With two consecutive offensive performances of more than 40 points, the Green Bay Packers’ offense has been rolling to begin the season. Such a start sets up a Week 3 showdown with a formidable offense of its own in the New Orleans Saints.
Without elite wide receiver Michael Thomas in the lineup, the Packers might have an advantage heading into Sunday night’s game not only due to his own absence, but the ways he impacts a defense outside of his statistical outputs. Adding to Green Bay’s edge could be its own standout defensive players tasked with guarding the remaining members of the Saints receiving corps.
A further look at the Packers’ steady cornerback room kicks off today’s musings.
The Packers’ top three cornerbacks have formed a dynamic trio thus far
Jaire Alexander created a buzz in Week 1 when he was responsible for a blitzing sack resulting in a safety and a table-turning interception. Alexander’s aggressiveness almost netted him another interception last week and has helped him become a fairly reliable tackler on the boundary. While Alexander has maintained a high-caliber level of play entering year three, he is not alone.
Chandon Sullivan’s second half against Detroit was almost equally as impressive and the Lions could not get Danny Amendola the ball with any level of ease. Sullivan’s pick-six midway through the third quarter may have been the dagger and was the result of a quick break on a ball thrown toward Amendola. It was Sullivan’s highlight of the game for sure, but not the only one. On the prior drive, the first of the second half, Sullivan’s deflection on a well-timed break on another ball intended for Amendola helped create the defense’s first three-and-out of the ballgame after long previous drives. And even the drive after the interception was stalled by yet another deflection by Sullivan against Amendola for an additional three-and-out. The Packers were able to take control early in the second half and Sullivan played a large role.
Then there is Kevin King, who received some mentions in this week’s walkthroughs as one of the team’s most improved players. King’s name has not been called much this season during broadcasts, so that made me dig into his numbers a little more. The fourth-year pro has been targeted just five times over the course of the first two games, allowing just three receptions. Those numbers tie him for 91st and 94th across the NFL, respectively. By comparison, Alexander has been targeted 12 times with eight catches allowed. Whatever the case may be, teams have just not targeted King as much this season and that is a good sign for a player in a contract year.
Green Bay’s offensive line has been strong, but should be tested this week
Despite a multitude of injuries across the offensive line, the unit has been one of the team’s strengths. Listing Billy Turner as inactive prior to the start of Week 1 produced concern about the team’s right tackle situation, and Lane Taylor’s season-ending injury shortly afterwards figured to be another tough blow. But Elgton Jenkins continued to show his versatility to play at least four of the line’s five positions by lining up at right tackle against Minnesota and Rick Wagner also played well at right tackle last week. Not only has the line held up, it has excelled in both the running and passing games. Even if Turner returns this week, there is some level of confidence in the two aforementioned players, as well as guard Lucas Patrick and even rookie Jon Runyan to perform well enough to win.
But the line will face a challenge against the New Orleans front this week. The Saints, who have created six sacks this season, will bring pressure from linebackers and safeties in addition to its defensive line that features Cameron Jordan. Marcus Davenport could also potentially be back from injury to aid the pass rush on one end. Adding to the pressure will be a rowdy New Orleans home crowd, something the Packers’ offensive line has not had to deal with in either of its first two games, particularly on the road at Minnesota. Making calls at the line will be tougher for Rodgers and the overall communication along the offensive line should be affected much more by the noise.
Can the Packers’ protection hold up again this week with new challenges to deal with?
Will Green Bay reverse its fortunes in the Big Easy?
The Packers have not had much luck visiting New Orleans as of late. Green Bay has not won there during the regular season since 1995, albeit there have only been three meetings since that day. Still, Green Bay has allowed at least 35 points in that trio of matchups, including 51- and 44-point outbursts from the Saints in 2008 and 2014.
Much has been made about a decline in Drew Brees’ arm strength this past week and the Saints offense being a step below its typical dangerousness of the past decade. But winning in New Orleans remains a tough task and the Packers’ inconsistent defense of the past two weeks could be exposed by a Brees on top of his game. With that being said, the Packers have shown signs the past two games that if there was ever a time to steal a win in New Orleans, this would be the year.