By Adam Aniba
Washington takes on the 3-3 Green Bay Packers this Sunday, who'll be down one starting receiver in veteran Randall Cobb and C/G Jake Hanson.
Starting Packers RG Royce Newman struggled and was pulled in the second quarter during the loss to the Jets, he was replaced by Hansen. Unfortunately for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers o-line, Hanson lasted only 1 series before leaving the game with a bicep injury and is out for this week's matchup.
It's undetermined if Newman will be inserted back into the lineup, but based on the overall depth issues and health of the unit they might not have a choice.
Last week Jets HC Robert Saleh's defense absolutely dominated the Packers offensive line and disrupted Rodgers all afternoon. Similar to Washington, the Packers have been dealing with o-line injuries and the loss of Hanson is a significant blow to Green Bay's offense. Starting left tackle David Bakhtiari was the lone bright spot on the Packers line.
In the 27-10 loss to the Jets, Rodgers went 4-16 on third down and was 1-4 on fourth down. Rodgers felt the pressure all day and was sacked 4 times. Jets defensive tackle Quinnen Williams was particularly dominate, sacking Rodgers twice, in addition to recording 2 tackles for a loss and 2 QB hits.
As a unit, the defensive line registered 5 tackles for a loss limiting the Packers to 4.0 yards per play and 278 total yards. Although Rodgers avoided throwing an interception against New York, as a team the Packers have 8 turnovers through 6 games. Putting that into perspective, the Packers have had less than 14 turnovers in each of the last 3 seasons (11 in '20).
After the loss of WR Davante Adams, Rodgers and the Packers have struggled to find their identity.
“I don’t think there’s many things we’re leaning on very well right now,” LaFleur said after the loss to the Jets.
On the flipside, Washington's defense seems to have found their identity with the defensive line starting to live up to their 1st round selections. With Chase Young eyeing a return soon, the d-line still ranks 3rd in NFL in sacks with 19. In addition to the sacks, Montez Sweat (21), Jonathan Allen (18) and Daron Payne (14) have combined for 53 QB pressures.
Green Bay's run game ranks 13th in the NFL with 734 yards on the season and will likely lean on their running backs Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon against Washington. The Commanders defense ranks 25th against the run (791 yards), but have only given up 3 TDs on the ground for the season.
There's little doubt that Rodgers will play with the injured thumb, but if Q.Williams can rattle and dominate the Packers offensive line, so can the combo of Allen, Payne and Sweat. Add in the emergence James Smith-Williams (2 sacks) & Efe Obada (3 sacks) and Jack Del Rio's unit has the opportunity to keep Rodgers and their offense in check.
Washington linebackers Jamin Davis (3 sacks) and Cole Holcomb (29 solo tak leads team) will need to have their best game of the season, in order to keep Rodgers from exploiting the Commanders DB's.
In the end, it all starts up front for Washington, harassing and making the Packers signal caller will be key. Del Rio's unit has been excellent in the red zone over the last couple of weeks and continue to play more opportunistic.
The lack of turnovers forced (2 on the season) is a concern, but catching Rodgers at a frustrating juncture of his career could lead to a big day for the defense.
The Packers QB's recent comments about simplifying the offense was a surprise to some and speaks to his potential frustration with Packers HC Matt LaFleur and the offense built around him.
During a recent presser, Lafleur was asked his thoughts on Rodgers comments regarding simplifying the game plan on offense and if that's something being consider
"So, no, we talked about it. It’s just — any time that there’s a lack of execution, and certainly we’ve got to coach better, no doubt about it. We’ve got to put our guys in better positions, just communication from top down and then out on the field, you know, has got to be better. We’ve got to get everybody on the same page."
Getting a win vs Green Bay will keep hope alive for the season and potentially change the outlook for the teams ability to be resilient during tough times on and off the field.
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