Before the Green Bay Packers take on the Minnesota Vikings to kick off their 2022 NFL season, as always, I have my quick thoughts on the game.
In this weekly article, I’ll discuss everything that comes to mind regarding the Packers’ next game. So let’s dive into the first week.
– There are many similarities between the Packers and the Vikings from a schematic point of view. Offensively, Kevin O’Connell and Matt LaFleur have overlapping systems having each spent time coaching under Sean McVay. Meanwhile, on defense, Joe Barry and Ed Donatell use a version of Vic Fangio’s defense. For two teams that know each other relatively well, the one that can execute better and make the best and quickest adjustments will likely win.
– Depending on the composition of the Packers offensive line, we could see an offense similar to a year ago with the fast passing game dominating. Due to numerous forward injuries in 2021, Aaron Rodgers got the ball out of his hands in an average time that was the fastest since his 2010 season. However, he still suffered more than 50 more pressures compared to 2020, according to PFF ($$).
– For what it’s worth, in 2021 Rodgers ranked first among QBs in completion percentage when throwing from a clean pocket but 34th out of 40 QBs when under pressure.
– If the Packers are without David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins, I would expect Yosh Nijman at left tackle, Jake Hanson at right guard and Royce Newman at right tackle. This has been their go-to date all summer. I’m sure many will want to see Zach Tom, but OC Adam Stenavich has been praising Hanson all summer.
– Advancing the running game – which is easier said than done – and tight tokens, as well as quick passing game, will help Rodgers against a solid Minnesota defensive front.
– Robert Tonyan’s return to the mix is huge for the Packers offense. For one, there’s no other tight end on the roster that can impact the passing game the way he can, but also, Tonyan provides Rodgers with another much-needed trusted target.
– I’m excited to see how often Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon are on the court together. Last season, that happened on just 2% of the Packers’ total offensive plays, per pointed football, and when it did, it was pretty predictable with Jones beckoning through or out of the backfield. When these two were on the court together, the offense as a whole was quite effective. Ultimately, regardless of position, bring your point guards onto the field.
– Don’t forget Jones in the passing game either. He finished second on the team in targets every season under Matt LaFleur.
– The Vikings offense is going to provide this Packers defense a great test right away with all of their playmakers. O’Connell’s quarterback friendly offense should also help Kirk Cousins stay effective. However, one weak point that can be exploited is the interior offensive line. Disrupting Minnesota’s offense begins with a strong push from the Packers’ interior defensive linemen.
– All eyes will be on the Packers receiver position, but rusher depth is just as much of a concern, if not more so. Runners on the third and fourth edges could see 20-25 snaps per game, and just as they were for much of last season, that group lacked consistency this summer. When Rashan Gary and Preston Smith are not on the pitch, I hold my breath a bit.
– Speaking of Gary and Smith being off the pitch, last season they often took pictures together. This year, I’d love to see Joe Barry direct that especially since at least one of them stays on the pitch more often than not.
– I would expect Jaire Alexander to follow Justin Jefferson a bit.
– On these shots when Alexander is not in the slot machine, who will be? Rasul Douglas took the bulk of these shots this summer, so is he the default corner nickel? Or will it depend on the matches? Barry mentioned earlier this week that in addition to Douglas, we will also see Alexander, Keisean Nixon and Darnell Savage in the slot.
– There are a lot of similar faces on this Packers defense compared to a season ago, but the addition of Quay Walker may make this group look a little different. His ability to fly around the field while being a reliable tackler will make him very valuable against the run. From what I saw during training camp in practices, running outside the tackle box on this defense was a daunting task. Walker is also very capable when it comes to coverage, which will allow the Packers to better conceal what they’re doing defensively because they won’t have to rely on a third safety nearly as often.
– What do we see from the Packers receivers? I would expect Sammy Watkins to be Rodgers’ go-to option in this position. Randall Cobb will likely be used heavily in high leverage situations, like on third downs and in the red zone. Meanwhile, Romeo Doubs appears to be in reserve for a much bigger role, with Allen Lazard likely sidelined. As good as the Doubs have been this summer, there have also been rookie mistakes with missed passes and bad routes. As I wrote, he’s one of my X-Factors because his skill set, which allows him to line up outside or inside and win at all three levels of the pitch, is something that this offense needs. As for Christian Watson, I expect him to play a niche role as a deep and gimmicky threat.
– Alright special teams, let’s not make any major mistakes, okay?