The Green Bay Packers suffered an ugly loss in their season opener to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday to open up the 2022 regular season. While there were plenty of aspects of that game that were ugly, Green Bay’s pass protection was one of the biggest problems in the game.
Despite offensive tackles David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins practicing throughout the week leading up to Week 1, both starters were inactive for the season opener. The Packers rolled out a starting offensive line of Yosh Nijman, Jon Runyan Jr., Josh Myers, Jake Hanson, and Royce Newman from left to right. Unfortunately, that offensive line struggled to keep Aaron Rodgers upright. The Packers quarterback was sacked four times and pressured on on 11 of his dropbacks according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
From watching the film, it’s clear that the entire offensive line had a poor game from an effort, execution, and communication standpoint.
The first sack of the game should have been easily preventable. With Minnesota giving a six-man pressure look, the Packers had six players in pass protection to account for all the rushers.
When only four rushing, Aaron Jones was able to leak out into a delayed route, giving the Packers an extra offensive lineman. However, right guard Jake Hanson was beat so badly that he was completely unable to handle his assignment, showcasing a poor anchor that allowed Rodgers to get sacked.
First sack of the game vs the Vikings was on Jake Hanson.— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) September 12, 2022
Six-man pressure look turns into only four rushing. Packers have 6 in pass pro.
Nijman steers his guy around the pocket, but Hanson gets bullied into the backfield, preventing Rodgers from stepping up. pic.twitter.com/2YTJtYzF3a
Hanson was at the center of plenty of ridicule from Packers fans and analysts. PFF gave him an abysmal pass block rating of 14.4, crediting him with four pressures, three hurries, and a sack allowed.
The right side of the offensive line with Hanson and Royce Newman was a rough combination, and the two struggled handling and trading off their assignments. On Rodgers’ interception on a desperation heave to Randall Cobb, Hanson and Newman helped their quarterback get clobbered by failing to trade off a rusher on the back side of the play.
Rodgers seemed mad at Tonyan after this play for not chipping #98, but the real crime here was how Newman and Hanson traded off their rusher.— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) September 12, 2022
Rusher is winning inside of Newman, but Hanson trades off and proceeds to block no one. pic.twitter.com/haOY4WLlXJ
Both players ended up blocking no one as Rodgers was hit rolling out to his left. Later in the game, Newman and Hanson also failed to recognize a delayed blitz, allowing the rusher to fly into the pocket without any resistance.
A Newman/Hanson pairing on the right side of the OL was tough to watch the whole game.— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) September 12, 2022
They really struggled picking up blitzes from depth and lacked chemistry/feel trading off rushers. pic.twitter.com/JiFkn8A26S
Even with Bakhtiari and Jenkins out, it was questionable for the Packers to start Hanson over another player like promising rookie Zach Tom. When asked about it after the game, head coach Matt LaFleur claimed that Hanson had won the job because of his work in training camp.
Newman had some rough plays as the starting right guard in 2021, but those problems were amplified when he was kicked out to right tackle on Sunday. One of his biggest problems has been his hand placement and punch timing, and that allowed a Vikings pass rusher to disengage and get after Rodgers.
Packers need Elgton Jenkins back.— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) September 12, 2022
Newman at RT doesn't have the hand placement or punch to handle the hand fighting against an edge rusher. pic.twitter.com/DvaCSHvE3Q
Despite their struggles, Newman and Hanson weren’t the only players to blame for the offensive line struggles. As shown in some of the clips above, Rodgers could have done a better job of living to fight another down on some plays, throwing it away rather than taking a sack.
However, no play was more excruciating to watch than the one below, and it is another one on which Rodgers shouldn’t have tried to force anything.
With the Packers attempting to run play action, a missed assignment from Jon Runyan Jr. led to a disastrous play. Runyan took the wrong steps off of the snap, forcing Josh Myers to try taking Za’Darius Smith on alone rather than with a combo block.
Hot take but maybe Josh Myers and JRJ should be blocking Za'Darius Smith instead of each other on this one.— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) September 12, 2022
Also, Aaron Rodgers has to throw this one away. Can't afford to take this sack. pic.twitter.com/Mh29rFYBjh
Smith proceeded to light up AJ Dillon, then work his way back to Rodgers to light him up on a forced fumble where Rodgers should have just thrown the ball away. It also led to an embarrassing moment of Myers blocking his own teammate.
Runyan missed the remainder game with a concussion, forcing the rookie Tom to step up at left guard. While he played solid for the most part, particularly in the running game, he had a brutal snap in pass protection that resulted in a throwaway by Rodgers.
Tough pass pro rep from Zach Tom. pic.twitter.com/mH8tkjyYbq— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) September 12, 2022
Even Yosh Nijman, who had been a stable presence at offensive tackle in place of Bakhtiari and Jenkins last season, had a brutal missed assignment on this play-action rollout that resulted Eric Kendricks getting into the backfield without issue.
Looks like this one is on Nijman. Gotta pick up Kendricks here. pic.twitter.com/4iVJZIVddF— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) September 12, 2022
Packers fans are hoping that this disappointing loss to the Vikings is similar to last season’s blowout loss to the New Orleans Saints in the season opener in terms of the team’s ability to rebound. However, if the Packers want to turn things around, then they’re going to need to do a better job of giving Rodgers a clean pocket, regardless of who is playing on the offensive line.