The Packers pushed their win streak to six games with 24-10 victory over the Washington Football Team. What was most impressive was the red zone defense. After allowing a touchdown on every red zone trip this season, the Packers defense turned away the WFT 4 separate times. Could this be the next stage of development of Joe Barry’s scheme? It will be difficult to tell this week with Barry on the bench due to a positive COVID-19 test. That’s just the tip of the iceberg of challenges that the Packers face this Thursday during their primetime matchup with the unbeaten Cardinals. If the Packers want to continue their winning ways and claim their place amongst the powerhouses of the NFC, they will need massive performances from specific units.
Packers Healthy WRs
In what has easily been one of the craziest weeks for the Packers so far, the Packers lost both Davante Adams and Allen Lazard to COVID-19/reserve lists. At the time of this writing, it’s still technically possible that Adams can test negative twice 24 hours apart and be able to play against Arizona Thursday night. However, that is extremely unlikely and not something Matt LaFleur can count on.
It has been reported that Marquez Valdez-Scantling may be able to come off injured reserve, which would be a massive boost. Without all 3 WRs, the receiving core leaves a lot to be desired. Randall Cobb, Rookie Amari Rodgers, and Equanimous St. Brown would be in line for massive roles in a game that could have critical importance when it comes to playoff seeding. At least one of them will need to step and have a huge presence for the Packers to run a remotely recognizable offense.
Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon
With the wide receiver room being gutting by COVID-19, Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon are going to be looked to carry the load. Up until last week, the dynamic duo had been shredding opposing defenses on the ground as well as in the air. Aaron Rodgers is going to need the two of them to shake off their Sunday performance and come ready to go.
The lack of proven weapons at receiver this week will mean that the Packers will likely lean into their running backs to take some of the pressure off. Whether that is staying committed to the run or utilizing them in the quick passing game, Both Jones and Dillon are going to have critical roles to play Thursday. A punishing ground game will go a long way to both keeping a potent Arizona offense off the field as well as give the Packers a clear pathway to victory.
What a revelation De’vondre Campbell has been this season! The free agent signee from June has blown away any all expectations of him. He is playing at level that the Packers haven’t seen at the inside linebacker position in at least a decade, maybe two. He’s rated as one of the top linebackers in the NFL at this point in the season. Not only is he playing well, but he is serving as an excellent field general, keeping all the moving parts around him playing together.
This week may be his biggest test against his former team. With defensive coordinator Joe Barry unable to coach, Campbell will be taking the calls from Defensive Backs/Passing Game Coordinator, Jerry Gray, relayed to him by Inside Linebackers Coach Kirk Olivadotti. If you think this sounds like total chaos, it is. The Cardinals like to move into an up-tempo offense, so Campbell will need to call his own plays as well as ensuring his teammates are all on the same page. If Campbell is up to the challenge, the Packers defense can definitely get after Kyler Murray and the Arizona offense.
Jordan is a lifelong Packer fan who grew up in Idaho and now lives in Seattle, Washington. You can follow him on twitter at @jordantwolf.