Following a loss, the wait until the next game always feels interminable. Fortunately, this week should fly by as the Packers boat raced the Redskins to a 24-0 halftime lead and cruised to a comfortable three-score victory. As one would guess with such a score, there was considerably more positive than negative takeaways for Green Bay.
At their best, the Packers' possess the league's best passing attack
A week ago, I wrote that the Packers' receiving corps had successfully weathered the loss of Greg Jennings. Apparently, burning the 49ers' secondary was just a warm up for week 2. Look no farther than James Jones, whose 178 yards against Washington nearly matched the combined total from all the wide receivers in San Francisco. Furthermore, that performance was arguably matched by Randall Cobb (128 yards, 1 TD) and Jordy Nelson (66 yards, 2 TDs).
Part of that equation, naturally, is the presence of Aaron Rodgers, who through two weeks leads the NFC in yards, touchdowns, yards per attempt, and passer rating. His 480 passing yards not only ties the team record for a single game (also held by Matt Flynn in the week 17 game against Detroit in 2011), but represents the highest such total for any quarterback in this young season. Certainly, the porous Washington defense played a part in Rodgers' historic performance. That can only diminish his achievement so much as no NFL defense, regardless of quality, will ever be the main catalyst for 400+ yards, four touchdowns, and over 75% completion. The credit belongs to Rodgers, the league's best quarterback.
Conventional wisdom would have you believe that the Packers' passing efficiency will decline as the weather worsens. While some efficiency metrics will regress, such as Rodgers' 158.0 passer rating when passing to Cobb, it won't be by much. The Packers' performance Sunday on turf made slippery by rain demonstrates their ability to overcome less-than-ideal conditions. Assuming good health, this passing attack will outpace all others this season.
Opposing quarterbacks shouldn't expect to run effectively against Dom Capers' defense
In their first two games, the Packers faced perhaps the two best-rushing quarterbacks they'll see all season. Despite these grueling assignments, Dom Capers' defense has held these players to a combined 23 yards on 21 carries. Capers has overseen an incredible turnaround by a defense that features largely the same personnel that gave up 181 rushing yards to Kaepernick just over eight months earlier.
More impressive still, Green Bay's ability to stop running quarterbacks may not have yet reached its peak. Datone Jones, the team's first round selection this year, hasn't played near 100% since injuring his ankle early in the preseason. When he can make a full recovery, Jones is yet another talented defender in the front seven who can chase down elusive signal callers.
Green Bay will likely have several individual 100 yard rushing games in 2013, but no 1,000 yard runner
Thanks to James Starks, lazy sports broadcasters will no longer recite the number of games since the Packers' last 100-yard rusher as an argument for better offensive balance. Starks, who put up 132 rushing yards on 20 carries, took advantage of most of the large holes Green Bay's offensive line opened up while also displaying a tenacity which the tailback has seldom shown in his time in the NFL.
While such a performance would suggest more big days ahead, it's important not to forget Starks' history. The biggest knock against the fourth year runner from Buffalo is how often small injuries have sapped him of his effectiveness and playing time. He's stayed healthy so far in 2013, but it would be naïve to assume Starks won't miss games in the future. Likewise, Eddie Lacy is the type of back that punishes defenses when healthy, but has shown a propensity to injury. Lacy missed several games in the preseason to lower body concerns, and missed virtually all of Sunday's game with a concussion.
The good news is between the two, the Packers can expect to have their most effective ground game since Ryan Grant's 2009 season. While that may seem like faint praise to some, Rodgers could thrive on such a running tandem. Even if neither back tops 1,000 yards, each will have big games such as Starks' against Washington.
Bakhtiari and Barclay are quickly discrediting critics
It wasn't long after Mike McCarthy stated his preference for a David Bakhtiari/Don Barclay tackle pairing that several critics cited the offensive tackles as the Packers' Achilles' heel. Through two weeks, including the aforementioned grueling matchup with San Francisco, Green Bay's bookends have held up surprisingly well. Heading into camp, Bakhtiari was viewed as a fringe contender at right tackle while Barclay was expecting to cross-train along the line in order to secure a roster spot. Yet both took advantage of injuries and ineffectiveness from the players ahead of them.
The biggest surprise has been Barclay's pass protection, which a season ago was unacceptably horrendous. He still has a ways to go, but Barclay will now usually win his battles without tight end or running back assistance, allowing Rodgers enough time to make a play. If both tackles continue to improve, the offensive line could be league average or better come the playoffs.
It's too early to get nervous about Clay Matthews
Tex noted yesterday that Clay Matthews had a rough day against left tackle Trent Williams. While he's 100% correct, that shouldn't be taken as an indication that the pass rush will be a problem in 2013. Not only is Williams one of the league's premier offensive tackles, but Matthews matched up with another such tackle a week earlier in Joe Staley. As the season wears on, Matthews will have more opportunities against non-elite linemen such as the Giants' Will Beatty and the Steelers' Mike Adams. Obviously, it's preferable for your top paid defensive player to excel regardless of opponent, but until Nick Perry and/or someone else steps up in pass rush, there will be games like last Sunday's.
Jason Hirschhorn covers the Green Bay Packers for Acme Packing Co. He has previously written for Lombardi Ave, College Hoops Net, LiveBall Sports, and the List Universe. He is also currently a senior writer for Beats Per Minute, an indie-music webzine. Follow him on Twitter: @JBHirschhorn
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