Lions-Packers Preview: 5 Questions with Bill Huber of SI Packer Central
1.) Green Bay had an impressive victory the opening week of the season against the Vikings. What contributed to the solid play to open the season?
Bill Huber: It was the perfect storm, really. First off, Aaron Rodgers really had an excellent training camp. Being in Year No. 2 of Matt LaFleur’s system helps, and he said he picked up some things watching -- of all things, some video of himself from 2010. Second, the Vikings’ cornerback corps is as green as FieldTurf. Third, top pass-rusher Danielle Hunter missed the game due to injury. So, you throw all of that into the pot, and you get what happened at Minnesota, with Rodgers throwing four touchdown passes and leading the team to five touchdowns in a span of six possessions.
2.) Who are two players Detroit must watch out for this Sunday?
Huber: Going off the beaten path, let’s go with Allen Lazard on offense. In last year’s Week 6 game at Lambeau, the Lions were up by nine in the fourth quarter, and Green Bay’s offense was going nowhere fast. Rodgers went to the receivers coach, and suggested “13” get some playing time. Lazard had an impressive training camp, but failed to make the roster. He spent a few days on the practice squad before being called up for Week 1. But, he really hadn’t played. So, Lazard came off the bench, and lit up Detroit in the fourth quarter. He’s Rodgers’ clear-cut No. 2 target.
Defensively, for the sake of your audience, I’ll pick outside linebacker Rashan Gary. Gary, of course, played for Michigan, and was Green Bay’s first-round pick last year. He had a pretty so-so rookie season, but a strong training camp. He’s a tough son of a gun vs. the run, and showed a lot of improvement as a pass rusher.
3.) Matt LaFleur's offense has been highly productive since he arrived. What makes it so successful?
Huber: Well, I don’t know about that. The offense, as a whole, and Rodgers, in particular, were actually a bit worse in 2019 than they were in 2018. Rodgers loves the offense, though. What makes it go? Look, isn’t it always about players? Rodgers, running back Aaron Jones, receiver Davante Adams and left tackle David Bakhtiari -- that’s a pretty good starting point. Against Minnesota, Green Bay ran a lot of jet-sweep action, and that really had the defenders on their heels. When you can run the ball with Jones, mix in the misdirection stuff and then, have Rodgers on his game, that’s a tough combination.
4.) The most troublesome injury on the Packers is nose tackle Kenny Clark, who left the Vikings game early with a groin injury. If he cannot play, what would the impact of his loss be on the Packers' defensive line?
Huber: It would be huge. Clark is one of the best defensive linemen in the NFL, a rare three-down threat from the interior. He’s coming off back-to-back seasons of six sacks. The bigger loss would be on the run defense, though. Green Bay’s run defense was awful last season, and didn’t get off to a good start at Minnesota. Losing the guy who commands double teams would make life a lot more difficult for linebacker Christian Kirksey. The rest of the defensive line pecking order is fourth-round pick Dean Lowry, undrafted Tyler Lancaster, fifth-round pick Kingsley Keke and third-round flop Montravius Adams. That group looks like a major problem spot against ageless Adrian Peterson.
5.) What are your one or two keys to the game for both teams, and who do you see leaving Lambeau Field with the victory Sunday?
Huber: Green Bay must present more than a speed bump to Peterson and the Lions’ running game. If the Packers can’t stop the run, then Matthew Stafford can dial up play action and go deep. He hit the Packers with two deep strikes right off the bat in last year’s game at Lambeau Field, if you recall. And he generally plays well against Green Bay.
Offensively, the Lions’ injury report is obviously a big deal. Who will they have at cornerback? The Vikings’ young corners got shredded by Rodgers, Adams, Lazard and fellow receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling. As much as LaFleur likes to run the ball, if the Lions are down both Justin Coleman and Desmond Trufant, I’d think it would be a green light to throw it.
I like Green Bay in this one, 31-24.
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