 2020 at 11:14 am

Nope! IMO the draft is about getting starters. And the draft is set up to make sure the Losing Teams get them. (Based on how the NFL draft is set up.)

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13TimeChamps's picture

September 07, 2020 at 11:44 am

The first through third rounds are definitely about getting starters. That doesn't mean they have to start on Day 1. The better the team, the less the need would be for that.
Again....that's a good thing.

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Archie's picture

September 07, 2020 at 08:41 am

Rookie starters are infrequently found when picking at the bottom of the draft.

Rookie QBs don't usually start, nor do rookie TEs, but both will be offensive pillars in the future.

Rookie RBs can ne starters but not usually when a team has two RBs in their prime who combined to lead their team to 13 wins last year. Another pillar of the Pack's offense in the near future.

Kamal Martin was/is this year's home run pick in terms of instant impact, but a knee injury has temporarily derailed his rookie season.

And after all that, we picked up 3 rookie interior linemen that are all still with the team as well as a S and an OLB that both made the 53.

And you are belly-aching? Really?

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Bure9620's picture

September 07, 2020 at 11:33 am

Correct, and who is to say Martin would have or will have an instant impact?? I am sure there will be rookie mistakes....The ONLY rookie in my opinion whom is Truly NFL ready as an impact player is Chase Young and that dude is a freak....he was likely NFL ready last year at Ohio St.

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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

September 07, 2020 at 08:49 am

I don't think I will predict a victory. The Vikings are a very good team who picked up a lot of talent and they have a home game. Just dont have enough information about either team until this game is played. I'm just gratefully we have a game Sunday win or lose.

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Handsback's picture

September 07, 2020 at 08:52 am

13-3 should be considered a great season. Yes there was luck involved, the same as most teams with great records. Where are the Packers stronger? Offense should be better in year two, the back end of the defense will be better, and the RG will be better. What will be weaker....RT and ? I don't know if the run defense will be better, if the receivers will be better or the run game be better this year. If they aren't better then you can expect them to be worst. Nothing in the NFL and in sports stays in neutral, they get better or worst hardly ever staying the same.
What I don't get is the total lack of respect and consideration of the Packer's record last year by so called NFL experts. To me the 49ers seem to be the team to beat in the NFC. Outside of them; the Cowboys, Packers, Eagles, and Seahawks would be the contenders.
Under normal conditions, most of the pretenders will flush out within the first month. This isn't a normal season and a team like the Cardinals could make a deep run. I still think Green Bay is a top three NFC team. I don't know how they will perform without the pre-season games contact. Are they ready? They should be and depth may end up being the key issue.

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Jonathan Spader's picture

September 07, 2020 at 09:22 am

How did the Saints not make your list of NFC teams to beat? They're loaded with talent on both sides of the ball.

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Handsback's picture

September 07, 2020 at 03:01 pm

I don't think the Saints could beat the 49ers, Cowboys or the Packers...that's why. Brees isn't that all pro qb anymore.

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murf7777's picture

September 07, 2020 at 09:02 am

We’re finally here!!!! I had my doubts.

I think the Packers know their ready. Since we have most all of our starters and coaches back we are in an enviable position with the shortened pre- season and no games. An example is Jefferson the stud LSU WR that many wanted the Packers to draft, reports state out of Viking land that he shows potential but having problems getting up to speed.

Without games and and or limited game like scrimmages it will be hard for rookies to learn teams playbook and be in rhythm with other players they need to coordinate with. Most Rookies will play safe and tentative so to try not to make mistakes.

Packers could be a surprised team as they are under the radar for who is going all the way. I’m really excited for the year to start and hope for the safety of the players and coaches. GPG

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Lphill's picture

September 07, 2020 at 09:11 am

Teams early on due to the lack of pre season will be run heavy until timing with receivers is up to par, that leaves the Packers dependent on Oren Burks .

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hobowilly's picture

September 07, 2020 at 10:50 am

Shoot, please don't say that, re: Burks. If you believe that is the case, and it just may well be that the Queens run 70% of the time, then it's up to Pettine to come with a scheme ready to deal with that. Don't forget Thielen either.

Will GB's offense put up 3 or 4 TD's?? I think Adams will have a good stat game, but if he doesn't, then someone else will emerge. Here's one for you, if MVS catches 5+ and 75+ yds, GB wins because you gotta know Adams will at least have that. How many tosses will A Jones grab? J. Williams? I have a bad feeling about the game, yet i'll predict GB 24-21 as AR should have a strong game too with a weaker Queen D backfield, if the O line can keep him clean.
My trust is with their super duper HC, one MLF: i really like his approach/successes!!

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fansince1959's picture

September 07, 2020 at 09:16 am

Expect the queens to replicate San Francisco's game plan until we stop it(or not)---that will decide the game--Pettine better be ready! But also concerned by right tackle---Minny would love to knock Aaron out in the first game----

5 points
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jannes bjornson's picture

September 07, 2020 at 09:48 am

Lewis will help out the right side. Zimmer will bring Barr and Kendricks to test the gaps. I would like the Pack to go old school for a good part of this game and grind on them.

3 points
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hobowilly's picture

September 07, 2020 at 11:00 am

nifty concept. What i do truly believe is (as young as his experience is) MLF is so much better already in utilizing his players. One huge case in point was the Big Dog--MM was clueless. Zimmer's known as a defensive coach first, so it'll be fascinating to watch how MLF can possibly go 3-0 against him.
GB has the personnel to use their RBs for passes out of the backfield and even though the queens have decent LBs, i'll take Jones & Williams to beat them and MLF game calling or AR to audible into beneficial PA successes. I'd use quick tempo too, but we'll see. GPG!!

