5 Big Questions facing Packers in matchup with Jets

Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Joe Barry is shown during the first quarter of their game Sunday, October 3, 2021 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. Green Bay Packers beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-17.Packers04 28
Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Joe Barry is shown during the first quarter of their game Sunday, October 3, 2021 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. Green Bay Packers beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-17.Packers04 28 /

Following a tough loss in London, the Green Bay Packers are back home to take on a young and talented New York Jets team that sits at 3-2 as well.

Once again, the Packers are expected to win, but this is a well-coached Jets team with an aggressive defense and playmakers on the offensive side of the ball.

As I do every week prior to game day, let’s dive into my five big questions facing the Green Bay Packers this week.

Will Packers edge rusher Rashan Gary play?

Rashan Gary popped up on the injury report later in the week with a toe injury and is now questionable for Sunday’s game after being a limited participant in the final two practices.

Not having Gary would undoubtedly be a huge loss for a Green Bay defense that is trying to find its way. Gary currently ranks 12th in pressures and eighth in PFF’s pass rush productivity–not to mention that the depth at this position — or lack thereof — was one of the bigger question marks for the Packers entering the season.

Jonathan Garvin and Kingsley Enagbare have combined for just one pressure in 64 pass-rush snaps this season. By that same pass rush productivity metric, Garvin ranks 147th and Enagbare 151st. Neither has been all that good against the run, either.

This week the Packers play Zach Wilson, who has really struggled when under pressure this season, completing just 18% of his passes with a pair of interceptions. The Green Bay defense will also have to stop Breece Hall, who can affect both the run and passing games.

Will we see Joe Barry playing more aggressively?

Many of us thought that this Packers’ secondary could be one of the best in football this season; however, they have not played anywhere close to that level. While the players simply have to be better, Joe Barry has to make some adjustments rather than constantly sitting back in their passive zone coverages.

According to Mina Kimes of ESPN, along with the help of Next Gen Stats, the Packers’ completion rate allowed of 73% is the worst in football. They line up in off-coverage 74% of the time, the second-highest rate in the NFL, and the 7.5 yards of average cushion they provide receivers is the third-most.

On Thursday, Barry discussed some changes that could take place, which included playing more aggressively and not providing so much cushion when he has so much talent to work within the secondary. He also mentioned varying coverages at times to limit the impact of the crossing route and discussed moving Rasul Douglas out of the slot.

Now, the big question is, do we actually see these changes take place on Sunday?

Can the Packers win the turnover battle?

Winning the turnover battle has never been much of an issue in Green Bay under Aaron Rodgers. However, so far this season, the offense has been uncharacteristically sloppy with the football and the defense just isn’t making plays.

Through five games, the Packers are minus-three in turnover differential, while the defense has forced just one interception (and three fumbles), along with just four pass breakups.

On Wednesday, Rodgers mentioned that oftentimes, takeaways can mask any inefficiencies from the offense by giving that unit extra opportunities while also providing short fields to work with. So in a way, the Packers’ inconsistencies have been magnified by their inability to take the ball away, along with giving it away too often.

This week the Packers’ defense will be facing Zach Wilson, who ranks fifth in turnover-worthy play rate by PFF. Meanwhile, the Green Bay offense will be up against a very aggressive Jets’ secondary that has come away with seven interceptions, the second-most in football, and ranks third in pass breakups.

Green Bay is yet to win the turnover battle in a single game this season.

Do Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon get more touches?

It was another loss for the Packers this past Sunday, and perhaps, not coincidentally, another game where Matt LaFleur said he had to do a better job of getting Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon their touches.

Despite averaging over 5.0 yards per carry as a duo, Jones and Dillon finished with only 19 total touches, including none on a three-and-out in the third quarter following a long Giants scoring drive.

Typically, when the Packers do get away from the run game one week, LaFleur and Rodgers do a very good job of course correcting and getting Jones and Dillon their touches the next week.

However, more touches don’t guarantee more success against this Jets defensive front that ranks 10th in ESPN’s run-stop win rate and is allowing just 4.0 yards per rush, the fifth-fewest this season—although New York’s run defense has been susceptible on the edges

In addition to the run game, Green Bay will need to continue leaning on the quick passing game as well. For one, Rodgers has been very efficient, and the pass-catchers have done well picking up yards after the catch. But the quick game will also help the Packers’ offensive line that is going up against a Jets defense that ranks among the best in quarterback pressure rate.

Can the Packers connect on some deep shots?

As I’ve written previously, the run and quick passing games need to be the Packers’ identity that they lean heavily on this season. However, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be taking deep shots, either. In fact, it’s a must for this offense.

Rodgers ranks eighth in downfield attempts — or passes of at least 20 yards — but near the bottom in completion rate and yards per attempt. Romeo Doubs and Christian Watson could be considered deep threats, but not in the capacity that they’re often used, which very much makes this a missing element for the Green bay offense.

As we saw last week against the Giants, who didn’t fear the deep ball, the Packers’ inability to connect on those downfield passes allows the defense to play closer to the line of scrimmage, which then can make moving the ball on the ground or via the quick passing game more difficult.

Rodgers mentioned earlier in the week that there are little details with the routes that are being missed, which oftentimes has resulted in him and his receivers not quite being on the same page.

These downfield opportunities can’t be forced, which is what it has felt like on several occasions this season, but it does need to be a part of this offense for the Packers to be at their best.