Tom Brady. Mike Evans. Chris Godwin (potentially). Rob Gronkowski.
Those four weapons, three if Godwin ends up not suiting up, will certainly present the secondary for the Green Bay Packers a hearty challenge on Sunday, something that this defense surely needs to accurately understand how good they truly are.
Kevin King has been nursing an injury and has put up non-positive practice designations so far, indicating that he may be trending in the wrong direction, putting the weight on Jaire Alexander and the safeties, Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage, to hold down the vertical attack that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will certainly look to employ this weekend.
But on the ground, their 1-2 punch of Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette is more than just formidable, meaning that this defense is going to have to bottle up or at least slow down both areas of the Bucs’ offense, not even an easy task on paper. But there are a few core elements that will help dictate how successful Green Bay is.
The front seven looks to be receiving some much-needed reinforcements this weekend, as Kenny Clark put in a full practice and looks to be good to go, and rookie LB Kamal Martin looks to make his NFL debut after having started the year on the injury list.
If Clark can help hold down the middle of that defensive line, running lanes for both Jones and Fournette will be a little tougher to find, especially if Clark demands the common double-team attack that most teams decide to enact against the UCLA star. Tyler Lancaster, Montravius Adams, and Dean Lowry will need to step up and provide some impact if he earns that much attention.
Another player that would be helped by Clark’s return is Rashan Gary, if he is also able to come back after his injury. With offensive line focus placed mostly on Clark, the ends could absolutely feast against the immobile Brady, pinning him in the pocket and giving the Smith Brothers and Gary paths to the QB.
With Christian Kirksey still out, it has been UDFA surprise Krys Barnes making the plays at LB, but Martin could transition his impressive camp right to the field, albeit taking a bit of time to get up to speed. That would help free up safety play in the box, helping keep Amos and Savage over the top and outside more to help shut down the aerial attack.
If King is out, then Chandon Sullivan gets thrown into the spotlight potentially against either Evans or Godwin, something that would really test him. Ka’dar Hollman and Josh Jackson would need to step up in slot roles as well, giving Mike Pettine a really interesting schematic conundrum to figure out in this game if King does not suit up.
This GB defense, the much-critiqued unit that has consistently been the downfall of this franchise, will be put under the microscope against its biggest vertical threat so far this year in a true test of how far they have come. If they are able to keep things in front of them and not get beat, then Aaron Rodgers helps lead this team to its fifth victory on the back of a two-dimensional victory. If not, more of the same of the defense letting down the offense.뿓뿓뿓
Mike Johrendt has been an avid fan of the Packers ever since he can remember. He is now a writer at PackersTalk and you can follow him on Twitter at @MJohrendt23