Grinding? That's what Mr. Dillon was selected for. Can't wait until he works into the lineup and later in the season during bad weather and late in games. What an X factor he'll turn out to be!!

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jannes bjornson's picture

September 07, 2020 at 12:15 pm

You beat them like you beat the Pack, with counter motion.

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Leatherhead's picture

September 07, 2020 at 02:09 pm

You are reading my mind. Line up Lewis and let our six go against theirs. We’re bigger.

Meanwhile, they’re going to start youth and inexperience against Rodgers to Adams and I like that. Over on the other side, they have to match up with a group of big, young WRs.

And then they still have to deal with Jones and Dillon. I’m predicting some long TDs in this game.

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murf7777's picture

September 08, 2020 at 10:47 am

The problem is Vikings tried that in there games last year and lost. It comes down to having the right players to achieve the same results, not just scheming. IE: Orlando couldn't stop the Bucks knowing what Toronto did to them last year, but Miami has. What's the difference? The proper personnel to achieve the results.

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NickPerry's picture

September 07, 2020 at 10:09 am

This is about the least worried I've been about facing the Vikings in the last several years. With no rookie orientations, OTA's, preseason games, and a modified TC the teams with the LEAST amount of change IMO have a big advantage, especially the first 3 or 4 weeks.

The Packers have a HUGE advantage over Minnesota in that respect. Add in that it's year two, Rodgers has tweaked some things and looked better than he has in years, and some 2nd year guys appear ready to take big jumps...Well, I think we start out 1-0 and it won't even be very close.

3 points
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JohnnyLogan's picture

September 07, 2020 at 11:00 am

Stopping Cook and Thielen is obviously the key. They are the two dynamic players on the Vikes. They'll throw a ton to Thielen and run Cook heavily and pass to him. I have a feeling that Burks won't get the bulk of the playing time but that a safety will key Cook the entire game. Our pass rush and back end D are really good. It's that one spot in the middle next to Kirksey that may make the difference. If the safety in the box doesn't work I have a feeling Ty Summers will get playing time and show well.

2 points
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jannes bjornson's picture

September 07, 2020 at 12:18 pm

Rudolph and Irv junior have to be accounted for. Having Kirksey helps the short area.

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Qoojo's picture

September 07, 2020 at 01:06 pm

Game 1 is going to be ugly for both sides. Starting QBs don't get much work outside of practice any more, so that's not a big change. Considering the Vikings secondary is pretty much all new, you have to like the packers' chances of getting a win. In the 4th quarter, both teams are going to be gassed due to not being in game shape, so here's hoping the run game works for the packers.

So can the packers' OL protect Rodgers long enough to take advantage of the secondary?

3 points
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Leatherhead's picture

September 07, 2020 at 01:31 pm

If I were coaching the Packers, this game couldn’t start soon enough. I think we’re going to run over them and smash them into their own turf in front of their own fans to start the season.

As I’ve said, the plan is to run more and pass less. Minnesota’s defense is a pass defense, with their best players being Smith, Barr, Hunter, Kendrick. But as a run defense, they’re going to be way outsized by the Packers. They have a couple of big JAGs on the line but overall, our six man front wall (with Lewis) outweighs theirs by a good amount. I think our offensive line is going to get the job done. With the exception of Elgton Jenkins, they’re all multi year vets and hardened starters.

As if that wasn’t enough, Minnesota lost both starting corners, so they’ll have to match youth and inexperience against Rodgers to Adams. I’m sure Harrison Smith will help, but over on the other side of the field you’ve got a problem matching up with really big receivers.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Packers win this by two touchdowns.

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BamaPackFan's picture

September 07, 2020 at 01:41 pm

After Having Jones gas the defense chasing him, I really want to see Dillon come in at some point and pound the Vikings. Perhaps a 4 minute offense to end the 1st half. I want to see how strong he is. His frame and speed are perfect to complement Aaron Jones.

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Tedlyflyfisher's picture

September 07, 2020 at 10:19 pm

Some of you guys seem confident that Dillon is going to get playing time in week 1. I’m not sure that’s realistic, unless he comes in during mop-up time. I’m as anxious to see him as anyone, but when we have Aaron Jones and Jamaal, I’m thinking those guys are going to carry the load.

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NYNeal's picture

September 08, 2020 at 03:03 pm

I see the Cowboys released Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. I wonder if the Packers will kick the tires on him.

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NYNeal's picture

September 08, 2020 at 03:14 pm

Yes, the Packers pretty much stood pat from last year. But -- if St. Brown can regain what he was starting to be before he got hurt, and if Valdes-Scantling can get his head back in the game and performs better, the Packers will be okay at WR.
As for the guys replacing jimmy Graham, a card board cutout could replace Graham because he did nothing with the Packers in his entire time with them.
Unlike everyone else, I think Dillon will be used in short yardage situations and around the goal line and I expect LeFleur to design packages where Aaron Jones and Dillon are in the backfield together. You put those two guys in the backfield together, the front 7 of the defense will have to key on them, giving Rodgers and his receiving corps plenty of passing options.
I'm also anxious to see how LeFleur uses Deguara and Tyler Ervin.
The bottom line for me is, you want our defense better? Get more from the offense! And in his 2nd year as HC, I think Lefleur will be able to do things he couldn't do last year.
The one thing I really hope is that everyone takes Aaron Rodgers lightly. He's spent his whole career proving people wrong.

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