Green Bay Packers need to turn up the heat in Tampa Bay

The Green Bay Packers are traveling to Tampa Bay this week for a matchup with the Buccaneers. While the temperature and humidity could play a factor in this game, especially for a team from the north, it should be the Green Bay Packers who are turning up the heat.

Through two games against Minnesota and Chicago, the Packers are yet to send a blitz, according to Ben Fennell. Now, one could argue that perhaps the Packers didn’t have to. They pressured Kirk Cousins over 42% of the time and Justin Fields on over 47% of his snaps per PFF ($$).

However, against Minnesota, there were a few key moments before some big plays where the pass rush couldn’t quite get home. There is also something to be said about dictating the game rather than letting it come to you.

Going up against Tom Brady this week, pressuring him is a must. Last season when under duress, Brady ranked 31st in completion percentage and 29th in yards per attempt. This year, Brady is 5-of-10 and averaging 2.9 yards per attempt under pressure. When blitzed, Brady has faired a bit better, completing 5-of-9 passes at 6.1 yards per attempt, but like just about every other quarterback, well off of his averages when kept clean.

The Green Bay Packers have a stout defensive front, as evidenced by the numbers mentioned above, to challenge this Buccaneers’ offensive line. But when kept clean, Brady is getting the ball out of his hands in 2.13-seconds, according to PFF, which, even for the best pass rushers, is often too quick for them to get home. This is also a Tampa Bay offensive line that ranks 10th in ESPN’s pass-block win rate metric.

With Joe Barry’s cover-2, take away the passing-game first mentality; the M.O. is to not give up the big play and force opposing offenses to string together 13-plus plays in order to score with the expectation that the Packers will get a stop or force a turnover before then.

The problem with that strategy against Brady is that he will happily take those easy underneath completions all day long. Allowing Brady to get to the top of his drop and the ball out cleanly could lead to death by a thousand paper cuts for this Packers defense.

Playing a cover-2 shell also makes Green Bay more susceptible against the run, something we’ve already seen this season and something that has been exacerbated by poor tackling. Leonard Fournette is currently fifth in the NFL in rushing yards and is averaging 4.3 yards per carry.

In order for Green Bay to slow this Buccaneers’ offense, it may take them going against their norm to do so by blitzing Brady and devoting an additional defender to the box on occasion to help against the run as well as against the quick passing game. Playing some press coverage in an effort to eliminate those easier completions wouldn’t be a bad idea either.

Given the cornerbacks that the Packers have coupled with the uncertainty at receiver for Tampa Bay, with Mike Evans suspended and the statuses of Julio Jones and Chris Godwin up in the air, Green Bay should be forcing the Bucs to beat them downfield.

Now, will that be the case? We will see. At least during Barry’s time with the Packers, Green Bay hasn’t been a heavy blitzing team, ranking 25th last season in blitz rate.

Instead, Barry may continue to lean heavily on his defensive front to get after the quarterback, light boxes to take away the big passing play, and the linebackers to limit the quick passing game—all of which could end up playing into Brady’s hands.