The Green Bay Packers’ season-opening loss to the Minnesota Vikings was a frustrating game to watch, but with a game in the books we finally have some idea of how the Packers plan to use their personnel this season. On offense, the Packers will rotate through their skill positions heavily, as no receiver, tight end, or running back played more than 70% of the snaps in Sunday’s game.
In fact, the Packers’ top four receivers all split snaps nearly evenly, with just six snaps separating the wideout with the most and the least playing time among that group. Tight end saw a similar split, with each of four players between 15 and 23 snaps. The Packers also continued to split time nearly evenly between their two excellent running backs, occasionally putting the two on the field together in their Pony package.
Defensively, this team seems dead-set on lining up in nickel with a little bit of base here and there on early downs or in short-yardage situations. The Packers had six defensive backs on the field for only a single snap on Sunday, a shift from last season when they played dime with regularity on third downs.
Here’s a look at the playing time and stats from Sunday’s game.
OFFENSE (61 total plays)
Aaron Rodgers 56, Jordan Love 5
It was a rough day for Rodgers, who was sacked four times and threw his first interception of the season — and first against a divisional opponent since 2019. After seeing an absolutely perfect throw get dropped on the first snap of the game, Rodgers attempted only one other pass farther than 20 yards downfield, that being the interception heave. All told, he finished 22-for-34 for 195 yards and the pick for a passer rating of 67.6.
With the Packers down 13 with less than a minute left, the coaching staff evidently wanted to give Love a chance to put some hurry-up reps on tape. He responded with completions on all four of his aimed pass attempts (he also had a spike) with the Vikings in soft coverage. His 25-yard completion to Christian Watson on the final snap ended up going down as the longest pass play of the game for the Packers.
Aaron Jones 37, AJ Dillon 31
Although Jones narrowly out-snapped Dillon, Dillon nearly doubled up the veteran on touches, 15 to 8. The two combined for just 15 rushing attempts, but they gained 94 yards on those carries while adding eight total receptions for 82 yards. After the game, both Rodgers and head coach Matt LaFleur said that they need to get their backs more touches, and the efficiency with which they performed seems to justify that feeling.
Sammy Watkins 41, Christian Watson, 40, Randall Cobb 37, Romeo Doubs 35, Juwann Winfree 9
With Allen Lazard unavailable, the Packers rotated heavily through their four primary wide receivers, with each playing between 57 and 70% of the offensive snaps. Each of the four players saw at least three targets in the game as well; Doubs led the way for the receivers with four catches, five targets, and 37 yards.
Watson made his NFL debut and dropped a sure 75-yard touchdown on a go route on the first offensive snap. That was a scripted shot play that saw him get more than three yards of separation on Patrick Peterson when the ball arrived. After that, no Packer was targeted deep again, and Watson didn’t make his first career catch until the fourth quarter on a nine-yard speed out. Both Watson and Doubs received rushing opportunities that resulted in positive yardage, with Watson taking an end-around and Doubs getting a reverse.
Note that Amari Rodgers was active but did not appear on the field on offense.
Marcedes Lewis 23, Robert Tonyan 22, Tyler Davis 15, Josiah Deguara 15
Like the receivers, the Packers rotated through their four tight ends heavily in this game as they only had about 15 snaps with multiple players at the position on the field. Tonyan caught three of five targets for 36 yards (with a long of 23) while Deguara added two receptions for 28 and Davis had one for three yards.
Yosh Nijman 61, Josh Myers 61, Jake Hanson 61, Royce Newman 61, Jon Runyan, Jr. 31, Zach Tom 30
Without David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins, the Packers went to their typical starting line across the front, with Hanson at right guard and Newman at tackle. Each of the two of them struggled at times in pass protection, while Nijman held his own (though with the help of some chips from tight ends). Hanson had a truly impressively bad 17.3 pass-blocking grade from Pro Football Focus for the game, earning him the lowest overall grade of any offensive player (41.3).
The big issue was Runyan leaving the game with a concussion in the third quarter. Tom entered in his place, however, and at least looked passable, and the running game picked up a few nice chunks when he was on the field.
DEFENSE (62 total plays)
Kenny Clark 43, Jarran Reed 42, Dean Lowry 38, T.J. Slaton 18, Devonte Wyatt 12
The Packers’ defensive line was able to generate a bit of pressure in this game, with Clark and Lowry each landing a pair of hits on quarterback Kirk Cousins. Neither could get there quickly enough to record a sack, however, but Clark and Reed each recorded a TFL in the run game.
Slaton got some early rotational snaps and looks like a new player this year, as he held up well at the point of attack. If he can continue to give the Packers 15-20 quality snaps up front, that should help ensure that Clark can stay fresh himself with playing time around the 70% mark instead of the 80%-90% of snaps that he was playing much of last season.
Preston Smith 53, Rashan Gary 49, Jonathan Garvin 12, JJ Enagbare 10
Green Bay’s edge group feels like a pretty well-known quantity at this point. Preston Smith will set a great edge against the run and flash occasionally as a pass-rusher (two hits on Cousins) while Gary is the premier pass-rusher (one sack, two hits) who still will give up contain on a regular basis.
Interestingly, instead of substituting both of them out for backups at times, like the team has done before, the Packers went to an alternating rotation in the middle part of the game, with Gary and Garvin playing on a few snaps, then swapping both of them out for Smith and Enagbare.
De’Vondre Campbell 62, Quay Walker 38, Krys Barnes 9, Isaiah McDuffie 6
Walker had a mixed debut on Sunday — he brought some excellent hits and closed on ball-carriers quickly, but the Vikings took advantage of him in zone coverage on occasion. Still, he recoded 8 total tackles before leaving the game with a shoulder issue.
Barnes unfortunately looks like he will miss significant time, if not the entire season, suffering an ankle injury that forced the Packers’ training staff to wrap his leg up in an air cast and take him off the field on a cart. With Walker and Barnes out, McDuffie got the last few snaps left to Campbell late in the game.
As for Campbell, he had his usual solid performance, racking up 11 tackles (one for a loss) while grading out positively.
Adrian Amos 62, Darnell Savage 62
This was a brutal game for the Packers’ safety duo, who failed miserably when asked to pick up Justin Jefferson in zone coverage. Amos had the Packers’ only pass breakup, but it’s tough to even remember the play when it happened.
Green Bay did have five safeties rostered for the game, bringing Micah Abernathy up from the practice squad and deactivating Tariq Carpenter. But Abernathy, Dallin Leavitt, and Rudy Ford were exclusively special teams contributors on Sunday.
Jaire Alexander 61, Eric Stokes 61, Rasul Douglas 41, Keisean Nixon 1
The Packers played about 1⁄4 of the game in base and the rest in nickel, with just one snap in dime with Nixon as the dime back. In fact, Shemar Jean-Charles was inactive for the game, though that may change next week after Nixon appeared to separate his shoulder making a great hit on his only snap.
Douglas got nearly all of the snaps in the slot, with Alexander and Stokes locked in on the right and left sides, respectively. Perhaps the Packers should have used Alexander to shadow Justin Jefferson — that discussion will go on throughout much of the week — but instead they played mostly zone coverage, which Jefferson abused with crossing patterns all game long.
SPECIAL TEAMS LEADERS
Tyler Davis 17, Tipa Galeai 16, Dallin Leavitt 16, Isaiah McDuffie 16, Keisean Nixon 13, Juwann Winfree 13, Rasul Douglas 12, Eric Stokes 12, Josiah Deguara 11, Amari Rodgers 11, Jonathan Garvin 10