Sunday was a day of firsts for a number of Green Bay Packers rookies. For second-round pick Elgton Jenkins, the week 3 game against the Denver Broncos was his first career NFL start, and he largely looked solid at left guard. Safety Darnell Savage, a first-round pick, recorded his first interception.
Then there is the team’s first draft pick in April, edge rusher Rashan Gary. In week one, Gary played just six snaps with minimal impact. He got a few more reps in week two, but failed to crack the stat sheet. This week, however, he got a much more robust workload, and he responded with his first stats of his career.
Gary cracked the stat sheet with a fumble recovery in the first half, then landed a sack of Joe Flacco, his first as a pro. While headlines will speak largely about the Smiths — and rightfully so, after they combined for five sacks on Sunday — Gary deserves some credit for providing some returns on the Packers’ investment in him on Sunday.
OFFENSE (57 plays)
Aaron Rodgers 57
Despite the offense bogging down at times, particularly in the third quarter, Rodgers set a season-high in passing yardage. He finished the game 17-of-29 for 235 yards, one score, and no picks, making it all three games with at least one touchdown and no interceptions. His numbers were buoyed by an early 40-yard touchdown bomb, helping him finish the day with a yards-per-attempt number north of 8 for the first time all year (he was at 6.8 and 6.2 in the previous two games before landing at 8.1 in week three).
Jamaal Williams 35, Aaron Jones 22, Danny Vitale 19
Aaron Jones appeared to be fighting a minor injury midway through the game, but it was Williams who was the more consistently effective back against Denver’s defense. The Broncos seemed to keep Jones bottled up, preventing him from breaking any big runs. Meanwhile, Williams averaged almost five yards per carry with 59 yards on 12 totes, and he added a pair of receptions for 27 yards. Jones did salvage his day for fantasy owners with a pair of short-yardage touchdowns, however.
Vitale got fans of the fullback position excited, however, catching a 27-yard near-touchdown pass on a gorgeous wheel route. He also split out wide on the first play of the game.
Davante Adams 52, Marquez Valdes-Scantling 50, Geronimo Allison 26, Allen Lazard 5, Darrius Shepherd 2
The target breakdown in this game is not something that will excite Adams, but that was likely a function of the matchups. Valdes-Scantling saw ten targets, catching six for 99 yards and the opening 40-yard touchdown, while Adams caught the four balls thrown his way for 52 yards. It has been a bit of a slow start for Adams this year, at least by his standards, but he is catching passes at a career-high rate (over 70 percent) and his yards per reception average (13.2) about matches his career high from 2016 (13.3).
Meanwhile, Allison continues to be a drag on the Packers’ offense, catching just one pass out of three targets for a loss of one.
Marcedes Lewis 31, Jimmy Graham 24, Robert Tonyan 17, Evan Baylis 1
The Packers got just a pair of receptions out of the tight end group, a 19-yard gain by Lewis and a four-yarder for Tonyan. Graham saw one target but could not haul it in. Tonyan did have a couple of other chances, but one was a pass that Rodgers air-mailed over his head near the sideline. The other could have been a touchdown pass, but it appeared that Tonyan slowed down slightly on the route and could not haul in a pretty good pass from Rodgers in the end zone.
David Bakhtiari 57, Elgton Jenkins 57, Corey Linsley 57, Billy Turner 57, Bryan Bulaga 57
For the third straight game, the Broncos finished without a sack, and much of that credit goes to the Packers’ offensive line. They kept Rodgers upright all game, allowing just one hit on him. To be sure, Rodgers’ mobility in the pocket helped, as he avoided a few other hits with his legs, but this was a great day for the line in pass protection. The line’s only holding penalty came in the run game, and they were less effective in that phase as the team averaged just 3.3 yards per carry.
DEFENSE (73 plays)
Kenny Clark 56, Dean Lowry 45, Tyler Lancaster 38, Kingsley Keke 12, Fadol Brown 7
Despite the Packers using their bigger linemen heavily in much of this game, the front got bullied by the Broncos’ offensive line in the run game. There were often big lanes for Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman to run through, as the two combined for 144 yards. They did it with consistent four- and five-yard gains, however, as neither had a run of longer than 13 yards.
Lancaster led the group with seven tackles, while Lowry had six, Clark had four, and Keke had one.
Preston Smith 63, Za’Darius Smith 59, Rashan Gary 26, Kyler Fackrell 24
This group terrorized the Broncos’ offensive tackles throughout the game, as the Smiths and Gary were responsible for all six of the Packers’ sacks. Preston Smith had three on his own, including a forced fumble, while Za’Darius Smith had a pair and Gary got the first sack of his career. Gary also came up with the recovery on Preston Smith’s fumble and finished with four total tackles.
Gary’s snap count continues to increase steadily, however. After just six snaps in the opener and 14 in week two, he was in on 26 plays this week, out-snapping Fackrell for the first time. That’s an increase in playing time from 21% to 35%, and it is becoming clear that Mike Pettine is getting more comfortable putting Gary on the field more frequently.
Blake Martinez 73, B.J. Goodson 25
As usual, Martinez led the team in tackles, making 12 total stops including two for losses. Goodson had a pair of assists as the team only lined him up on about one-third of their snaps.
Adrian Amos 73, Darnell Savage 73, Will Redmond 27
Redmond took a number of snaps as a third safety, including a couple as a dime linebacker. He finished the day with three total tackles, while Amos added seven, many from in the box in run support. Savage had another great game, however, with five tackles and his first career interception.
Jaire Alexander 73, Kevin King 68, Tramon Williams 45, Josh Jackson 15, Tony Brown 1
While the starting boundary corners stayed out on the outside for most of the game, the other Packers corners were all over the place. Williams and Jackson played some slot, some safety, and some dime linebacker in the game.
King in particular had a rough go in this contest, as Courtland Sutton made him look silly on a couple of occasions. He finished with nine total tackles, but had no plays on the football. Alexander, meanwhile, had seven tackles, but recorded a pair of pass defenses and had a tremendous strip of the football on tight end Noah Fant. Despite Williams’ fairly heavy usage in this game, he did not show up on the stat sheet, while Jackson had a single solo tackle.
SPECIAL TEAMS LEADERS
B.J. Goodson 18, Tony Brown 16, Danny Vitale 14, Robert Tonyan 14, Ty Summers 14, Will Redmond 14, Josh Jackson 13, Mason Crosby 12, Allen Lazard 12, Tremon Smith 10, Chandon Sullivan 10