Almost all is good in Titletown, with the Green Bay Packers surging to a 3-0 start to begin the season and the defense continuing to carry the team through the early schedule. The offense, with some level of new creativity, also showed more promise in week three after being a talking point the first two weeks.
Yet, there is still plenty for the team to clean up as it sets its sights on Philadelphia on short rest. One of those areas is in the secondary as younger veterans are taking on larger roles. While Green Bay received a lift in tackling from budding star Blake Martinez, a couple of other players must step up to prevent big plays.
Will Redmond and Kevin King struggled, especially as tacklers
On a day in which inside linebacker Martinez flashed solid open-field and behind-the-line-of-scrimmage tackling, the performance of Redmond and King fell on the flip side.
King’s health has allowed him extended playing time at cornerback on the secondary and he has had some positive moments through the first two games. But against Denver, King’s lack of physicality to wrap up as a tackler reared its ugly head several times during the game. Perhaps none was bigger than a short screen pass to Phillip Lindsay in the third quarter, deep in Denver’s own territory. King missed an opportunity to stop Lindsay for a short gain with a one-on-one tackle and Lindsay scampered 36 yards down the field untouched. The inability to win those crucial tackles hampered Green Bay all of last season on defense. King then followed up that play by allowing Courtland Sutton space downfield along the sideline and was bailed out by a Joe Flacco throw that was too close to the line for Sutton to get two feet down.
On the same drive, Redmond, seeing a jump in snap count with Raven Greene injured, also failed to make a critical stop. Whether Redmond was going for the strip, one cannot tell for certain, but the veteran could not bring down Broncos tight end Jeff Heuerman after a short catch. The play turned into a 10-yard gain and a first-and-goal opportunity that eventually became a Broncos touchdown.
Not too long after this drive, King and Redmond combined for a difficult play to watch. Again with the Broncos starting the drive deep in their own side of the field, Sutton beat King over the top for a 52-yard gain on 3rd-and-6. For whatever reason, as seen below in the video tweet, King stopped running and Redmond was late to pick up the slack. Making matters worse, Sutton juked King and Redmond to pick up yardage after the catch before finally taking him to the ground.
Not sure why Kevin King stopped running here. pic.twitter.com/jxcEdq6hI9— Rob Demovsky (@RobDemovsky) September 22, 2019
While the struggles were plentiful, King had a redeeming moment on the first drive of the fourth quarter when he wrapped up Royce Freeman on a pass to the flat to force a fourth down. It was a huge three-and-out for the Packers, but even on that play, King almost let Freeman get by. The Packers will need King and Redmond to be much more sure with their tackling next week.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling had an up-and-down day
The final stat line looks wonderful for MVS with six catches for 99 yards and a momentum-swinging touchdown to begin the game. He also had a crucial catch on third down late in the game in which he high-pointed the ball to get the Packers in much better field goal range. The 41-yard field goal from Mason Crosby effectively put the game out of reach.
But MVS, who was targeted 10 times on Sunday, had his share of learning mistakes as well. On a pair of plays, the second-year receiver did not show strong enough hands to secure the catch, notably a third down play near the sideline in which MVS had the ball in his hands beyond the line of gain but lost control as a defender closed in. Later, on a receiver screen, MVS also appeared to give up early and dive to the ground for a mere couple of yards instead of fighting for extra yardage.
It is apparent that MVS has gained Aaron Rodgers’ trust with his number of targets against Denver, and he certainly is a playmaker. But if he is able to take the next step in becoming a reliable second-option across from Davante Adams, MVS will need to play much stronger.
The backfield was involved in the passing game
Many who follow the Packers believed Aaron Jones was primed for a breakout season with Matt LaFleur in command. That could still be true, and Jones had a great week two of action. But Jamaal Williams received the bulk of action at tailback in week three and was especially important as a receiver.
Williams hauled in a pair of catches for 27 yards Sunday, none more important than a 12-yard crosser over the middle on a 3rd-and-5 play in the second half. It was that kind of short, check-down type of throw that could benefit Green Bay this season. Jones also added a catch for four yards out of the backfield, but the play that stood out most was a well-timed fullback wheel route in the third quarter. Rodgers hit Danny Vitale for a 27-yard gain to set up a first-and-goal and eventual Packers score.
When was the last time the Packers tried a wheel route, much less one to the fullback? The creativity was a good sign for the Packers moving forward at getting the backfield involved in the aerial attack.
DANNY VITALE! @RealDannyVitale hauls in the 27-yard catch to set up the #Packers TD!#DENvsGB | #GoPackGo pic.twitter.com/ra0Mwz09nI— Green Bay Packers (@packers) September 22, 2019