Eyes Front: Can Packers Slow Saints’ March?

Green Bay will need an aerial blitz. 

One of the under-the-radar truths about the Packers is that their highly touted offensive line (when healthy) is elite in only one phase of the game. It’s built to protect the quarterback, and has been for some time, which makes sense when you have consecutive franchise quarterbacks who are masters of the air attack.

And so we tend to measure O-line success in terms of protection blocks missed and made, number of pressures and sacks allowed, etc., while rarely looking at run-blocking performance. 

Which makes Green Bay look good, but masks the other side of the coin. So far this year the team ranks 13th in pass protection, per ESPN analytics. In run-blocking win rate, the Packers rank 25th. 

It’s no easy feat to both pass and run block at a top-tier level, and the universe of O-linemen who fit the bill is small. Ryan Kelly of the Colts is one prime example and the Chefs’ Creed Humphrey is another. You might remember Humphrey as the center picked right after the Packers selected Josh Myers.

Needless to say, this will be a critical issue Sunday when the Saints march in to Lambeau. If Aaron Jones plays at all he’s bound to be restricted, and AJ Dillon’s limitations have been on display for awhile now. But some of his troubles have been due to line play. And without an outside zone runner, the O-line becomes that much more critical to any semblance of a run game. If Bakhtiari, Jenkins and Jones are out, it’s a perfect storm of bad. Patrick Taylor? Emanuel Wilson? So far, so meh. 

Here are some things to look for come Sunday:

Key Saints’ advantages.

— Watching the New Orleans D this past Monday night was not an encouraging sight for any Packer fan. Until late in the fourth quarter, the Saints had not allowed a touchdown this season. The Packers catch a break with the injury to Marcus Maye, but this is a daunting squad, despite playing two nothing-special offenses so far. Yes, the Saints have not yet faced a powerhouse, but they a play smart, in rhythm defensive scheme with a strong pass rush that features significant talent. 

— Derek Carr blows hot and cold. If he’s on, it’ll be a long evening at Lambeau. Oddly, Michael Thomas is healthy, but so far little used. Chris Olave is a star in the making, and they seem to have found something in backup RB Tony Brown. Old friend Jamaal Williams is out, as is the suspended Alvin Kamara, but rookie bruiser Kendre Miller is slated to play after a hamstring injury.

— Taysom Hill was unstoppable against the Panthers, whose primary problems are not on defense. He pretty much did whatever he wanted, despite little attempt to disguise what he was going to do. The Packers often struggle with gadget pieces like Hill, another player they let get away.

Key Packers’ advantages

—- I’m growing less and less convinced that home-field advantage matters much, but every little bit helps. Jordan Love seemed pretty immune to getting rattled on the road, but we need to hope the home crowd will give him a boost. He, and the offense overall, need to get in rhythm more quickly.

— With a little more consistency and a creative game plan, the Packers ought to be able to do some damage through the air, even if Watson has to sit again. Doubs, Reed, Toure and Wicks can give a secondary heartburn, especially if Matt LaFleur starts to involve the tight ends more. And here’s a thought: also throw the ball to Dillon more as a change of pace. A methodical, short-to-middle of the field passing game can have the added effect of keep their offense off the field. 

— Love can run a lot more effectively than Carr. If the Packers exploit this and let Love use his legs, move the pocket and work in some designed QB run plays, they can keep the defense honest.

The bottom line

Vegas has the Packers slightly favored in this game — strictly due to Lambeau, no doubt — but it’s a generous line. For the first time this year, the Packers are facing a better roster, and one that is healthier where it counts.

Joe Barry’s defense can’t be relied on to keep the Saints from scoring at least 24, while the Saints have not yielded more than 20 points since, well, a long time ago. 

The Packers can’t abandon the run, but a game where Love throws the ball 35+ times should be a distinct possibility, a lot of them checkdowns, short out-routes and slip screens. The key will be for MLF to scheme a lot of motion and an array of receiving options at varying depths of target. 

Consistently pressuring Carr will also be critical. He can be pushed into mistakes, but the secondary has to take advantage and catch the ball. And maybe the D can improve at stopping the run, though that increasingly looks as likely as the Bears finding a quarterback. 

This game will be in the hands of the offense, and through the air in particular. GPG. 

PLEASE SUBSCRIBE TO OUR CHEESEHEAD NATION WEEKLY NEWSLETTER HERE.

