Aug 18, 2016; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers linebacker Blake Martinez (50) celebrates following a tackle during the second quarter against the Oakland Raiders at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
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As the Green Bay Packers look to move to 2-0 on the young season, which five players do you need to watch on Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings?
The Green Bay Packers squeaked by in Week 1 with a victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars. This week they look to move their record to 2-0 as they face the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday Night Football.
Even though they allowed 23 points in their Week 1 matchup against the Jags, the Packers defense did an excellent job stepping up. They caused several fumbles throughout the matchup and Joe Thomas had an interception in the fourth quarter. Aaron Rodgers looked on point with 34 attempts for 20 completions (58.8 percent), three touchdowns, and a 95.1 QB rating.
In Week 2, the Packers will be traveling to the newly unveiled US Bank Stadium to face the Minnesota Vikings. In their first division matchup of the season, several key players will make a difference in the Packers success. Watch for these five players in this week’s divisional showdown.
Jan 16, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Green Bay Packers offensive tackle David Bakhtiari (69) and tight end Richard Rodgers (82) against the Arizona Cardinals during the NFC Divisional round playoff game at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
5. LT David Bakhtiari
Since being drafted in 2013, David Bakhtiari has worked hard at protecting one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. On the night before their week 1 game against Jacksonville, Bakhtiari signed a four-year $51.67 million contract making him one of the highest-paid outside lineman in the league.
Aaron Rodgers calls Bakhtiari a “mainstay guy who you can build your offensive line around.” Bakhtiari won’t let the money get in the way of what he’s been doing with the Packers. He told Packers.com‘s Wes Hodkiewicz, “It’s not like anything’s changed. I’m still doing the same thing. I’m still at the same position. Still protecting the same quarterback for the same organization.”
Bakhtiari dominated his Week 1 matchup against Jacksonville’s rookie defensive end Yannick Ngakoue. He’ll need to once again prove his worth this week against the Vikings best pass rusher, Everson Griffen. For the Packers to succeed, Rodgers will need plenty of time in the pocket to get the ball past the vaunting Vikings defensive front. Expect Bakhtiari to continue to impress this week and give Rodgers ample protection as he leads the Packers offensive line to their second win of the season.
Jul 31, 2016; Green Bay,WI, USA; Green Bay Packers guard Lane Taylor (65) looks for someone to block during the team
4. LG Lane Taylor
The Packers released three-time Pro Bowl guard Josh Sitton earlier in September, and Lane Taylor has been moved in as his replacement after signing a two-year, $4.5 million deal in March. Taylor is the weakest link in the line. He’s only started in three total games. Two of those three were in 2015 and he struggled in pass protection, allowing seven hurries in 148 snaps.
As a whole, the Packers offensive line did a passable job (pun intended) against the Jaguars. They’ll have to step things up to the next level against the Vikings defense this Sunday. The offensive line gave up six quarterback hurries, half of which were due to mistakes by Taylor. They managed to let Rodgers escape without a single hit or sack.
The Jaguars defense is not as good as the Vikings and, although the line managed to hold keep Rodgers safe with some glue and tape, they will have to step up their blocking to give Rodgers more time in the pocket against Minnesota. Even though Rodgers is completely capable of scrambling away from defenders, he still needs the protection of his line. If Taylor can block against the Vikings elite tackles (Sharrif Floyd and Linval Joseph) he’ll give the Pack a decent shot at a win.
January 16, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Green Bay Packers defensive end Mike Daniels (76) reacts after a defensive play against Arizona Cardinals during the first half in a NFC Divisional round playoff game at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
3. DE Mike Daniels
Minnesota is well known for their quality running game. Pro-Bowl running back Adrian Peterson slays opposing defenses and will be looking to play at an even higher level with quarterback Teddy Bridgewater out for the season with a knee injury.
With Bridgewater out, it’s uncertain who will be starting for the Vikings this week. “We’re preparing for both Shaun [Hill] and Sam,” Mike McCarthy told Twin Cities media during a conference call this week. “I think it’s very important to recognize that. But my understanding is that it may be Sam Bradford.”
Enter Daniels. In 2015, Daniels was outstanding with a career-high 49 combined tackles (27 total and 22 assists). He also contributed 4 sacks last season. The Packers defensive success will hinge not only on their ability to stop the run, but also to collapse the pocket around Bradford, should he be the starter on Sunday. Daniels is one of the defensive line’s leaders, and they will need him to bring the pain this week to ensure the Packers pass rush is phenomenal.
Aug 18, 2016; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers linebacker Blake Martinez (50) during the game against the Oakland Raiders at Lambeau Field. Green Bay won 20-12. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
2. ILB Blake Martinez
Blake Martinez was drafted by the Packers in the fourth round of the 2016 draft. At the time of the draft, the Packers were suffering at inside linebacker. Martinez is a monster tackler with a motor to match teammate Clay Matthews.
In his first career start, Martinez notched six tackles, tying for the third-most on the team behind Morgan Burnett (9) and Jake Ryan (7), while matching Damarious Randall. Like Mike Daniels, Martinez will need to bring fierceness to the Packers run defense to stop Adrian Peterson.
In addition to proving why he’s a starter, he also has added responsibility in wearing the defensive headset helmet. Martinez will be called on to show his knowledge of the Packers playbook with defensive coordinator Dom Capers calling the shots. Look for this rookie to be even more explosive against the Vikings Sunday than he was in Week 1.
Sep 11, 2016; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Green Bay Packers cornerback Quinten Rollins (24) breaks up Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Marqise Lee (11) pass during the first quarter at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
1. CB Quinten Rollins
In Week 1, Rollins was benched briefly for getting beat in his matchups. Although he contributed to a key interception by Joe Thomas in the fourth quarter, Quinten Rollins should have intercepted the pass himself. Fellow defensive back Sam Shields is potentially out due to concussion protocol, so Rollins will need to increase his effectiveness and fix mistakes in order for the Packers to have a chance at forcing turnovers against Minnesota.
The best shot the Packers have at winning this week’s game is to keep Adrian Peterson off the field and increase the Packers time of possession. In Week 1, the Packers time of possesion was 28:37 to the Jaguars 31:23. More Aaron Rodgers is greater than more Adrian Peterson. Therefore, Rollins will need to break up as many passes as he can against the Vikings receiving core, while increasing his tackles from his complete lack thereof in Week 1.