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Life without Aaron Rodgers – Part I


James Jones and the Green Bay Packers will have to step up their game in the coming weeks to overcome the loss of quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports photograph

Disaster struck the Green Bay Packers Monday night on the first drive of the game. Aaron Rodgers, sacked on third and goal, landed hard on his left shoulder and broke his collarbone.

True, the next three teams have a combined seven wins (only four if you don’t count the wins versus each other), but I think the Philadelphia Eagles offense CAN be dangerous, the Packers always struggle with the New York Giants, and well … the Minnesota Vikings!

Which Nick Foles will compete Sunday at Lambeau Field versus the Packers? Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports photograph

Nick Foles (Eagles) threw for 7 TDs on the road at Oakland on Sunday! Granted, from the highlights they were all wide open, but even Josh McCown threw on the Packer D Monday night. The Giants are on a two-game win streak (Eagles and Vikes) and we’re likely to face them riding a three-game streak since they host the Raiders on Sunday.

The Vikings showed life last week in Jerry-World before falling late to the Cowboys and then turned around and beat the Redskins last night. Are they coming around? They showed that even on the road against a healthy team they can play.

So, life without Aaron Rodgers begins against the Eagles on Sunday.

Against the Eagles, The Packers will need to play better defense than they did on Monday night. The Eagles should be a bit easier to defend considering the height advantage the Bears wide receivers enjoy that the Eagles wide receivers lack. Both of McCown’s TDs Monday night were probably incomplete if the receivers weren’t 6-4 and 6-3 and playing against the Packers’ shorter DBs.

Sam Shields will need to cover DeSean Jackson and have help over the top. DJ is little and fast (5-10, 175). He caught five balls on last Sunday for 150 yards. He’s their play-maker in the passing game, but he isn’t a possession receiver and doesn’t go across the middle much. LeSean McCoy is another story, he’s a another version of Matt Forte. He can run, catch and has the ability to make guys miss.

Nick Foles has built the confidence in his receivers and will throw the ball before the receiver is open (as Rodgers does) so coverage needs to be solid. Riley Cooper and Jason Avant are the other two wide receivers and have trouble getting open at times, but both are better when Foles is playing. That might also provide an opportunity for Dom Capers to mislead Foles with different looks and might lead to a pick or two.

Offensively, the Packers need to regroup.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Seneca Wallace won’t be standing on the sidelines with his hands in his warmer. Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports photograh

Seneca Wallace was so awful in relief last week that the Bears didn’t even consider the passing game a threat. First team reps for Wallace need to translate to better timing in the passing game or the Packers will struggle. I’d like to see Mike McCarthy put in a few ‘read-option’ plays to take advantage of whatever mobility Seneca still has left. Eddie Lacy nearly put the team on his back on Monday and had another impressive game, but without a pass threat, he faced a tougher front later in the game.

To be honest, the Eagle defense is barely OK. They are last in yards allowed versus the pass and 15th against the run. Granted, the Packers offense is limited without Rodgers, but guys have to make plays and even Seneca Wallace should be able to pass against the worst secondary in the league. Eddie Lacy could have 12 runs of 2 yards and 8 runs of 25 if he can get to the second level. I’d expect a safety in the box on first downs until Lacy does a good enough job to enable a few big play action completions to Jordy Nelson. Wallace will have to prove he can make adjustments at the line (and make the play) early or there will be a lot of 3-and-outs (and a definite Packers loss). If T.J. Lang can’t go, Newhouse (or Sherrod if he’s available), need(s) to step up and show he(they) can play.

This week is big, just like every week in the NFL, but the season is far from over. While Foles put up 7 TDs on Sunday, the Eagles offense went 8 quarters without an offensive TD in the 2 weeks prior to that. Listening to local sports talk radio here in Philly (@975thefanatic) Eagles fans and (some) show hosts are almost giddy over facing a Rodgers-less Packers team. I think the Eagles may be feeling the same way and that should help this week.

The Packers can go a long way toward allaying the fans concerns by playing stout defense and controlling the ball on offense, which I believe leads to a W on Sunday afternoon. If they do that I can see two more wins in the weeks that follow. If they can’t, the Packers will face must-win games in New Jersey and versus the Vikes. I don’t think they will win in Detroit if A-Rod is still out and if they happen to win two of the next three, I don’t think Rodgers should come back unless he is 100 percent.

So count me as an optimist for this week, the team will step up in Rodgers’ absence and give us a much-needed victory. Right now, it’s one game at a time.

Packers 20 Eagles 13