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Packers Friday Musings: Who is going to bring the pressure?

Through the first five games, the Packers’ pressure numbers help tell the story of the team’s defensive struggles.

Green Bay Packers v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

True adversity struck the Green Bay Packers for the first time during the 2020 season last week and it proved too much to overcome.

The first and second quarters of Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay could not have been more opposite, and Green Bay’s early momentum was quickly lost upon Aaron Rodgers’ costly pick-six. But beyond Rodgers, several other factors contributed to a gradual collapse as the game wore on and must be corrected as soon as this week.

With the Houston Texans on the slate this Sunday, two of those factors — the offensive line and the defensive pressure — must improve for the Packers to get back on track. Each topic is further examined in today’s musings.

The pressure stats around the division are simply not as expected, including in Green Bay

News that the Minnesota Vikings had traded Yannick Ngakoue yesterday was a shock despite the team’s fall from grace this season. Although Ngakoue had had a fairly productive early portion of the season for the Vikings, clearly he was not part of the team’s future plans. Regardless, within just over a month, the expectations and buzz surrounding the Minnesota pass rush has plummeted with the trade of Ngakoue and Danielle Hunter’s season-ending injury situation. Even with Ngakoue on the field, the Vikings had just 13 sacks and generated pressure on 21% of dropbacks.

Unfortunately, the early excitement about year two of the Smith Brothers’ pass rush has worn off in Green Bay as well. The defense has tallied just 12 sacks and 31 pressures, with the latter stat ranking dead last in the NFL. Even with the early bye week to account for, the Packers have a pressure rate of just 17%, second-to-last in the league, and a league-worst hurry percentage of only 4.9%.

It is not all on the Smiths for the team’s struggles in pressuring the quarterback. Too often, the Packers have not brought enough bodies to create that pressure; Green Bay has blitzed on just 23.1% of dropbacks. It’s hard to make quarterbacks uncomfortable with three-man rushes.

Where do the Packers turn at left tackle if David Bakhtiari can’t play?

An ugly game got uglier last weekend when Bakhtiari left with a chest injury. As of Thursday, chances were becoming slimmer that the Pro Bowler would suit up at left tackle against Houston after missing another practice. The Packers’ tackle depth has been questioned for some time, and this Sunday is shaping up to be a major test in that regard.

Rick Wagner filled in on the left side in relief versus Tampa Bay, but the results were not promising. It feels more likely that Wagner would start at right tackle this Sunday instead of on the left side. If that is the case, perhaps Billy Turner gets the nod with some minimal experience at left tackle as a rookie in Miami. It would not be the biggest surprise to see left guard Elgton Jenkins slide over to the edge, either. Jenkins played some left tackle while in college and may have the most athleticism among the Packers’ offensive linemen. Plus, he performed well when filling in at right tackle earlier this season. Yosh Nijman, a practice squad holdover from last season, is Green Bay’s more true backup tackle option but has just five NFL snaps on the line.

The Packers have plenty to prove along the offensive line after a very dismal showing in the second half last week. Green Bay would be well-served, regardless of who the left tackle is, to provide better support from the tight ends and quicker-developing play calls this time around.

Randall Cobb faces the Packers for the second time in two years - and with a second team

The former Packer mainstay Cobb will be on the opposing sideline this Sunday once again. Last season, Cobb faced the Packers for the first time since the two sides’ separation as a member of the Dallas Cowboys and had three catches for 53 yards in the contest. But this year, Cobb takes on the Green and Gold in the state of Texas again, this time by way of the Texans.

Cobb’s targets have been steady with at least four targets in every game outside of Week 1 and his 95-yard output against Pittsburgh a few weeks back was probably his best game of the season to this point. Still, Cobb appears to be gaining chemistry with DeShaun Watson and scored his second touchdown last week. Earlier this week, Cobb shared some similarities he saw between Watson and his former quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

“I think you talk about their escapability, their ability to make plays once they get out of the pocket. You look at just the play that we had on the touchdown that I scored in Tennessee. That’s something that I’ve done a lot of times with Aaron over the years.”

While Brandin Cooks and Will Fuller will be the starting receivers for Houston this week and are anticipated to get the majority of the targets, expect the Packer alum Cobb to be lined up in the slot.