5 Big Questions facing Packers in must-win game verse Washington

Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones (33) runs for a first down in the first quarter against Washington Football Team cornerback Bobby McCain (20) and linebacker Cole Holcomb (55) during their football game Sunday, October 24, 2021, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-WisconsinApc Packvswash 1024210294djp
Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones (33) runs for a first down in the first quarter against Washington Football Team cornerback Bobby McCain (20) and linebacker Cole Holcomb (55) during their football game Sunday, October 24, 2021, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-WisconsinApc Packvswash 1024210294djp /

The Green Bay Packers 2022 season is at a crossroads right now as they sit at 3-3 with three straight road games ahead. A loss to Washington on Sunday could very well send the season spiraling out of control.

Green Bay is the more talented team, but this is a Washington team that isn’t lacking playmakers on offense and a defensive front that has the ability to wreck a game. As the Packers attempt to bounce back once again, finding consistency across all three units is perhaps the biggest issue this team faces.

Prior to every game, I dive into my five big questions facing the Packers, and this week is no different. The answers to these questions will likely have a major impact on Sunday’s outcome.

Who are the Packers’ starting five on the offensive line?

I’m guessing this is the big question on the minds of most of us. After the Green Bay Packers offensive line was pushed around by the New York Jets last week, changes feel imminent.

Do those changes include Yosh Nijman moving to right tackle, where he has no NFL experience, and Elgton Jenkins moving back to guard? But which guard position–right or left? Would the Packers make Jon Runyan switch sides? Does rookie Zach Tom have a chance to start–and if so, at guard or tackle?

In a recent article, I took a look at five potential combinations that we could see the Packers utilize on Sunday.

Regardless of who the starting five is, this group is going to be tested once again. The Washington defensive front ranks among the best in pressure rate, along with sacks. Individually, Jonathan Allen and Jonathan Allen are both top 10 in pressures among defensive linemen, while Montez Sweat ranks top five among edge rushers.

The quick passing game and finding success on the ground are two ways to help the offensive line against Washington, but at the end of the day, unless the play of this unit improves, it doesn’t really matter what adjustments the Packers make.

Does Aaron Jones get more touches?

Unfortunately, this is a conversation we are still having six weeks into the season while the offense struggles to find any sort of consistency.

Despite having the ninth most rushing yards this season, Jones has just the 23rd most attempts. He’s been incredibly efficient, averaging an impressive 5.8 yards per carry this season per PFF ($$).

Against the New York Giants, Jones barely hit 15 touches, which should be the absolute minimum for him each week. Then against the Jets, he had just 12 touches in 13 possessions.

As already mentioned, running the ball against the Jets wasn’t easy, but Jones is the type of player that deserves ample touches regardless of the opponent or how the defense is aligned. If running the ball isn’t working, find another way to get him the ball, preferably in space.

Washington poses a daunting pass rush, but they are allowing 4.7 yards per carry this season, so opponents have found some success on the ground. Not to mention that, as a whole, the Commanders missed 15 tackles against Chicago last week. So if Jones can find space, the big play potential is there with his ability to make people miss.

Can the Packers find success in the passing game?

Again, success in the passing game begins with the offensive line providing Aaron Rodgers time, but if he has that, there is the potential against this Washington secondary to find some success.

The Commanders’ secondary has allowed the fourth-most passing yards in 2022, along with the most passing touchdowns this season. Meanwhile, cornerback Kendall Fuller is allowing 17.7 yards per catch this season with a 137.1 passer rating and has been heavily targeted by opponents.

Utilizing the quick passing game and getting the pass catchers the ball in space will allow this Packers offense to pick up yards after the catch, something they’ve been very good at this season and against a defense that has had tackling issues.

With all of that said, the Packers do find themselves very thin at the receiver position currently because of injuries. They will be without Randall Cobb and Christian Watson, while Sammy Watkin’s status is still unknown.

Who will win the turnover battle?

This is slowly becoming a question that I’m asking weekly because of the importance of winning the turnover battle, coupled with the Packers’ inability to do so.

Green Bay currently sits at minus-four in turnover differential, which ranks 27th in the NFL. The offense has lost a fumble in five of six games this season, while the defense has generated just one interception (along with three fumbles). Washington, however, sits at minus-five.

Washington quarterback Taylor Heinicke brings mobility to the position, but he will be playing behind an offensive line that has given up the most sacks and eight-most pressures. If Green Bay can get after Heinicke, he has shown in the past to be turnover prone, throwing 15 interceptions and losing seven fumbles in 2021.

For an offense that is having issues putting up points, the defense can provide them with some help by creating a turnover or two, which will lead to extra possessions and shorter fields to work with.

How will the Packers’ secondary matchup with the Washington receivers?

Last week we saw Joe Barry make several changes in the secondary, including Jarie Alexander playing from the slot as well as following around Garrett Wilson. There was more press coverage and dime personnel as well.

The Commanders have a talented group of receivers led by Terry McLaurin and Curtis Samuel. McLaurin brings big play potential, averaging 16.7 yards per catch this season, and is someone who Alexander said he would like to follow around.

Samuel, meanwhile, plays from the slot and already has 47 targets this season. He could prove to be a tricky matchup for Rasul Douglas, who has had issues at times playing inside.

A matchup that Green Bay will want to avoid is McLaurin lining up across from Eric Stokes, who has really struggled in his sophomore season.

Regardless of where the Packer cornerbacks are lined up, they should continue to play more aggressively in the secondary, with Heinicke at quarterback. While McLaurin brings that home run ability, Heinicke was very inefficient on downfield passes last season–not to mention that on those longer developing plays, it gives the pass rush the opportunity to get home.