One of the undoubted strengths of the Packers this year is their receiving corp. The past few years the Packers have been deep in this area of the team. This year the Packers have had to rely on this depth like never before because of the injuries suffered this year, but the receivers responded and the offense has continued to move forward. The receiver who has taken the most advantage of the opportunities given because of these injuries though is James Jones. Last year at this time, and throughout this past offseason, Packer fans everywhere were itching to get rid of Jones. He was seen as unreliable and a waste of a roster space, but now he leads the league in touchdown receptions and has been a key member of the offense….making game winning catches on more than occasion. He’s also the only one of the Packers top four receivers who has stayed healthy all year long.
One of the main Vikings responsible for stopping Jones this week is going to be Chris Cook. Cook is the Vikings’ best cover corner, and has now returned from the new temporary injured reserve list. Cook is an interesting player for the Vikings. He is a perfect fit for their zone based scheme, but he has struggled to stay on the field due to injuries and off the field situations. He is a big and physical corner (he has 6-2 212 lbs measurable) and is able to reroute receivers and press them at the line. He is not the fastest CB in the league, nor is he a ball hawk, but he is able to stay with receivers in his area and stay in good enough coverage to force the QB to throw into another area. This makes him a great Tampa-2 corner and a potential matchup problem for the Packers.
The Vikings are going to need a big game from Cook if they have any hope of stopping the Packers offense. The Vikings other top cornerback, Antoine Winfield, will be playing with a cast on his hand this Sunday. Winfield is in a similar spot in his career as the Packers’ Charles Woodson, he is not the same in coverage as he once was but is a fierce tackler and leader on the defense. His coverage and tackling abilities will be limited to his injury, but he should still be a stout defender. The other corner for the Vikings will be Patrick Robinson, a third round rookie. Robinson has good speed and some ballhawking ability, but is still raw in coverage and a player that Aaron Rodgers can exploit. As a result, the Vikings should give help with another rookie, Harrison Smith. Smith is a first round pick who is quickly making a name for himself at safety. He has some playmaking ability and could cause the Packers trouble. All this sounds like a good match up for the Vikings, but it relies on Cook having a big day and his ability to shut down the man he is covering. If Cook struggles, or goes down with another injury, then the Vikings are in trouble.
The Packers receiving corp versus the Vikings secondary is still a matchup that can be exploited. If Jones can continue to step up, as well as the Packers getting back the talented Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb , then the Packers should be able to find the matchups to exploit. More than the depth though, it’s going to take guys like James Jones to be able to free up from Chris Cook in order for the Packers to pull away. Jones has shown an ability to make that big play and get separation from the best in the business this year, now he has to do it again against the best the Vikings have to offer.
Looking for Green Bay Packers tickets?