Sunday will mark the first time that the Green Bay Packers will face Matthew Stafford as a member of a team other than the Detroit Lions.
Stafford finished his Lions career with a 7-13 record against the Packers, but he now has a better offensive line protecting him and skilled receiving weapons in Los Angeles. Still, Stafford will have one less target at his disposable for the remainder of the season, making his newest wide receiver acquisition a player to watch this week.
Today’s Thanksgiving weekend musings discuss Odell Beckham Jr.’s role for the Rams this weekend, one that could spell aggressive downfield passes. Will the Packers keep up with deep shots of their own and will their offensive line allow for them?
Packers’ offensive line must get through one more week of injury chaos
Already down three starters on the line, Green Bay will have its hands full against a rested Los Angeles team this Sunday. Much like Kansas City with Melvin Ingram a few weeks ago, the Rams will feature a rather new addition to its edge rushing group with Von Miller. The former Denver Bronco should have a much larger role with an extra week of preparation with his new team this week. The Packers, likely to start Yosh Nijman, will be on their third starting left tackle and be charged with finding a way to contain both Miller and Leonard Floyd, a notorious thorn in Green Bay’s side. Floyd leads the team with 7.5 sacks this season.
How Floyd and Miller will attack the edges might be the key to the game. Billy Turner has quietly had a very good season at right tackle, but right guard Royce Newman has struggled mightily on stunts this season and could do so again if those rushers swarm inside. On the left side, Nijman’s inexperience will be tested, but he held up well against Nick Bosa earlier this season when pressed into duty. The outside speed of the Rams will be quite a bit to handle for Nijman and the Rams may take advantage of the Packers’ backup with specific blitz calls.
Of course, these worries do not even take into account the presence of Aaron Donald. A healthier Donald than the Packers saw in the playoffs last season will be a disruption at some point on Sunday. It is not a matter of if, but when. Green Bay still has the talent to beat the Rams with a depleted offensive line, but quicker-designed pass plays and misdirection runs might help to take advantage of an aggressive pass rush.
MVS is a weapon if the deep shots are not abused
It was the return of the vertical threat last week as Marquez Valdes-Scantling easily turned in his best performance of the season. Hampered by injuries so far, MVS had four catches, notably a long third-down completion in the first half and a 75-yard scoring reception late in the fourth quarter. However, Aaron Rodgers targeted him 10 times on the day, often overusing the deep pass play, or at least missing on it.
Rodgers was less patient early on against Minnesota and his aggressive downfield strikes led to stalled drives. In many games over the past few seasons, the same mistakes have hindered the Packers when Rodgers has abandoned open over-the-middle crossers in favor of the deep ball, particularly in the first half. Taking deep shots has been a blessing and a curse for the Packers. It cannot be ignored that the same play has led to many scoring drives and has been a big part of why Green Bay has been so dangerous on offense with Rodgers. But like anything, abuse of any one play ruins its surprise at marquee times of the game and, depending on the game, can halt drives more than extend them.
If Jalen Ramsey follows Davante Adams more often than not on Sunday afternoon, there may be additional opportunity for MVS deep again this week if the Packers’ offensive line holds up. Perhaps those shorter pass plays previously discussed to limit the Rams’ pass rush will strategically help the Packers’ element of surprise and create a balance in attack.
What will the Rams’ aerial attack look like with Beckham Jr. in the fold?
While the last topic focused on the Packers’ vertical passing ability, much can be said for the opposite sideline this week. Last postseason, the Packers played Los Angeles without Cooper Kupp on the field, a key figure in the Rams’ passing game with Jared Goff at quarterback. Although Kupp will face Green Bay this week, the Rams are without another glue piece of their receiving corps in Robert Woods. A dynamic run-after-the-catch piece with the ability to block on the outside, Woods was on pace for another 1000-yard season with Stafford throwing the ball. Against Green Bay’s defense, Woods’ ability to create separation on underneath routes would have been something for the Packers to specifically gameplan for.
With Woods out and Odell Beckham Jr. joining the offense, the Packers instead are preparing for a little bit of the unknown. Beckham Jr. played just 15 snaps in his Rams debut prior to the bye week, with Van Jefferson assuming a larger role on offense. But with an extra two weeks with the playbook, what kind of impact will OBJ have? At his best, the former New York Giant and Cleveland Brown has been an all-around receiving threat. The Packers, however, have relatively little film of relevance in assessing how the Rams will draw up plays for Beckham Jr. One would imagine that he begins to get downfield targets soon, but the inside slants and back-shoulder throws could make him a weapon against the Packers’ current stable of cornerbacks. Beckham Jr. could very well mimic the same post-catch ability as Woods in the short-to-intermediate passing game.
The hype has been off the charts for OBJ’s fit in LA, but that is all it has been so far. For the Packers to be successful on defense this week, however, they will be tasked in preparing for the unknown wrinkles that his presence may create in a Sean McVay scheme.