COMMENTARY | There were some memorable performances, and there were some not-so-memorable performances ,from the Green Bay Packers' Week 1 loss against the San Francisco 49ers.
Several players that you expect to show up on a week-to-week basis, such as Clay Matthews, Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb, all had a positive impact. But the inability to cover Anquan Boldin erased those impressive showings, and some mental lapses and unforced errors were a concern from a team that prides itself on discipline.
Week 2 presents another read-option-based offense with a dual-threat quarterback. That team is the Washington Redskins, who like the Packers lost their opener.
The issue for the Redskins is that their loss came at home, and now coming off a short week, Washington must travel to Lambeau Field as an 8-point underdog. Green Bay fought admirably in Week 1 to bring home a victory and came up just short, but its loss came against the defending NFC champions, and now the Packers have the luxury of playing at home looking for a bounce-back win.
Which five players will play a critical role in whether or not Green Bay can avoid a 0-2 start?
Eddie Lacy (RB)
There wasn't any doubt who the Packers' No. 1 tailback was following Week 1. Rookie Eddie Lacy had 12 more carries than any other player for Green Bay, although he only managed to average 2.9 yards per carry.
In all, Lacy rushed for 41 yards and a touchdown and showed flashes in the second half, and a few solid runs were negated by holding penalties. On Monday, Washington allowed 263 rushing yards -- the most in the league -- and LeSean McCoy accounted for 184 of those yards.
While some of that had to do with the Philadelphia Eagles' new high-tempo offense, Washington clearly has some issues stopping the run, and that should be an area the Packers and Eddie Lacy attempt to exploit on Sunday.
Morgan Burnett (S)
After missing Week 1 with a hamstring injury, Burnett is back practicing with the team and barring any setbacks should be a go against Washington, although he's listed as questionable. His presence was sorely missed against the 49ers -- the Packers allowed 412 passing yards and fill-in safety Jerron McMillian was having his issues in coverage.
Another injury to cornerback Casey Hayward also meant playing time on defense for Jarrett Bush, and that rarely ends well for Green Bay. Hayward has been ruled out this week as well, and Bush (questionable) is battling a hamstring injury, so Burnett will be needed front and center against the Redskins.
The 24-year-old signed a five-year, $26 million contract in the offseason and is someone the Packers rely on to play every snap. He's grown into a leader on defense, so his presence alone would provide the defense with a huge boost on Sunday.
James Jones (WR)
A huge day against the 49ers for Jordy Nelson (seven catches, 130 yards, 1 TD) will likely mean he draws more attention from the defense, and that leaves the door open for James Jones to contribute following his no-show in Week 1.
Jones was only targeted twice and didn't record a catch. Coming into the season, he was viewed as the player that would grow into the No. 1 role following the departure of Greg Jennings, so to have zero impact against San Francisco was inexcusable for the seven-year pro.
Washington isn't renowned for its pass-defense, and there should be plenty of eyes on Nelson, Randall Cobb and tight end Jermichael Finley. Besides, Rodgers likes to try and keep all of his receivers happy, so look for Jones to have his coming out party.
Clay Matthews (LB)
With everyone expecting Colin Kaepernick to run wild in Week 1, the Packers made sure to contain him in the read-option. That's a painful task for Matthews, who would rather be let loose on every play, but he still managed to get his licks in -- Matthews recorded one sack, three tackles for a loss and two quarterback hits.
The Packers may approach Robert Griffin III the same way, although with the second-year quarterback coming off ACL surgery, he won't be running much. Against the Eagles, Griffin only ran five times for 24 yards.
If it's evident that Griffin isn't keeping on the read-option, or at least running, that will allow Matthews to take a more aggressive approach. That could spell a long day for Griffin and the Washington offense -- the Eagles managed three sacks and nine QB hits on Monday night.
David Bakhtiari (LT)
As if the Packers' offensive line situation wasn't already bleak enough entering the season, left tackle Bryan Bulaga tore his ACL, leaving fourth-round draft pick David Bakhtiari to start in his place.
He was the only rookie in the NFL to start at left tackle in Week 1, and against a relentless San Francisco pass rusher, Bakhtiari actually held his own. While the run game didn't really get going, Rodgers was protected adequately when he dropped back to pass -- he was sacked only twice.
However, Bakhtiari will face another challenge this week against a Redskins' pass rush that includes Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo. Washington will likely look to take advantage of the inexperience at tackle, including over on the right side with Don Barclay. But if Bakhtiari and his fellow linemen can have a repeat performance, it will keep Rodgers upright and give him ample time to throw.
Dave Radcliffe is a resident of a little known Milwaukee suburb who is an avid follower of Wisconsin sports. He has contributed to JSOnline, as a featured columnist on other sites and publications, and been a guest on multiple sports talk radio shows.
You can get the discussion going and follow Dave on Twitter @DaveRadcliffe_ .
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- Clay Matthews
- Green Bay Packers
- Aaron Rodgers
- Washington Redskins
- Randall Cobb
- Eddie Lacy