The Lass Word: Mobile QB's Don't Scare Packers Defense

Caging up the scramblers has been the key to D's success.

When the Green Bay Packers line up to face the Seattle Seahawks at Lambeau Field Sunday afternoon, Russell Wilson is expected to be back under center for the visitors.  He will be the fifth consecutive  highly mobile quarterback the Green and Gold will have had to play against. 

 

Fortunately, the Joe Barry defensive brain trust has been able to devise game plans that have kept these running rascals under control.   In week six Justin Fields ran six times for a mostly inconsequential 43 yards.  They did not enjoy as much success containing Taylor Heinecke in week seven, yielding 95 yards on the ground to the former Old Dominion quarterback.  But that total includes a 38 yard scamper that distorts the total a bit.  Green Bay was able to squeeze him in the red zone, stopping Washington four times. 

 

Week eight brought the versatile Kyler Murray into the crosshairs.  The Packers had him bottled up for three quarters, sacked him twice and picked him off twice, holding him to 21 yards rushing.  Murray did get it going in the final quarter, but Rasul Douglas’ dramatic interception preserved the win.  Then last week former MVP Patrick Mahomes was the opponent.  The defense played its best game of the season, smothering him for minus two yards rushing with one sack.  They rattled Mahomes to the point he was uncomfortable and inaccurate all day.    

 

It’s no secret as to how to stop a running quarterback.  The key is to be able to bring a strong rush up the middle with only your down linemen.  That enables you to keep your edge rushers on the outside of the pocket, hemming the signal caller inside, giving him no choice but to retreat straight back.  Ultimately, he will have to try to break to the outside, which is when your edges should come off their blocks and make the sack, or at the least, force a throwaway.   

 

Easy to say.  Much harder to do.  It takes inside linemen playing really well to pull this off.  Kenny Clark is the perfect example.  His strength and athleticism enable him to push the center or guard straight back, or swim past him.  So offenses will double team him regularly.  That means somebody else has to step up and win in the trench.  This is where the improved play of Dean Lowry and Kingsley Keke has been so critical.  With Clark eating up blockers, Lowry and Keke have been winning their match-ups and pressuring up the gut.  Preston Smith and Rashan Gary have, for the most part, stayed patient and have not overrun the play.  That leaves the signal caller with nowhere to go but back.  Good things seldom happen for a quarterback when he retreats backward.   

 

Meanwhile the inside backers are free to roam the middle or the sidelines to clean up any desperation throws to backs or receivers.  De’Vondre Campbell and Krys Barnes have been revelations at finding the ball and delivering tough, aggressive hits.  Occasionally, the Packers will send one of them up the gut to rush the passer as well, making things all the more complex for the protection. 

 

Clark was hurt in the Kansas City game, while Keke was inactive.   Their absences would figure to have been a huge blow to this defensive strategy.  But lo and behold, against KC, TJ Slaton, Tyler Lancaster, and even Jack Heflin seemed to pretty much hold their own given the opportunity.  That’s a credit to the defensive coaches getting these guys ready to play. 

 

The secondary has had to deal with receivers like Allen Robinson, Terry McLaurin, Deandre Hopkins and Tyreek Hill.  And they’ve had to do it without their best corner in Jaire Alexander.  It hasn’t been perfect, but for the most part, it’s been good enough.  But the only way they have a chance is if the pass rush continues to be successful.  

 

It’s not all about pass rush of course.  The Packers also have to hold up against the run.  Again, this is an area where Campbell and Barnes have really stepped up.  Safeties Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage are having underrated seasons in run support as well.   

 

We should know later this week if either Clark or Keke can answer the bell against the Seahawks.  Green Bay will need as many healthy defensive linemen as they can find against Russell Wilson, who has made running out of the pocket an art form.   

 

Watching the Packers defense coordinating and executing smoothly has been like watching a symphony.  A kind of brutal symphony.  Here’s hoping they have an encore performance on Sunday.   

 

THREE AND OUT 

•  Put me down as a “no” on signing Odell Beckham Junior.  Not because he could be a locker room problem, or because he’s not still a talented receiver.  I’m against it because he’s an injury waiting to happen.  He missed nine games last season, and two more this year before being cut.  I suppose if he comes in at the minimum the Packers don’t have much to lose, but it’s hard to believe some other team more desperate won’t offer him more money. 

 

•  Aaron Rodgers is expected to be cleared to play against Seattle on Sunday, but should he?  Rodgers would figure to be a bit out of shape and somewhat weak after a few weeks of inactivity from a bout with Covid.  Not to mention not practicing all week.  Is a recuperating Rodgers still a better option than a healthy Jordan Love? 

