The Green Bay Packers have ridden both the highs and the lows so far this season. Week 1 was certainly a low. The 23-7 loss to the Minnesota Vikings showed a lot of holes with many glaring mistakes left to be corrected. Week 2 was a much-improved showing by the Packers after winning 27-10 against the Chicago Bears. Going into Tampa Bay on Sunday, what should the Packers’ expectations be for Week 3?
Heavy Run Game
This should go without question. Throughout the first two games of the season, the Packers’ offense has been most successful on the ground. Running backs Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon have a combined 48 carries totaling 287 yards on the ground. It’s clear both head coach Matt LaFleur and quarterback Aaron Rodgers want this offense operating through those two guys.
“The goal is to always get 28 (Dillon) & 33 (Jones) the ball,” Rodgers said via the ‘Pat McAfee Show’ on Tuesday. “(It) would be nice to get them a number of touches in the 15 range, at least, for each of them.”
Green Bay’s offense is built to rely on the run game. The offensive line’s strength comes through run blocking and LaFleur credited wide receivers Randall Cobb, Allen Lazard, and Sammy Watkins as being some of the best run-blocking wide receivers in the league.
The opportunity is still there for those guys in the passing game. By running heavy on the ground, opposing defenses are forced to play closer to the line of scrimmage allowing deep play-action opportunities to present themselves. Just look at Watkins’ 55-yard catch late in the fourth quarter against the Bears. Expect to see a lot of early running on Sunday with some deep shots by Rodgers as the game progresses.
No Increase in Blitzes
Blitzing is something we haven’t seen much from the Packers this season. Against a mobile quarterback in Justin Fields, that makes sense. The lack of pressure and blitz packages against Kirk Cousins did not. However, going up against Tom Brady, defensive coordinator Joe Barry needs to keep the same mindset this week.
Brady has proven to be one of the most dangerous quarterbacks against the blitz throughout his career. Last year, it seemed Brady was at his worst when he wasn’t faced with some kind of blitz from the defense. In the last regular season matchup between the two teams in Week 6 of the 2020-21 season, the Packers’ defense failed to record a single sack while blitzing heavily the entire game.
This time around, the Packers’ defense needs to create pressure up-front on the defensive line without the additional help. Luckily for the Packers, the Buccaneers’ offensive line is dealing with some injury woes of their own. The biggest match-up of the game will be Preston Smith and Rashan Gary off the edge against offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs. If the Packers can get pressure on Brady without relying on the blitz, Green Bay might be able to slow down the Buccaneers’ offense.
Breaking the Raymond James Curse
Back at the beginning of July, I broke down the top quarterbacks the Packers will face this season. Number one on the list was this week’s game against Brady. However, the concern wasn’t about facing Brady, it was Rodgers returning to Raymond James Stadium. I discussed how Rodgers holds a 1-3 record in that stadium against the Buccaneers throwing for five touchdowns and eight interceptions.
On Sunday, Rodgers needs to change the narrative that haunts him in Tampa Bay. Playing a clean, no-interception game, as he did last Sunday needs to be the expectation going into this game. If Rodgers can stay clean, allow the run game to open things up, and trust his pass catchers to make a play, the Packers offense will have an opportunity to put the league on notice in Week 3.——————
Kole Noble is a lifelong Packers fan currently living in North Carolina and is a huge NFL Draft nut. You can follow him on twitter at @SlawSportsShow.