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Can the Broncos’ aerial attack move the ball against the Packers’ secondary?

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Green Bay’s defense is among the best in the league. How can the Broncos keep up?

NFL: Chicago Bears at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

It’s no secret that I hold the Packers in high esteem this year. Since last year’s draft, I’ve considered them a legitimate Super Bowl contender, and through two weeks they’ve done nothing to shake that belief.

How will the 0-2 Broncos match up? To find out, I spoke with Jason Hirschhorn, who writes for NFL.com and the Acme Packing Company.

Our conversation has been lightly edited for clarity.

1st and 10

What are your thoughts on the Packers’ new offense under Matt LaFleur so far?

JH: Schematically, Matt LaFleur’s offense doesn’t stray too far from the one run by Kyle Shanahan. The Packers run plenty of outside-zone runs with play-action concepts built off of them. They’ll use pre-snap motion on a sizable portion of their plays, often run out of tight formations with bunched or stacked receivers. Different plays will look the same for several moments after the snap, giving the offense an additional advantage.

When the offense works as designed, as it did during the first quarter of last week’s game, it plays to Aaron Rodgers strengths, giving him opportunities for shot plays to open wide receivers and easy completions in between. On the ground, Aaron Jones has shown a feel for finding the running lanes.

However, so much of what LaFleur has revealed about his scheme has yet to manifest. Because the offense remains so new to the players, only a fraction has actually shown up during games. That will presumably change over the course of the season, but right now the Packers have leaned on more fundamental concepts rather than the advanced, highly deceptive plays that you see on other teams with similar systems.

Accordingly, we really don’t have enough information to accurately assess LaFleur’s offense, and we probably won’t until halfway through the 2019 season or later.

2nd and 12

Through two games Rodgers has taken 7 sacks, is that concerning? Should Broncos Country expect Von Miller and Bradley Chubb to get some chances at 12 this weekend?

JH: Five of those sacks came during the Packers’ opener against the Bears, who have probably the best defense in the league. The offensive line struggled to keep Rodgers upright during the first half of that game and didn’t fare that much better during the final quarters.

However, the unit did a much better job this past week against the Vikings, keeping Rodgers almost completely untouched until midway through the third quarter. Part of that progress probably relates to the difference between Chicago and Minneapolis’ defensive fronts, but the O-line deserves credit for growing more comfortable in the blocking scheme.

The Packers’ success last week doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve resolved all of their issues. Guards Lane Taylor and Billy Turner have endured major lapses in pass protection, and a competent defense could take advantage of those mistakes. And while the Broncos have yet to register a sack this season, head coach Vic Fangio’s experience with Green Bay gives them an opportunity for a breakout performance.

3rd and 5

What are your thoughts on the defensive performance so far in year two under Mike Pettine?

JH: Mike Pettine has done a commendable job since arriving in Green Bay last year. The Packers didn’t have great defensive personnel in 2018, and most of the true field tilters on that side of the ball eventually went down with injuries. Still, Pettine had the unit performing at a reasonably high level considering the limitations, peaking at No. 18 in DVOA in Week 10. The unit fell off from that point as injuries further reduced the depth, but Pettine showed enough to convince LaFleur to retain him when he took the head-coaching position.

The unit looks vastly improved this season. Obviously, the offseason additions -- Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith, Adrian Amos, Darnell Savage, etc. -- have contributed to that progress. However, Pettine now has more of the types of players that fit his scheme. The combined effect has given the Packers their best defense in several years.

4th and 1

What matchups look most favorable to the Packers in Week 3? Do you have a prediction for the game?

JH: On defense, Joe Flacco will have a hard time moving the ball against the Packers’ secondary. Green Bay has only given up one passing touchdown so far in 2019, and Flacco and Denver’s receiving corps doesn’t stand out as world beaters. And while Fangio’s presence gives the Broncos a chance, I still expect the Packers to emerge victorious in the end.

What do you think Broncos’ Country?

Poll

Who will win Sunday?

This poll is closed

  • 5%
    Broncos by a lot.
    (68 votes)
  • 31%
    Broncos by a little.
    (375 votes)
  • 35%
    Packers by a lot.
    (414 votes)
  • 27%
    Packers by a little.
    (324 votes)
1181 votes total Vote Now