__________________________
Jonathan Krim grew up in New York but got hooked on the Packers — and on hating the Cowboys — watching the Ice Bowl as a young child.  He blames bouts of unhappiness in his late teens on Dan Devine. A journalist for several decades who now lives in California, he enjoys trafficking in obscure cultural references, lame dad jokes and occasionally preposterous takes. Jonathan is a Packers shareholder, and insists on kraut with his brats. You can follow Jonathan on twitter at @Jkrim.

__________________________

7 points
 

Comments (44)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
Savage57's picture

September 22, 2023 at 06:21 am

With a makeshift line cobbled together to slow down one of the more efficient pass rushes in the league, Jordan Love might be in for a long day. It's going to test the cool and calm he's shown in the pocket and be a great indicator of how he operates under stress.

Since the Packers can't run the ball, look for Matt to rely on a series of static bubble screens, check downs, and throws short of the sticks to end drives.

They're a young team who've played one crappy defense, one middling one and now face a game-changing one. With the issues on the line, nominal reliability in the run game, and the probable absence of Jones and Watson, i see the Packers offense struggling, If there was ever a game the defense needs to show if it has any sand, it's this one.

7 points
7
0
Lphill's picture

September 22, 2023 at 06:36 am

Bench Dillon and go with Jones, Taylor and Wilson.

1 points
5
4
RCPackerFan's picture

September 22, 2023 at 07:30 am

"Which makes Green Bay look good, but masks the other side of the coin. So far this year the team ranks 13th in pass protection, per ESPN analytics. In run-blocking win rate, the Packers rank 25th. "
-We are 2 games into the season, and we have already used backups at LT and LG. Bakhtiari missing this week hurt not question. But also when Jenkins went out it made our OL even worse. Its hard to come away with solid stats and rankings when they have had 3 different players playing LT and 2 playing LG in 2 games.

"Watching the New Orleans D this past Monday night was not an encouraging sight for any Packer fan. Until late in the fourth quarter, the Saints had not allowed a touchdown this season. The Packers catch a break with the injury to Marcus Maye, but this is a daunting squad, despite playing two nothing-special offenses so far. Yes, the Saints have not yet faced a powerhouse, but they a play smart, in rhythm defensive scheme with a strong pass rush that features significant talent."
-While the Saints do have a good defense, lets not forget the teams they played. They played against the Titans who are a hot and cold offense with Tannenhill at QB. And the Panthers who are starting a rookie QB in his 2nd nfl game. I think the Packers can attack the defense better especially if Jones and Watson can play.

"Taysom Hill was unstoppable against the Panthers, whose primary problems are not on defense. He pretty much did whatever he wanted, despite little attempt to disguise what he was going to do. The Packers often struggle with gadget pieces like Hill, another player they let get away."
-Expect to see a lot of Hill. With Williams and Kamara out, Hill should see a lot of playing time.

2 points
2
0
TKWorldWide's picture

September 22, 2023 at 07:46 am

For all the problems on defense, JB failing to match personnel is really irritating.
Dillon has disappointed for sure, but could they please use him according to his strengths? Running parallel to the LOS ain’t it.

8 points
8
0
RCPackerFan's picture

September 22, 2023 at 08:10 am

I was happy to see them finally put Dillon in the Pistol. He is a guy that needs to be running downhill not sideways. I hope we see them putting him there more!

8 points
8
0
TKWorldWide's picture

September 22, 2023 at 08:41 am

Same here, amigo!

0 points
0
0
jannes bjornson's picture

September 22, 2023 at 11:03 am

Wide zone run scheme. Why did they draft him if they cannot show power sets, or successfully run inside zone ?
The guy has plateaued. He would be best used out in space on screen plays. He may be best served as a Fullback.

3 points
3
0
Packerpasty's picture

September 22, 2023 at 07:46 am

Hill and the Saints defense will give the Packers trouble...now we get to see what MLF is made of, not worried about Love too much but now that MLF is "free" of AR he is supposed to be able to show what an offensive genius he is....im waiting...personally I think he should be an O.C. somewhere not a HC...

7 points
8
1
CanPackFan's picture

September 22, 2023 at 10:04 am

I agree with your MLF evaluation. He can't seem to make tough and urgent decisions that a HC should. The hiring and continued employment of Barry is hurting this team. I know you can't put all the blame of each loss on Barry, but this defense over his 3 years has badly under performed. Man up, MLF.

