4 Key things to watch for and final thoughts on Packers vs. Saints

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - SEPTEMBER 10: Romeo Doubs #87 of the Green Bay Packers runs with the ball against the Chicago Bears during the first quarter at Soldier Field on September 10, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - SEPTEMBER 10: Romeo Doubs #87 of the Green Bay Packers runs with the ball against the Chicago Bears during the first quarter at Soldier Field on September 10, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /
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Green Bay Packers
MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA – DECEMBER 25: Kenny Clark #97 of the Green Bay Packers warms up prior to a game against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium on December 25, 2022 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images) /

Can the Packers’ defensive front win the line-of-scrimmage battle?

Another way to combat the Saints’ willingness to push the ball downfield is by pressuring quarterback Derek Carr, something the Packers should have the opportunity to do on those longer developing routes as they face an offensive line that has struggled in pass protection.

Through two games, the Saints offensive line ranks 26th in PFF’s pass-blocking efficiency and 28th in ESPN’s pass-block win rate. Carr has been sacked eight times already, as well. The majority of the pressures allowed have come from two players, left tackle Trevor Penning and center Erik McCoy. Green Bay, meanwhile, leads the NFL in pressures entering Week 3.

Along with not having Kamara or Williams, as already mentioned, the Saints also haven’t had a robust run game to lean on this season. As a team, they are averaging just 3.4 yards per rush, which ranks 24th.

Taysom Hill will present a unique challenge not only for the Packers’ defensive front as a ball carrier but also for the entire defense with his ability to fill a variety of roles. As LaFleur said, we could see him at quarterback, running back, tight end, and receiver.

"“It’s two different offenses,” said defensive coordinator Joe Barry. “It really is, based on who’s at quarterback. They do a really great job. In essence, he’s a tight end, but they line him up at No. 1, and he runs routes like a receiver. They line him up in the backfield like a halfback. Use him in protection, but then also use him in the passing game out of the backfield. But he truly is a weapon when he’s lined up.”"

At the bare minimum, this gives the Packers a lot that they have to game plan for. In the run game, the Packers’ edge rushers have to be disciplined as we are going to see a lot of read-options. The Saints also run a lot of quarterback draws from shotgun with Hill, who could find success against those two-man interior defensive fronts that we see the Packers utilize.

If you can control the line of scrimmage, oftentimes, you can control the game. After a rough week against the Falcons, the Packers will have the opportunity to do that defensively against an offensive line that has struggled in pass protection and a run game that has not been consistent.

Final thoughts on Packers vs. Saints

– I really hope we see more designed plays for Luke Musgrave. He’s been efficient when targeted, but the offense has gone away from him for long periods of time in each game. With him being such a matchup problem, I would like to see more opportunities come his way.

– If Aaron Jones can’t go, I would like to see more of Emanuel Wilson. With the offensive line struggling, the Packers need someone who has the ability to create for themselves. AJ Dillon has not been able to show that.

– Along with Alexander being on the injury report, Zayne Anderson is out, and Innis Gaines was on there as well. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Packers elevate Corey Ballentine, who provides cornerback depth and has special teams experience. Given the injuries to Gaines and Anderson, Ballentine’s elevation may not provide a ton of insight into what Alexander’s status will be.

– Whether it’s Christian Watson or Jayden Reed, I wouldn’t be surprised to see either have quite a few targets from the slot. While this is a very good and aggressive Saints’ secondary, slot cornerback Alontae Taylor has had the ball thrown in his direction quite a bit through two games.

– I’m excited to see how this young offense responds against a very good defense and coming off a game in which the team gave away a fourth-quarter lead.

– Even if the Packers offense isn’t putting together long scoring drives, they have to at least pick up a few first downs on drives to take some time off the clock and give their defense a break. It’s been feast or famine this year for the Green Bay offense, either scoring or punting quickly. As we saw against Atlanta, that can lead to a big discrepancy in total plays ran and time of possession.

– The Saints have a very good special teams unit, which could play a key role, especially when it comes to field position, in a game that very well could be low-scoring.

– Situationally, the Packers offense has been very good on third downs and in the red zone, while on the other side of the ball, so have the Saints. These are always key aspects of any football game, but in a battle of strength vs. strength, the winner probably wins the game.