Packers beat writers Ryan Wood and Jim Owczarski discuss the outlook for quarterback Aaron Rodgers being able to play Sunday. USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin
GREEN BAY - Only four teams had fewer rush yards than the Green Bay Packers in Week 1, but coach Mike McCarthy said he isn’t worried about the run game.
For one, the Packers found themselves down 20-0 in Sunday’s second half to the Chicago Bears, forcing them to throw an inordinate amount. But their low rush total — just 69 yards as a team — couldn’t be exclusively attributed to their deficit.
Starting running back Jamaal Williams had 47 yards on 15 carries, averaging 3.1 yards per rush. Backup Ty Montgomery had 7 yards on two carries (3.5). Quarterback Aaron Rodgers had the longest rush, a 15-yard scramble.
Combined, the 3.1 yards Williams and Montgomery averaged on their carries — accounting for the Packers’ running back production — ranked lower than all but one team (Detroit) in Week 1. But that was without Aaron Jones, the big-play threat in the Packers' backfield who is midway through a two-game suspension to start the season.
“I do have confidence in the run game,” McCarthy said. “I think this could be one of the better run-game productions when we sit here at the end of the journey. I really like the way training camp has gone, the amount of work that we’ve put into that, the combination of the new adjustments and scheme that you make every year.
"I think our backs are all a year better. They’re all more confident in what we’re asking them to do this year as opposed to last year. We did some good things in the run game last year. The goal, in my hope, is that we’ll improve off of that.”
Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine has never coached against Vikings offensive coordinator John DeFilippo, but the two are plenty familiar with each other.
DeFilippo was Pettine’s offensive coordinator in Cleveland during the 2015 season. Pettine, a defensive coach by trade, was a head coach then and spent the entire year in offensive game-plan meetings.
Pettine said his familiarity helps prepare for the Vikings' offense but acknowledged DeFilippo could say the same about the Packers' defense.
“We spent a lot of time together,” Pettine said. “So I know how he thinks, and he and I especially that year had a lot of deep conversations just about football concepts in general. About how I was helping him, how to attack a defense, and I was getting his perspective from the offensive side as well.”
After the coaching staff was fired following the 2015 season, DeFilippo spent the last two years as the Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks coach.
“I think he’s done a real nice job incorporating a lot of the elements from the Philadelphia offense,” Pettine said. “You can see it in what he Vikings are doing, and it’s only enhanced what I thought was a pretty good system back in 2015. John is smart. He’s tough-minded. He’ll challenge his game plan each week. It’s not like we can just watch the Niners film (from last week) and say, ‘OK, here’s what we’re going to get.’
“He works and he tries to get one step ahead of you.”
Knocking off the rust
Lane Taylor smiled that kind of resigned, knowing smile that doesn’t mean he’s happy with what he’s about to say but can’t escape its truth.
“A lot of stuff we did, we kind of got in our own way a little bit with our spacing, our technique,” the Packers left guard said of a rough first half against Chicago.
“The second half is a little more of who we are and what we represent. And it’s not just the short game or the tempo, I think you could tell the play was better.”
In the opening two quarters of the Packers’ 24-23 comeback victory over the Bears on Sunday the interior of the line — Taylor, center Corey Linsley and right guard Justin McCray — struggled with penalties, a lack of cohesion on combination blocks and creating a pocket for Rodgers and DeShone Kizer.
As for the reason that was the case?
“Honestly, it’s a little more football just because even if we did get time in the preseason, how much more would we have had? Three or four more drives?” Taylor said. “It really wouldn’t have made that much difference. I don’t think. I’m sure it does help now that we’re all together. Maybe it played a little bit into it, but I think it was just kind of doing too much and getting too tense. Just go play ball. Nothing’s changed.”
The trio improved in the second half when Rodgers returned, but the group knows that to keep their quarterbacks upright they need to start faster Sunday against a very talented Minnesota defensive line.
“Just kind of learn what we did wrong because if they see you can’t handle something another defense could come out and try to do the same thing,” Taylor said. “We’ve got to shut it down and keep working.”