The Packers defense looked like one of the top defenses in the league after week one. The Packers overwhelmed the Bears offense and held them to 254 yards, which is second in the NFL. The Packers also held the Bears to a league low three points. Obviously we cannot read too much into it since it is only week one and they were playing a struggling Mitch Trubisky, but all the signs are pointing to a dominant defense. The new edge rushers Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith combined for 15 quarterback pressures and 2.5 sacks while Adrian Amos sealed the game with an interception in the Bears end zone. The Packers defense looks to come back and have a great performance against another NFC North rival, the Minnesota Vikings. Fans can expect the Packers to rely heavily on their defensive line to provide pressure much like they did against the Bears, but this week they should also expect to see more play from their inside linebackers.
Last week against the Bears, Blake Martinez was the only inside linebacker to take a single snap on defense. Both Ty Summers and new addition B.J. Goodson watched the game from the sideline. It should not have surprised fans to see Goodson on the sideline since he was just added to the team that week via a trade with the New York Giants, but many expected Ty Summers to play a small role in the game last week. The 7th round draft pick played in all four preseason games and seemed to have a shot to start with Oren Burks out with a pectoral injury. However, the Packers had a different strategy headed into week one.
The Packers used Raven Greene as a hybrid safety/linebacker, much like people hoped Josh Jones would have been used, to provide more help in coverage against the Bears. Greene played well for the Packers. He had 6 tackles and 1 pass deflection while playing 77% of the snaps with 56 snaps. The Packers will look to use him again this week against a very talented Vikings offense. Greene will play a role in stopping Stefon Diggs, Adam Theilen and Kyle Rudolph. Mike Pettine used a defensive package with multiple corners on the field last week against the Bears and used a total of five corners throughout the game. From what the Vikings showed last week, the Packers will need to use a bigger lineup against this run first offense.
The Vikings led the league last week with 38 rushing attempts, three rushing touchdowns, and 172 rushing yards. All off season Zimmer vocalized his commitment to the run game and week one showed just that. The Vikings also attempted 10 passes and completely dominated the Falcons on Sunday. The Falcons played three linebackers during week one against the Vikings. Campbell played every snap for the Falcons with 53, Jones played 33 snaps, and Oluokun played 23 snaps. The Vikings ran all over this defense and scored 28 points on only 53 offensive snaps for an average of .52 points per snap. Let’s compare that to the Packers who only scored 10 points on 64 snaps for an average of .15 points per snap. Granted, the Packers were playing a much better defense in the Chicago Bears, but with Aaron Rodgers the expectation is much higher.
The Falcons’ base defense is a 4-3, 4-down defensive linemen and 3 linebackers. The Packers’ defensive coordinator Mike Pettine verified after week one against the Bears that their base defense is 3-3-5 (nickle package), 3 down linemen, 3 linebackers and 5 defensive backs. That personnel package is great in the modern NFL where teams are passing frequently but against a run first team it could be tough. The Packers defense is an overall more talented unit than the Falcons, and have the personnel to stop the Vikings scary running attack. The Packers have one of the best run stopping defensive tackle in Kenny Clark, alongside a consistent force in Dean Lowry. Those two together, along with the rotation of Tyler Lancaster and Mike Pettine’s most improved defensive linemen, is enough to clog the middle of the Vikings’ offensive line. The Packers also have three edge rushers in Kyler Fackrell, Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith who combined for 23 sacks last season and their 12th overall pick Rashan Gary who had two quarterback pressures in just six snaps week one.
The Packers line can do enough to overwhelm the Vikings’ young offensive line, who have three players with two years of experience or less, but the Packers linebackers need to take advantage of the opportunity. Blake Martinez has improved every season and is one of the vocal leaders on the Packers’ defense, but he is missing a true inside linebacker next to him. Raven Greene is a great cover hybrid safety, but against a run-first team, they need linebackers who can clog the running lanes. Ty Summers and B.J. Goodson are two players who can come in and do just that. Ty Summers is an athletic rookie and had all of OTA and training camp to learn the Packers’ system; whereas, B.J. Goodson has NFL experience, but has only been a Packer for a week. Ty Summers tallied up 24 tackles in his four preseason games and even one pick six. He has shown the ability to get in the running lane and be in a position to make the tackle, but he has shown difficulty finishing the tackles. B.J. Goodson started at linebacker for the New York Giants last season and had 61 tackles and four of them were for a loss. Goodson is the safer choice, but it all depends on how comfortable he feels in the Packers’ system. The Packers should use them in a rotation to provide support for Blake Martinez and make it hard for Dalvin Cook to find any lanes to run in.
The Packers could potentially have the best defense they have had in Aaron Rodgers’ career. They have the talent and defensive play-caller to make every down a nightmare for opposing offenses. Look for the Packers this week to adjust their defense to feature Ty Summers and B.J. Goodson to help slow down the best running offense from week one.