The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are playing host to the Green Bay Packers in Week 6. In this installment of Davy Jones’ Locker, where we take an inside look into the opposing team by asking five questions to an opposing SB Nation site, our good buddy Jon Meerdink was kind enough to answer five questions about the Packers.
Here is the exchange between Bucs Nation and Acme Packing Company.
1. Aaron Rodgers doesn’t seem to miss a beat every season and 2020 is no different. He and Russell Wilson are one and two in rankings for quarterback rating with Rodgers being in a very close second. What has made him so effective this season?
I think it’s a matter of integration into Matt LaFleur’s offense. Last year, the Packers’ attack was an uneven mix of old Mike McCarthy concepts and new Matt LaFleur strategies. This year, we’re getting a full look at what LaFleur’s offense can do, and Aaron Rodgers is fully in command. In a weird way, the pandemic-afflicted offseason may have helped speed the process of integration along. Rodgers has raved about the amount of classroom time he got with LaFleur, offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, and the rest of the quarterbacks. He’s putting those classroom lessons into practice this year.
And while not downplaying the Packers’ success, I think we do have to point out that they’ve feasted on some uninspiring competition so far this year. The Buccaneers are going to be their first significant defensive test.
2. Green Bay’s offensive line has kept Rodgers from being sacked often so far this season. How do you think their line matches up against Tampa Bay’s front seven in which defensive coordinator Todd Bowles likes to be creative?
If the offensive line is a weak-link proposition, the Packers have succeeded because no one player has dragged down the unit so far. They’ll come into this game with more or less their preferred group, other than right guard Lane Taylor, who they lost in Week 1 to a torn ACL. To that end, they should at least be able to do what they like doing.
However, like the offense as a whole, I’m not sure the offensive line has really been tested. So far, they’ve been able to avoid facing any outstanding pass rushing duos, like the Buccaneers present with Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaquil Barrett. For instance, they faced the Vikings without Danielle Hunter and were able to focus entirely on Yannick Ngakoue. The Buccaneers are, therefore, a new and unique challenge to this Packers team, and I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see them pressure Aaron Rodgers more than he has been to this point this season. This will be the matchup I’m watching most closely on Sunday.
3. Tom Brady and the Buccaneers offense haven’t really taken off in the passing game as that unit has sputtered often times throughout 2020. What are the chances wide receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin have a day against the Packers secondary on Sunday?
I’d say pretty good. It looks like number two corner Kevin King may not go on Sunday, and could be very limited even if he does. In his place would be perennial disappointment Josh Jackson (a 2018 second-round pick) or 2019 sixth-round pick Ka’Dar Hollman, who’s played a grand total of 21 defensive snaps in eight career games. Coupled with second-year safety Darnell Savage, Jr., the weak link in the secondary as a whole, there could be some very exploitable holes for Tom Brady to target.
4. Who on Green Bay’s defense will give Tampa Bay’s offense headaches throughout the afternoon?
Defensive tackle Kenny Clark is going to be back on the field for the first time since Week 1, and he should make the defensive line as a whole significantly better. With Clark out, edge rusher Za’Darius Smith has had to play inside more, limiting his explosive rushes a bit. And with Za’Darius Smith inside, fellow edge Preston Smith has gotten a lot more attention outside, limiting his effectiveness. Clark’s return will give the Packers’ interior rush a lot more push while allowing their edges to play their best.
5. How do you see the game playing out?
I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the Buccaneers win this game. They’re well-suited to take advantage of the Packers’ weaknesses, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see a number of big plays in the passing game if the Packers can’t pressure Tom Brady.
If I had to bet, though, I’d still lean slightly toward the Packers. I think their diverse offensive attack will allow them to counter whatever errors the defense makes, and I like Rodgers and Company if it comes down to a shootout.