The Green Bay Packers head to US Bank Stadium to take on a familiar foe to start the season — but this time the re-tooled Minnesota Vikings might not be quite as familiar. Minnesota’s new front office and coaching staff have kept the roster relatively intact, although there are some key changes in personnel, not to mention a whole new football philosophy.
On the other hand, after the speculation about Aaron Rodgers early in the offseason, the Packers return most of their starting roster from 2021 (sans Davante Adams, of course, in case you hadn’t heard). It may be difficult for Green Bay’s coaches to predict what Minnesota might do in Week 1, all while they’re sorting out uncertainties on their own offense, in particular the receiving corps.
Here are three things the Vikings do well that the Packers need to look out for.
Pressure the Quarterback
The Vikings were among the best pass-rushing teams in the league when they had Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen healthy last year. They recorded a pressure rate of 32% and a sack rate of 8.5% before injuries derailed them. But the numbers dropped after Hunter sustained a torn pectoral muscle on Halloween and Griffen missed the last month of the season.
However, with Hunter healthy and playing opposite of Za’Darius Smith, they are trying to amplify their pass rush even more. The Packers will potentially get their tackles Elgton Jenkins and David Bakhtiari back. Still, they must watch out for these two coming off the edge.
Rodgers had a 77.2% completion percentage and touchdown and interception rates of 7.52% and 0.23%, respectively, when he had a clean pocket last year. Therefore, the biggest key to this game for the Packers will be keeping Rodgers upright.
Get the Ball To Their Playmakers
We all know just how good Justin Jefferson is, and Adam Thielen always seems to take it to another level when he is playing against the Packers. These two, coupled with Dalvin Cook, K.J. Osborn, and Irv Smith Jr., make up one of the best groups of offensive playmakers.
The Vikings should be getting the ball into the hands of these talented weapons as often as possible. Still, their last iteration of the offense seemed hell-bent on getting guys like C.J. Ham involved more often than their primary weapons.
That might be a slight exaggeration. But the last time the Packers saw Minnesota’s offense, they relied on a bold strategy of throwing the ball to Ham and Tyler Conklin. Kevin O’Connell has stressed finding creative ways to get the ball in their playmakers’ hands this offseason. From what we saw of the Los Angeles Rams’ offense when O’Connell was offensive coordinator, he will help his playmakers excel.
Despite the expectations for the Vikings’ offense to shift their focus from the running game to the passing attack, they still kept five running backs on the 53-man roster. These running backs have contrasting styles and are hard to plan for. Everyone knows what a threat Dalvin Cook is, and Alexander Mattison can feast on tired defenders.
The Vikings’ offensive line is also much better in run blocking than pass protection. They can reach the second level when they move forward and create holes for their running backs. Green Bay’s run defense has been revamped through the draft but will have a tough task stopping Minnesota’s ground attack.