The Packers are seven point favorites, for their season opener at home vs the Chicago Bears on Sunday Night. This implies a probability of 76% for a Packers Win. Sounds about right, in spite of Bears fans who are puffing their chests out about their recent trade s of Khalil Mack. The Packers vast edge at Quarterback by itself, makes up for any improvements the Bears may have made this offseason, the Packers offseason improvments notwithstanding. Being the season opener, the excitment is not only of the game and the season starting, but also to see what kind of idenity the Packers may take on. And what it means for the season to come. Here are few things to look for which will tell us a lot about what lies ahead:
Mike Pettine’s Scheme: Almost lost in the shuffle, is the most important offseason move the Packers made; Firing Dom Capers and hiring Mike Pettine. Pettine brings a defense that is predicated on creating pressure by bringing a “free runner,” without sacrifcing coverage. That may be a reason why Gutekunst focused heavily on cornerbacks and not on edge rushers. Another reason is that the interior players, from the various fronts that Pettine employs, have more room to rush the passer and create pressure. Look for Kenny Clark and Mike Daniels to eat on Sunday night, with Wilkerson also figuring in that mix if he can get back to his prior form.
This is the first look anyone has had at this Pettine defense. He has not been in charge of a defense since being fired by the Browns, midseason in 2016 as their head coach. He has stated that he re-written the playbook to a certain extent to make it easier for young players to learn.
Two Tight Ends Sets: : The Packers for the past several years have had been amongst the league leaders in usage of 11 personnel (One Tight End and One Running Back). Will that change? It still figures to be the most often used personnel grouping but McCarthy and Joe Philbin have indicated a freshening of the offensive playbook. And with this group, the use of two tight ends is low hanging fruit. Marcades Lewis is an impressive blocker. Lance Kendricks is an adequate number three tight end, while Robert Tonyan has some upside. But most importantly Jimmy Graham figures to be a monster. My best guess is that there will be significnalty more of these sets, but many of those will be with Graham split out. If he is in the slot, Adams and Allison would likely be the outside recievers. Or if Cobb is in the game, Graham may play outside. He will often play the role that was Jordy Nelson’s. While at the same time, there is always the threat of line up with two tight ends in line, with more of a power look. Lastly, with the lack of a full back, tight ends will at times be asked to lead block, albeit fairly rarely. Look to see more two tight ends on the field at the same time.
Josh Jackson Snaps on Defense: Jaire Alexander and Owen Burks (if healthy), figure to get the most snaps of the rookies. Both were very impressive this preseason. But even more impressive was Josh Jackson, who showed his incredible ball skills that made him a potential first round pick. He wasn’t and fell all the way to the Packers at pick 45. His passer rating against when thrown at was zero, allowing only one reception for nine yards with seven balls thrown his way. And he did so impressivly through tight coverage, and not the quarterback’s innaccuary. He will be on the field when the Packers are in Dime. But will we see him othewise? Its hard to think he won’t be considering his talent and performance this preseason. And if so, whose snaps does he take?
This is the first and likely the last time I will ever be excited to see a punter. And I hope that we won’t see J.K. Scott at all Sunday night. But his leg is just so very impressive. This is an area (the punting game both kicking and returning), the Packers have seemingly lost in the past several years. Its always a worry when you have a big legged punter that long returns will follow. But with Scott, his hang time is even more impressive than his gross average. It will bode well not just of this game but when they play lower scoring games, such as aginst the Vikings in week two.
It is always a fun time, and with some actual changes in the offseason, there is even more to look for in The Packers week one matchup vs their archrival.
Originally from Glidden Wisconsin, Jason Straetz is a lifelong Packers\' fan, who has lived in Maine for over 30 years. He is a writer for packerstalk.com. You can follow him on Twitter: @jsnstz