The preseason is wrapped up, the final cuts have been made, and now 53 players will make the trip to Jacksonville as members of the Green Bay Packers to start the 2016 NFL season. There is an abundance of talent at almost every position, but there are still a lot of things that need to be seen before we can make a definitive argument about this team’s chances. But right now, the focus is Jacksonville and the up and coming Jaguars.
The Packers have six new starters over all facets of the game and they need to get up to speed quickly. And that is what this piece will focus on. So much needs to happen with these 53 guys (46 on game day) to get the Packers that elusive fifth Super Bowl title. And that is where we will get into the first regular season edition of 3…2…1… this year.
For those of you who didn’t read here last year, the 3…2…1… series is a countdown of things the team needs to do to win. I highlight 3 key players (usually not big name guys), 2 bold predictions, and 1 key stat that the Packers need to win. But before I jump into it, let’s take a quick look at last week. Once the regular season starts, I’ll start keeping track week to week to see if I have been effective in predicting the Packers keys.
3 KEY PLAYERS
- #22 Aaron Ripkowski
- The Packers spent all training camp and the preseason focusing on establishing the run game, and Eddie Lacy is on the verge of a big year from all reports from camp. But he works great with a lead blocker, and this year that is Ripkowski. The Ripper will be a key for the team, especially in the heat, and he can open up some big holes on a swarming defense led by linebackers Paul Posluszny and Myles Jack. Ripkowski will also be a major factor in pass protection with two new starting offensive linemen.
- #24 Quentin Rollins
- The Jaguars have a great passing attack with three top notch receivers in Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns, and Marqise Lee, as well as tight end Julius Thomas. So the Packers will need all three corners to be at the top of their game, and Rollins will draw a lot of tough assignments. Ball hawking and not afraid to make a hit or drive on the ball, Rollins will be an interesting guy to watch as he gets extended playing time compared to last year.
- #73 JC Tretter
- The easy choice would be Lane Taylor, the new left guard, but Tretter is by far the most important newcomer this season to the lineup. He will make all the line calls and continue to build a rapport with Aaron Rodgers, as well as holding his own in the run game. More athletic than bulky, Tretter relies on technique and intelligence more than most to control the trenches. And he will have his hands full with tackles like Malik Jackson and Jared Odrick.
2 BOLD PREDICTIONS
- Blake Martinez and Jake Ryan combine for 30 tackles.
- Much like the Packers, the Jaguars might also try to rely on a game plan focused on power running and quick hitting passes. That puts a lot of pressure on the young inside linebackers Ryan and Martinez to hold their own. And I think their talent is strong enough that they can do just that. I think that each will have a big game ranging sideline to sideline and holding Chris Ivory and TJ Yeldon to minimal gains time and time again, recording 30 tackles between them.
- The Packers force two turnovers in the final five minutes.
- The Jaguars are quick strike but when they fall behind, Blake Bortles continues to show the traits of a young quarterback, forcing the ball to his guys and turning it over a lot. That’s what will happen in the fourth quarter Sunday as they trail by seven late. Bortles will throw a pick to Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and then get stripped on a sack by Nick Perry to end their final possession.
1 KEY STAT
- Time of possession
- This one was predictable, but sometimes you have to point out the obvious. The forecast is hot and humid in Jacksonville tomorrow, and the Packers don’t have depth in the front seven on defense. So to combat the heat and help their defense out, they need to control the clock, especially in the second half when the temperatures hit their zenith. They need a heavy dose of Eddie Lacy and James Starks to control the clock. They need to have a +8 minute time of possession edge to have an increased chance of victory.
Packers 27, Jaguars 20——————
Mike Wendlandt is originally from Iola, Wisconsin and graduated from Drake University in 2015 with a degree in History. With a significant journalism background both in writing and broadcasting, Mike can be heard as the play-by-play voice of Central Wisconsin High School sports on WDUX FM 92.7 and on Twitter @MikeWendlandt.
Mike Wendlandt is a writer covering the Green Bay Packers for PackersTalk.com.