The Packers surprised many last week by supplying an impressive pass rush out the nigh unstoppable Clay Matthews. Most of that pass rush came from the inside, unsurprising considering the Packers were forced to play the game with their B squad of OLB due to injuries. This week is no different for that OLB unit and so once again it’s going to be up to the interior lineman to shine.
The Packers have some big name players along that line, and young players with high expectations. B.J. Raji is slowly becoming a household name and Jerel Worthy has flashed some real potential. These player are not the ones truly having a stand out season though, no, that honor belongs to Ryan Pickett. Pickett may be the most consistent force on the defense week in and week out for the Packers this year. Usually this means he is the key to absolutely shutting down the run by handling two blockers and letting Brad Jones or A.J. Hawk clean up from there. In Detroit he manhandled a talented interior Lions offensive line and flushed Matthew Stafford out of the pocket all afternoon.
It may be overly optimistic to expect Pickett to give that sort of pass rushing performance again for the Packers. He is not really a pass rusher after all. Then again, the Packers are funny on defense. When you expect them to fold and be terrible, the bounce back find the last player you would expect to perform and just shut teams down. Case in point, Pickett last week, Sam Shields in 2010, Casey Hayward coming in for Charles Woodson this year, Brad Jones stepping up this year, Desmond Bishop stepping up in 2010, etc. Then again, when you expect the defense to be lights out awesome they decide to fold like a trapper keeper….for example every player on the defense not named Clay Matthews in 2011. So don’t be totally shocked if Pickett breaks it out again and the Packers find away to collapse the pocket on Eli again…leading to a night of Manning Face. At the very least it’s not unreasonable to expect Pickett to do his normal two gap and keep the Giant running attack in check.
Facing off against Pickett will be long time veteran Chris Snee. Snee is a player who has been very successful (three time Pro Bowler and three time All Pro selection). He also has struggled this year. Snee has struggled in pass protection but has been solid in run blocking. He is also dinged up at the moment and is dealing with an ankle injury.
If Snee & Co. can hold the interior rush for the Packers then there is a good chance that Eli Manning should get the time he needs to throw the ball. Manning is a different QB under pressure than one who is scrambling around and out of the pocket, no matter what those Super Bowl heroics look like in the highlight reels. If the Packers can bring the heat to Manning like they did against Stafford last week then there is a good chance that the Packers can come away with the victory. A big game from Pickett would be just what the doctor ordered.