With the regular season finally upon us, the Packers open with a familiar foe. This year’s version of Packers-Vikings features many new faces- including a new coaching staff and a new pass rusher on the other side. But in order for the Packers to start the season off with a victory, they can still learn from the matchups a season ago.
Offense: Keep Rodgers Upright
All eyes will be on Za’Darius Smith as he makes his Vikings debut against his former team. Former Packers OLB Mike Smith also defected west, making this divisional matchup even more familiar. Danielle Hunter and Smith form a formidable duo, and will test the Packers tackles.
Green Bay will hope to at least have David Bakhtiari back, but Elgton Jenkins looks unlikely as he deals with a pectoral injury on top of his recovery from knee surgery. With a raucous crowd and a fast playing surface, the Packers bookends will have to be in midseason form to protect the back-to-back MVP.
Look for Matt LaFleur to try and scheme a lot of quick game to get the ball out of Rodgers’ hands early to mitigate the rush of the Vikings. Without Bakhtiari a season ago, Rodgers posted the quickest average time to throw of his career. He finished the season with the 8th quickest average time to throw, after finishing 26th, 39th, and 40th over the previous three seasons.
The big change in 2022 will be trying to replicate that without Davante Adams. Adams was the only receiver on the roster who could consistently win early in his routes. Rodgers and LaFleur admitted that about 90% of the Packers offense featured Adams as the primary read. And with Allen Lazard looking likely to miss this week as well, Randall Cobb will be the only familiar target for Rodgers. He is going to have to put a lot of trust in newcomers to be in the right places so he can get the ball out on time.
When looking back at the matchups against the Vikings a season ago, the word for the defense was “almost.” Darnell Savage had an interception negated by a roughing the passer penalty that ultimately led to a Vikings touchdown. Savage then dropped another interception on the game winning drive. Preston Smith also had a forced fumble that the Packers were unable to recover. All in all, in two games against the Vikings last year – including a Sean Mannion start in the penultimate game – the Packers failed to record a single turnover.
Those turnovers become even more important when the offense is able to sustain long drives. And that’s exactly what Minnesota was able to do in Week 11 a season ago. They were 9/13 converting on third downs, and had 4 drives of greater than 75 yards. And this came despite being somewhat able to bottle up RB Dalvin Cook. Cook finished the game with 22 carries for only 86 yards.
If the Packers want success defensively, they are going to have to disrupt Cousins, but then make sure they capitalize on any errant passes that may come their way.
Jared is a rogue Packers fan from a Steelers family and an overall football junkie, including playing 4 years at Ithaca College. You can follow him on twitter at @JPrugar.