It’s usually seems too easy, perhaps even lazy, to throw Rodgers on this list, but last season Rodgers often found himself on the outside of “The Best.” In the season opener, however, Rodgers looked to have his groove back. Finishing with 199 yards, 2 passing TDs, 1 rushing TD, and a 95.1 QB rating, Rodgers is the biggest reason why the Packers were able to edge out the Jaguars. Sure the offense should have finished the Jaguars off when they set up shop with about 5 minutes left in the fourth quarter, but no one can claim that Rodgers didn’t look like his old self on Sunday. And let’s not forget about one of the most ridiculous throws of his Hall of Fame career.
— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) September 11, 2016
With two up-and-coming inside linebackers starting for the defense on Sunday, it was a guy that many did not even have making the final roster who came up with the big plays in the middle of the field. In the first quarter, Thomas ran in to pick off a ball being bobbled back and forth between Jacksonville WR Marqise Lee and Green Bay CB Quinten Rollings. In the second quarter, Thomas showed some nice acceleration to make a diving tackle from behind on Lee, saving the Packers from potentially giving up a first down on 3rd and 17. Thomas was also making some serious blitzes up the middle, pushing back the interior of the line and opening the way for a sack from Clay Matthews.
And then, in the fourth quarter, with 23 seconds left, the Jaguars threatening in the red zone on a 4th and 1, Thomas was part of the biggest defensive play of the game. Thomas, Hyde, and Randall made a huge stop on a wide receiver screen to Allen Hurns, sealing the deal for the Packers. Thomas shone as one of the brightest points of the Packers defense yesterday. He certainly overshadowed both Jake Ryan and Blake Martinez.
The Packers were able to get to Blake Bortles and exert some pressure on Sunday. They also got some significant play out of their secondary. However, the perennially weak spot on the Packers defense looked to be, well, still weak. The defensive line, albeit aided by the sudden absence of Jaguars RB Chris Ivory, held Jacksonville to only 48 yards on 26 carries. That’s 1.8 yards per carry. The heavies up front like Letroy Guion and Mike Daniels were eating up blockers and plugging up holes.
However, the middle of the defense at the second level still looked soft. The Jacksonville tight ends (Julius Thomas and Marcedes Lewis) were feasting in the middle, accumulating 7 receptions on 7 targets for 112 yards and a TD. With the exception of dime linebacker Thomas, it was a day to forget for the Green Bay defense in terms of covering the middle of the field.
Early in the game, Rodgers appeared to be out of synch with his receivers, even those with whom he has had a great rapport for years like Jordy Nelson. At one point, the offense went three straight series with 3-and-outs. While the rhythm returned as the game wore on, there were still issues with the offense making adjustments and staying on the same page with Rodgers’ audibles. The Packers had to take a time out to avoid a delay of game, and then still could not get the play off. Rodgers attempted to take another time out (which you can’t do) and the team was pushed back 5 yards.
This team should not need two timeouts to get a play call figured out. While I understand McCarthy’s hesitation with playing his starters in the preseason, I think that this is one big downside to not doing so more. Hopefully this gets ironed out as the season continues.
Taylor O\'Neill is a Packer fan born and raised in Oshkosh, WI. He currently lives in Florida and is pursuing his PhD. Taylor is a writer with PackersTalk.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @TaylorONeill87 for more Packer news.