2 points
2
0
mnbadger's picture

September 22, 2023 at 01:03 pm

Man up Mrk Mrphy and/or Brian G. Whoever has the reins better turn it into the correct direction.
This path is heading into mud, sorry.
GPG!

1 points
1
0
Coldworld's picture

September 22, 2023 at 01:59 pm

From where I am standing, it’s the increasing number of coaches about whom legitimate questions can be asked that is the concern. This will be a better test of his OC related abilities on a personal level.

1 points
2
1
TxFred's picture

September 22, 2023 at 07:59 am

The online is not as good as everyone thinks. We'll see this on Sunday. MLF was run orientated beginning the year
Seen no evidence of that. Falcons should have given him a clue. The online just can not make nor hold holes open long enough for AJ or AJ to get through between the tackles. Sad. Limits the offense to AR style of passing downs then punt. Sad.
GPG!!!

4 points
5
1
RCPackerFan's picture

September 22, 2023 at 08:13 am

One of the biggest differences between Jones and Dillon is that Jones can make something out of nothing. He can take a loss and turn it into a gain. Dillon can't do that.

5 points
5
0
mrtundra's picture

September 22, 2023 at 08:21 am

Dillon has to trust his ability and power to run over and through defenders, again. If he does that, he and the Packers will be fine.

1 points
1
0
RCPackerFan's picture

September 22, 2023 at 08:29 am

Very true. But a RB can't overpower everyone. Sometimes you have to be able to slip by them. Jones can do that Dillon can't.

I think if they keep using Dillon in the Pistol it will help.

1 points
1
0
Lphill's picture

September 22, 2023 at 10:01 am

when has he shown that?

1 points
2
1
jannes bjornson's picture

September 22, 2023 at 11:07 am

The diifeence between a true NFL running back and a fullback.

-1 points
0
1
BruceC1960's picture

September 22, 2023 at 08:10 am

Good article Jonathan. Haven’t really bought in to the idea that Packer O-line is a strength for a while. The inability to run the ball is nothing new. With the fragile condition of 69 and Jenkins coming back from injury it doesn’t look like the Packers are prepared to reload. Appears the draft and develop machine is a bit overblown?

0 points
3
3
Coldworld's picture

September 22, 2023 at 10:58 am

Go listen to the Herman/Wahle podcast today. Certainly interesting on the OL and other issues.

This OL has been very good in pass pro. However it’s been dreadful at run blocking and it starts with the C. Until we change that, and we have options to try, it won’t improve. Mark Whale points out how better coaching and calls could help too.

I’m not worried about their run particularly. Though they’ve got a new rookie back coming in after injury (a hammy I think) who has potential. They’ve struggled to run block all year too. Hill is a runner but not an RB. A different more Fields like challenge.

This is a team that, despite really good receivers has averaged 18 points. Why? Because it hasn’t been able to run and sustain drives and their OL is poor in protection other than their LT. We should be able to get Carr jumping with our DL and OLBs. Carr under pressure has always been a far worse player and a loss in waiting. Carr with time is a match winner.

We win this game on D by disrupting Carr, there’s nothing in their play to suggest they should be able to stop that. That in turn helps our safeties and secondary. We need to be willing to be aggressive bin coverage. Then we have to score. That’s going to be tough, but they can be run on, and that’s the starting point we have to get past.

This is a game where we have to run block better and we have to be willing to risk going with Wilson if Dillon isn’t cutting it unless Jones is fully healthy. Run to open up the pass and play action. A stiff challenge, but one we have to face at some point or accept that our OL is not the strength they boast of as designed but one dimensional.

it’s laughable that our best run blocking tackle over the last two years is apparently largely surplus to requirements given our struggles, but it’s laughable that we refuse to accept that there may be ways to improve our run blocking with existing personnel. Poor coaches make for bad outcomes. This game may well shine more light on whether that’s what we have.

2 points
2
0
joejetson's picture

September 22, 2023 at 09:17 pm

I heard Mike Wahle podcast the other day. He said that some of the blocking schemes LeFluer designed only work on the chalkboard. The linemen can't physically get into position to make blocks as diagrammed.He believes the run plays themselves are the problem, not the players.

3 points
3
0
PeteK's picture

September 22, 2023 at 08:10 am

I think the team will be fired up this Sunday after losing a frustrating game. Carr will be under constant pressure, while I hope Love uses his running ability more often.

