In getting ready for Sunday’s matchup between the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers, I exchanged Qs with Jason B. Hirschhorn of our Packers blog Acme Packing Company about the current state of affairs in Green Bay.
I sent him five Qs about how things are going for the Packers, and he took a bit of a time to send me back five As. For an even more in-depth look at Green Bay, please listen to Rob Staton and Josh Simpson come on Seaside Chats this week for 90 minutes on these teams.
Here is a glimpse at the Packers, from our friends at APC:
Q: Injury-wise, how are things looking for Bryan Bulaga, and if he's unable to go because of an ankle injury, who would start and how do you feel about that? Do you expect Clay Matthews or Nick Perry to be hobbled or slowed down from their injuries?
All indications suggest that the Packers will have Bryan Bulaga in uniform when they kick off against the Seahawks on Sunday. The team held him out of all on-field work during the second half of the preseason as a precaution, and that appears to have given the veteran tackle adequate opportunity to recover from his ankle sprain. If he doesn't end up playing or if he re-aggravates the injury during the game, second-year man Kyle Murphy appears the top candidate to replace him at right tackle.
Clay Matthews and Nick Perry haven't played since their injuries in the third preseason game, but both fully took part in practice thus far this week and shouldn't have any limitations during Sunday's contest.
Q: This will be a rare head-to-head matchup of the Bennett Bros. More importantly though, Seattle has consistently struggled in defending tight ends; how has Martellus Bennett looked so far and what sort of production would you expect out of him this season as the Packers TE?
Outside of catching a touchdown off a fade route during the second week of the preseason, Martellus Bennett hasn't shown much of what he can do for the Packers' offense. That shouldn't surprise anyone; as an established veteran, the primary goal is to stay healthy rather than ball out during the exhibition season.
With the regular season now underway, expect to see Bennett featured more in the red zone and on third down. The Packers have heavily utilized tight ends in this manner in the past, and they haven't had a receiving threat at the position like Bennett since the early days of Jermichael Finley. Bennett probably won't lead Green Bay in receiving, but he could realistically become Aaron Rodgers' most trusted target after Jordy Nelson.
Q: The Seahawks got a little desperate in giving Luke Joeckel $8 million for one season (though not as desperate as some other teams who gave long-term deals to similarly-inconsistent linemen) because they need to keep Russell Wilson healthy. Particularly from pressure up the middle, where Joeckel and Justin Britt will be the key blockers. How do you feel about the interior pressure that will be applied this season by guys like Kenny Clark and Mike Daniels?
Mike Daniels has become one of the league's premier interior pass-rushers over the past few seasons, and he looked every bit as tenacious during the preseason. With Clay Matthews now 31 and Nick Perry yet to prove he can deliver consecutive quality seasons, Daniels again enters the season as the Packers' premier defensive talent.
As for Clark, he appears to have taken a significant step in his development. The two-man line of him and Daniels brutalized offensive lines over the past few weeks. Clark consistently found his way into the backfield even when facing double teams, opening up more opportunities for the other pass-rushers in the unit. Clark also seems like a capable anchor for the run defense, something the team needs given the amount of "nitro" (a third safety taking the place of an inside linebacker) defensive coordinator Dom Capers intends to play. For Green Bay's defense to have a successful 2017, that momentum has to carry over into the regular season.
Q: Wilson has thrown 10 interceptions against the Packers over his their last three meetings; why do you think Green Bay has been so successful forcing Seattle into mistakes and are there any significant changes to the secondary that fans should be aware of? How has Kevin King fit in?
For a quarterback that largely avoids interceptions, Russell Wilson's issues against the Packers feel very perplexing. He seems to take more risks against the Packers, a not totally unreasonable approach given their defensive issues over the past few years. However, he just seems to find the hands of Green Bay defenders far more frequently than he does against any other team.
As for changes in the secondary, the Packers feature several faces at cornerback not with the team a year ago. Davon House returns from a two-year stint with the Jacksonville Jaguars to take over as the No. 1 cover man. Kevin King should see plenty of playing time as well, though his preseason performance suggests he needs more time before Green Bay can depend on him against premier receivers. Meanwhile, newly healthy Quinten Rollins and Damarious Randall should split time in the slot, a change from last season. Plenty of questions surround the group, but it almost can't play worse than in 2016.
Q: I think it's hard to blame Seahawks fans for being optimistic following the acquisition of Sheldon Richardson. Honestly, how would you gauge the temperature of Packers nation in terms of optimism for the overall season?
With the acquisitions on offense and a rebuilt secondary on defense, the Packers have everything they need to emerge out of a winnable conference. The schedule offers some challenges, but most of them take place at Lambeau Field rather than on the road. Meanwhile, the NFC North doesn't appear to have a counterbalance that should affect Green Bay's ability to stockpile wins. All of these factors combine to make Packers fans feel confident in the team's ability to make a Super Bowl run in 2017.