The Green Bay Packers defense is preparing for a Bill Belichick scheme instead of worrying about which QB will play
GREEN BAY – The chances of Mac Jones playing Sunday against the Green Bay Packers are small. The New England Patriots quarterback reportedly is telling his teammates not to count him out, but his severe high-ankle sprain likely will sideline him for the game.
Still, in Green Bay, the Packers defense is preparing for both Jones and backup Brian Hoyer. And, as they tell it, preparing for two quarterbacks isn’t hard when they’re essentially the same quarterback.
“You watch their scheme, obviously they have different abilities, but not drastic enough to change the whole game plan for one or the other,” safety Adrian Amos said Thursday about the Patriots quarterbacks and scheme.
“Unless you have a quarterback that can just like be preparing for Lamar (Jackson), and if the backup is not Lamar, you just preparing for that scheme. So you prepare for what they do, they both can throw the ball around, and Hoyer has played in the league a lot, for a long time. So it’s preparing for that scheme, what they like to do, but it's not too much of a different approach.”
It was a common sentiment in the Packers locker room.
“Most of the stuff don’t really change,” cornerback Rasul Douglas said. "They still gonna run the same offense."
Jones, the second-year quarterback out of Alabama, had thrown for 786 yards and two touchdowns with a 66% completion rate, while running for another touchdown, before his injury. The consensus in Green Bay is that Hoyer, the 36-year-old who is in his third stint with the Patriots, doesn’t scramble when a play breaks down as much as Jones.
“He can do it," Douglas said. "Not that he wants to; he wants to make the throw.”
In Hoyer’s 13-year career, he’s rushed 117 times for 115 yards and two touchdowns. But his familiarity with the offense and the league are strengths in their own right.
“The experience that they have in the league, to understand the defense you know, the Patriot scheme,” is what makes Hoyer and Jones dangerous, linebacker Rashan Gary said.
Without Tom Brady and as Jones develops, the strength of this Patriots offense rests with running backs Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson.
Harris has 35 carries for 160 yards and two touchdowns through three games. Stevenson has carried the ball 29 times for 145 yards and a touchdown.
“Two good running backs that can run it and cut it and do all the little stuff,” cornerback Eric Stokes said Thursday. But it’s the combined 13 catches for 65 yards that make Harris and Stevenson stand out to Stokes and the secondary.
“Both of them actually is good at coming out of the backfield catching balls," Stokes said, "so you got to be aware of that, too.”
Douglas could either be playing on the outside again as Jaire Alexander continues to recover from a groin pull. Or he could be in the slot if Alexander plays, putting Douglas closer to the ball. Either way, he knows his focus likely will be on the two running backs, either in the box or watching for swings to the backs. And he’s preparing accordingly.
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“Might do a couple more curls, get my shoulders and arms right to tackle,” Douglas joked.
There’s another aspect of the Patriots offense that Stokes wants his defense to remember: their willingness to run on third down.
In the Patriots two losses, against the Miami Dolphins and Baltimore Ravens, they faced 18 third downs. On those 18, they passed 10 times, one of which went for a touchdown, while three led to turnovers. There have been two sacks, and five rushes, none of which moved the chains.
In the Patriots' one win, against the Pittsburgh Steelers, they threw 11 times on third down. They ran five times, either with Jones or Harris. All five of those rushes either went for a first down or a touchdown.
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“Even on third down, you got to be very, very aware because they will still run the ball, they still good at running the ball,” Stokes said. “So you just gotta be very much aware of everything that their running backs got going on.”
The Patriots are coming to Lambeau Field without Brady and maybe without Jones. But the Packers defense is keeping one thing in mind above all as they prepare for Sunday.
“We just gonna have to put up with a lot of things and especially dealing with (coach Bill) Belichick," Stokes said, "you never know what he gonna throw out, so it can be a lot of things you just gotta be prepared for.”