4 points
4
0
mrtundra's picture

September 22, 2023 at 08:18 am

The Packers have the number one rated Red Zone offense in the League. However, the Saints Red Zone Defense is nothing to laugh at. I hope Dillon is ready to pound the ball, at Lambeau. I hope we have Watson, Van Ness and Jenkins back. I doubt we see Jones on the field, this Sunday. I can see Watson and Reed lining up on the outside and flying past NO defenders so Love can throw bombs to them for scores.I see Wicks and Heath involved in the middle of the field and under the coverage. I see Musgrave involved in blocking and then peeling off as an outlet for Love, who will be under pressure. I hope the Packers make Home Field Advantage a thing again, at Lambeau Field! GO PACK GO!!!

4 points
4
0
stockholder's picture

September 22, 2023 at 10:03 am

If Jones isn't on the field.
I think the Saints win.
Their Defense is good, going back to ten games.
Home field won't change the lessons to be learned.

1 points
3
2
jannes bjornson's picture

September 22, 2023 at 11:16 am

Keep using your high picks on defense and then send in the Greenhorns to control a game when it's crunch time.
The whiff on Creed Humphrey is the continuous migraine. Can Rhyan fill for Runyan and move him back to LG? As was my bias, LT and RT should have been the high picks in 2023-2022. Schneider bagged Cross and Abe Lucas to start as rookies. There would be no obvious depth issues with Bhak and Jenkins working the bench. Now Newman is the target for NOLA 's defense. A.Jones seems to be the only guy who can run the wide zone effectively.

2 points
3
1
T7Steve's picture

September 22, 2023 at 08:18 am

Just take care of the ball and get some first downs. An early score (offensively OR defensively) will change the whole complexion of the game.

TDs not field goals when we get into the red/gold zone will make the Saints have to play into their weaknesses.

Of course, we put Atlanta into that position so, I really don't know what I'm talking about.

2 points
2
0
BAMABADGER's picture

September 22, 2023 at 08:48 am

If we can't run at Lambeau, a win will prove extremely difficult.

Who will be the RB star for the Saints on Sunday?

1 points
1
0
LeotisHarris's picture

September 22, 2023 at 08:52 am

I hope we win the toss and the O comes out crisp and efficient. Work play action, and let Jordan roll out. Remember the weapon we have in Musgrave, and dust off the screen pass calls.

Historically, remember how the Packers D has the gift of making folk heroes out of opposing pedestrian RBs. Maybe Kendre Miller won't enjoy such success? Improvement in all areas would be great to see. My gut tells me disappointment awaits.

GPG

3 points
3
0
Coldworld's picture

September 22, 2023 at 07:20 pm

Honestly, I think he’s not an upgrade on Williams and Williams has struggled this year behind that line. I’d prefer Wilson to Miller. Nice burst, but I’m not sure he has long speed. At 215 he ran the 40 at about the same time as Dillon. Decent hands, but not overly physical. If he beats us, we deserve it.

0 points
0
0
ShooterMcGee's picture

September 22, 2023 at 08:55 am

Maybe trading for Taylor wasn't so crazy an idea after all.

2 points
4
2
Fubared's picture

September 22, 2023 at 09:03 am

I look at this from a learning standpoint having spent 37 years in training others. The HC has only so much time between games and thus cant really change up things to fit the team coming in. I'm sure in Lefleur's mind set its still were going to run first, pass second and try and play that stupid Bary bend don't break defense and hope things go our way.
I just think that the lefleurs of the world don't change up their plans because of ego and time. We can all say, short passes, lateral run plays, using the tight ends more but in reality the HC has to work that in in a week with limited practice time allowed.
Besides Lefleur knows his won lost record and may be dam satisfied with his game planning and may not try to do anything different. Maybe none of the HC's do for that matter.

-2 points
2
4
Guam's picture

September 22, 2023 at 11:11 am

No down vote, but don't agree about the coaches ability to change things. Belichek is a master of doing very different game plans every week - on both sides of the ball. Not everyone is as adept a coach, but the best can be very adaptable.

Barry is just plain stubborn. I couldn't believe the number of times he was in nickel and dime formations when Atlanta was running the ball down his throat. That has ridiculous.

4 points
4
0
LLCHESTY's picture

September 22, 2023 at 04:35 pm

Downvote him all you want, he's a Vikings fan that can't spell.

1 points
2
1
jont's picture

September 22, 2023 at 09:12 am

I watched the New Orleans games and have another armchair prediction.

