Green Bay Packers

Green Bay's Loss Was A Tale of Two Lines

Photo Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck (USA TODAY Sports)

It’s a truly daunting task to try and find some good in the Green Bay Packers’ most recent performance.

Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Saints was absolutely abysmal. The 35-point loss is the worst in the Aaron Rodgers era, and the blame goes all around. Joe Barry’s squad made one of the worst first impressions in NFL history, Matt LaFleur’s scheme looked like a poor man’s version of Mike McCarthy’s, and Rodgers played a worse game than if he’d thrown the ball into the ground every play.

All of the bad had to start somewhere, right? It’s said that NFL games are won and lost in the trenches, which seems like a good spot to start looking. How did the Packers’ offensive and defensive lines factor into this stinker of a game?

I always prefer to get the bad news out of the way first, so let’s start with the defensive line. One of Mike Pettine’s biggest flaws was his inability to stop the run. Packers fans likely won’t forget being run all over in the 2019 NFC Championship game, and Pettine’s inability to adjust was one reason the Packers went in a different direction this offseason.

Barry was an assistant on one of the league’s best defenses last year; his unit gave up just 112 rushing yards a game on average. The Packers gave up that many yards halfway through the second quarter in Barry’s first game as the Packers’ defensive coordinator — a nice precursor to the 171 yards on the day.

Alvin Kamara, one of the league’s best running backs, had a fairly modest day on paper: 83 rushing yards on 20 attempts, eight receiving yards, and a receiving touchdown. But the spectacle on the field showed the lifeless Packers defensive line had no answers.

Kenny Clark is an elite interior defender, but he can’t do it alone. Dean Lowry and Tyler Lancaster were particularly ineffective. In addition to offering nothing in terms of run-stopping or helping the pass rush, Lowry had a particularly damning red zone penalty, and it’s unclear what exactly Lancaster brings to the team.

Ultimately this was just a bad performance. The Saints’ offensive line dominated the Packers’ defensive line at every turn. Sure, the heat was a factor, and every time the Packers’ defense couldn’t get off of the field exacerbated the problem, but Green Bay’s defenders were manhandled.

Fortunately, the offensive line played much better than its defensive counterpart. The offense was overall terrible, but the pass protectors actually did their job rather well.

First, Elgton Jenkins was by far the most impressive offensive player on the field — and one of the best defenders, too, with tackles on both interceptions. With no sacks, no hurries, and just one pressure, Jenkins was PFF’s second-highest-graded OT in Week 1. It’s hard to see Jenkins going back to guard by the time David Bakhtiari returns. Putting him at right tackle might give the Packers the best group of tackles in the league and allow Billy Turner to move inside.

Despite starting two rookies along the offensive line, both did mostly fine. Josh Myers had the best PFF grades for both interior rookie linemen and pass-blocking rookie linemen. It’ll be a while before he reaches Corey Linsley‘s status, but Myers was encouraging in his debut.

Lucas Patrick actually had a better day overall than Royce Newman, but Newman’s upside is promising, and he played well. His youth and upside likely give him the nod when it comes to the eventual reshuffling of the line.

The line struggled in run blocking; the Packers had a pitiful 43 rushing yards last Sunday. This is an area the interior line needs to improve massively, but LaFleur’s abandoning the run didn’t help matters. After getting down early, Green Bay became one-dimensional, looking nothing like the creative, dominant offense we saw last season.

While it looked like Aaron Rodgers was running for his life at times, it wasn’t due to offensive line woes. Per ESPN’s Rob Demovsky, Rodgers had at least 2.5 seconds to throw on both of his interceptions and went 4/15 on passes with that much time. Rodgers told Pat McAfee he was pleased with his protection on Sunday.

The offensive line will continue to have some growing pains as the rookies develop, and Sunday was a good test. But there’s little to be optimistic about when it comes to the defensive line. If games are won in the trenches, the defensive line is still one of the Packers’ biggest liabilities, something the new scheme was supposed to solve.

Ultimately, the game tape needs to be thrown into the sun. The Packers were awful. They know it, and this game shouldn’t represent who this team is. Both lines have an opportunity to right themselves against the ever-struggling Lions on Monday night.

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