When you think of the Packers, Aaron Rodgers is certainly the first name that comes to mind. Entering his third year as a starter, the Cal product has already topped 4,000 yards in both of his seasons at the helm and thrown for 58 touchdowns and 20 picks. Rodgers has also run for nine touchdowns, making him a bit of a threat with his legs as well.
Defensive coordinator Sean McDermott knows that applying pressure is essential for Philadelphia. “Against any opponent you want to get to the quarterback and Aaron Rodgers is no different. He’s a great quarterback and he’s experienced a heck of a career to this point,” McDermott said. “So they’re a great offense, and he’s their leader on offense and getting to the quarterback is a necessity.”
Rodgers obviously isn’t their only weapon on offense. The tandem of Greg Jennings and Donald Driver at wide receiver should challenge the Eagles secondary, as both went over 1,000 yards last season. Jennings is the Packers clear cut number one with Driver now 35-years-old, but Driver has still gone over 1,000 yards in six consecutive seasons.
None the less, It might be tight end Jermichael Finley who gives Philadelphia the most trouble though. Entering his third year out of Texas, Finley hit his stride late last year. The big target averaged nearly 6 catches and 70 yards over his last five games, with four touchdowns in that stretch.
Finley is sure to draw a lot of attention from the Eagles defense. “[Finley is] a tremendous challenge,” said McDermott. “For a tight end to be as mobile as he is and as big of a body, it’s a matchup problem, for sure.”
The one weakness Green Bay may have on offense is in pass protection. The Packers allowed a league worst 51 sacks last year, and the Eagles have a solid group of pass rushers on the defensive line.
Meanwhile, when the Eagles have the ball, they’ll face a 3-4 defense. Philadelphia has typically struggled against the three man front, and center Jamaal Jackson said it is a different challenge. “What I worked on a lot was trying to handle the bull rush a little bit,” Jackson said. “I did that a few times last week and I think we’ll continue to work on that type of speed and what they like to do.”
Green Bay does lose a few players off of last year’s defense coming into this season. Defensive end Aaron Kampman, who had 25 sacks over the last three years with Green Bay, has taken his talents south to Florida. In the secondary, cornerback Al Harris and safety Atari Bigby are both out at least six weeks after being placed on the physically unable to perform list.
Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said those injuries do factor into the game plan on offense. “These guys [who will be playing] are excellent cover guys,” he said. “However, it does influence your game plan, absolutely.
While the secondary is banged up, Charles Woodson is still healthy and remains a premier cornerback. The Packers linebackers also come in at full strength and with a lot of talent. Clay Matthews, A.J. Hawk and Nick Barnett are just about as good of a linebacking corp as you’ll see. Matthews racked up 10 sacks in his rookie year last season, while Barnett has gone over 100 tackles in six of his seven years in the league (he missed seven games the other season). A.J. Hawk has gone over 100 tackles in two of his four seasons, and been at 85-90 tackles the last two seasons.
All in all, the Packers are about as tough of a test as the Eagles could get in the season opener. Green Bay is a legitimate contender for a trip to the Super Bowl, so if Philadelphia can hang tough or grab a win, it bodes well for the season ahead.
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