The Saints' offense is weak. They have a good receiver group and sometimes useful TEs (including, believe it or not, Jimmy Graham), but a truly bad O-line gives up pressure and opens nothing for the running game. They are led by the uneven Derek Carr.

Their defense is pretty good. They haven't played anybody good so their stats are misleading, but the front is fast and disguises its intentions well. They get pressure on the QB often, and they were able to confuse young CJ Young last week.

This will be a tough one for GB. If they play on-and-off as they did in ATL, they will likely lose by 8-10. If they play better, then it will come down to the final minutes.

2 points
2
0
Coldworld's picture

September 22, 2023 at 02:03 pm

Very much agree with your take on the Saints thus far. They have averaged 18 points a game and are 2:0 for a reason.

0 points
0
0
HarryHodag's picture

September 22, 2023 at 09:19 am

The explosion of data for every conceivable motion a player makes('The Packers rank 24th in the number of times players scratch their backsides") has really bogged me down.

I see these 'analysts' making all these number-crunch assessments and think, 'how many of these folks ever put on a pair of shoulder pads?' The speed and emotion of the game aren't often factored by these nerds.

Another element is plain human behavior. Maybe a generation or two from now all human behavior will be predicted by an algorithm but for now I like my football sans nerds.

4 points
5
1
Leatherhead's picture

September 22, 2023 at 11:16 am

"""The explosion of data for every conceivable motion a player makes('The Packers rank 24th in the number of times players scratch their backsides") has really bogged me down.""

OK, I like that. It made me smile. Only because it's true. I think many of them never played football after freshman year, and they've certainly never been paid good money for their football knowledge.

The author talks about the home field advantage. It's real. It's nice to start the day in your own bed, and it's nice you didn't have to spend yesterday in a plane. And it's nice to not have 70,000 people screaming at you. And it's nice that the officials are less likely to bone you (yes, officials are affected by the crowd).

Here's my analysis: If we protect Love, he'll protect the ball, and we'll win.

0 points
1
1
jannes bjornson's picture

September 22, 2023 at 11:24 am

Apparently, it is a new college major.

1 points
2
1
LLCHESTY's picture

September 22, 2023 at 04:38 pm

0 points
0
0
JohnnyLogan's picture

September 22, 2023 at 11:28 am

A.J. Dillon has proven to be just a guy, or at least not a special back you can rely on. Aaron Jones is all we have, and next year he's probably gone. I realize the rumors of trading for Jonathan Taylor were just that, rumors with probably little substance, but I wish Gute would revisit the possibility. It reminds me of the time we could have gotten Marshawn Lynch for a 4th or Randy Moss for, I think, a 4th. They both signed elsewhere and led teams to the SB. Taylor is in that class. Look what McCafferty has done for the 49's. I'd easily offer a 2nd and 5th for Taylor. He, like, Lynch and Moss, would love to play for the Pack, come back to Wisconsin, and he'd immediately make life easier for Love because of the threat he poses. I don't believe money is an issue, and If it is, find it. Opportunities like these, getting a great young player in his prime, don't come along often.

2 points
2
0
TKWorldWide's picture

September 22, 2023 at 11:36 am

I am definitely on the JT train.

1 points
3
2
jannes bjornson's picture

September 23, 2023 at 01:17 pm

Make the Deal. Promote Winning, not Whining.

-1 points
0
1
GregC's picture

September 22, 2023 at 12:53 pm

I just realized that this will be Jordan Love's first significant regular season action at Lambeau Field. A few years ago, he started in that game at Kansas City, then there was the game at Detroit at the end of the 2021 season, where I think he played the whole second half because the Packers had clinched their playoff position, and last year he played in that game at Philadelphia. Sunday's game will be a really special occasion for him. It shouldn't hurt for him to get an emotional boost from the fans, and I think his teammates will be feeling it too.

Taysom Hill worries me. Jonathan makes a good point about how the Packers often struggle with gadget-type players like that. I think Hill will be a thorn in their side, but aside from him, I like the matchups on defense.

0 points
0
0
jannes bjornson's picture

September 23, 2023 at 01:19 pm

Put Walker on Hill and see who wins out.

-1 points
0
1
CheesePuff's picture

September 22, 2023 at 06:02 pm

This is going to be a really tough week for the Pack and their fans. Deep sigh. GPG.

0 points
0
0