 

•  Oddly, Mason Crosby’s biggest problems attempting field goals this year have been on kicks ranging from 30 to 39 yards out.  He is a perfect four of four when he is within 29 yards.  He is three out of five from 40 to 49 yards out, and two of three from beyond 50.  But due to either blocks or misses, he is just four of seven from 30 to 39 away.  Whether it’s snaps, holds or kicks, they’ve got to find the answers quickly.  The miscues cost the Packers dearly in the Kansas City loss. 

 

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Ken Lass is a former Green Bay television sports anchor and 43 year media veteran, a lifelong Packers fan, and a shareholder.

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7 points

Comments (16)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
splitpea1's picture

November 11, 2021 at 03:50 pm

So far, so good with the mobiles QBs with the exception of Heinecke. I think we can handle Wilson, but the ultimate test will be Lamar Jackson (already 600 yds. on the ground); if we keep him hemmed up, we greatly improve our chance of winning this tough road match-up.

I don't think we have to worry about OBJ anymore; the Rams are "all in" to the point of lunacy.
It would have been nice to see the Packers pull this off, but this kind of move never seems to be in the cards for us. In this case, the Rams probably offered better terms or a better sales pitch. I'm a little disappointed, because I thought landing OBJ was a real possibility.

Are you kidding? Half a Rodgers on the field is better than more than half the QBs in the league.

Kicking holds: Practice makes perfect; Bojo missed by a quarter turn twice, so he's not far off. Despite the bad holds, you might think Crosby would've been able to punch one of them through anyway since they were within 40 yards, but what do I know?

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Minniman's picture

November 11, 2021 at 08:10 pm

Yep, if Rodgers has a pulse, he's starting this year.

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Gee's picture

November 12, 2021 at 04:24 pm

Wow people will down vote anyting

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stockholder's picture

November 12, 2021 at 06:56 am

Campbell and. Barnes. The heart of any Defense is the ILB. I've been waiting for years for something to be done. It's just not enough to tackle a guy. Martinez just didn't know where the LOS was. And they never did seem to mold a Tandem. Well, we finally got a coupe of fighters. If Clark gets help. There won't be any Debate.

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Rebecca's picture

November 11, 2021 at 05:37 pm

Campbell and Barnes, Attorneys at Law

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packer132's picture

November 13, 2021 at 08:21 am

Campbell. Enough said

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stockholder's picture

November 12, 2021 at 06:59 am

Yes he was.

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Johnblood27's picture

November 12, 2021 at 08:45 am

Martin and Lewis?

Now, that was a team!

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Bure9620's picture

November 11, 2021 at 07:56 pm

I know people are freaking out about Beckum but he is not the player he was in 2018. A good player, but he would not put the Packers over the top. Maybe he lights the world on fire in LA but I don't see it. Not to mention, not the best locker room guy.

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barutanseijin's picture

November 11, 2021 at 08:10 pm

The question should be whether he would be an improvement over any other receiver on the team. I think OBJ would have been a step up from Lazard, ESB or Amari Rodgers. MVS hasn’t done much this year, either, so you’d have to think OBJ could have contributed.

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Bure9620's picture

November 11, 2021 at 09:27 pm

Possibly but he would play sparingly as he can't block for shit. WR HAVE TO block in this offense. I never thought he fit.

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blacke00's picture

November 12, 2021 at 06:35 am

From what I've read, you are exactly right.

One other issue in the article, I have seen no evidence and AR has not indicated that he is actually sick. Just because you tested positive for the virus doesn't mean you are sick. So AR maybe ready go without any problems.

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dobber's picture

November 12, 2021 at 10:14 am

He said he felt bad Tuesday and Wednesday after the AZ game, but by the time he went off in his interview on Friday, he said he felt "great".

By all accounts, the Packers have been ramping up his home activity as the week has gone on and he's been a virtual attendee of meetings.

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Gee's picture

November 12, 2021 at 04:27 pm

Ok enough with him not blocking, he blocks and has been willing to his entire career. Look I want him, he didn't come fine, but lets not make things up to feel better.

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Leatherhead's picture

November 12, 2021 at 12:25 pm

😎. It’s not time to push the panic button on the FG unit. Last season, we made every single one so things balance out. The blocks are worrisome, but totally fixable. Most FG attempts in this league do not get blocked, so we’re already in a hole there. Misses or blocks have the same net effect as a turnover, and should be regarded as one.

😎. The punt return problems go away if we do what I’ve advocated for many years: Don’t return punts. Put your most dependable punt catcher back there and Fair Catch every one.

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CoachDino's picture

November 13, 2021 at 05:46 am

i still remeber colin kapernick running the packers out of the playoffs. i see that as the catalyst for change in packer def players. they put a focus on speed. olbs that are big and fast, more speed at ilb instead of thumper, 4.3 dbs even the dline though a few didnt pan out, keke is capable.... cambell, maybe barnes too spied on murray. also the def plays more zone so to be facing the los and not turned away unable to see the qb take off.

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