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The Green Bay Packers returned home from Jacksonville with a 0-1 record after an embarrassing Week 1 defeat to the New Orleans Saints at TIAA Bank Field. The Saints manhandled Matt LaFleur’s team from start to finish and scored one of the most impressive wins of the opening weekend. The Packers, meanwhile, must regroup after a humbling loss.
Here are the studs and duds from the Packers’ Week 1 defeat:
AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
LT Elgton Jenkins: The Pro Bowl guard was excellent in his first start at left tackle. He played 57 snaps, including 41 as a pass blocker, and gave up just a single pressure despite facing 2019 first-round pick Marcus Davenport for much of the contest. For a big man who has played most of his snaps inside, Jenkins has surprisingly good feet, and he knows how to use his hands and length to negate edge rushers. OLB Rashan Gary: He led the team with four pressures, including a pair of hits on Jameis Winston. The third-year edge rusher nearly single-handedly caused a turnover on downs when he stuffed a third-down run at the goal line and then hit Winston on his improvised touchdown pass on fourth down. Gary plays hard on every snap. He can be manipulated at times because of how hard he plays, but the energy is always there. Teams are going to start feeling him consistently as a rusher, too. OLB Preston Smith: The veteran had one of the best rushes of the game when won the rep quick and hit Winston, forcing an incompletion. On at least three occasions, he held the edge against the run and contributed to a stop. On play in the first half, he whipped the tight end and lassoed the runner down after a short gain. If nothing else, Smith was as active and energetic in Week 1 as he was in any game last season. He still knows how to play, and now he's properly motivated. TE Marcedes Lewis: He's such a consistent inline blocker, and he even added something in the passing game with a 19-yard catch off a well-designed play. The Packers only had him on the field for 15 plays, a reflection of the game flow and how fast the offense got out of its normal stuff.
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QB Aaron Rodgers: Decisive and accurate throughout his MVP season in 2020, the 37-year-old quarterback was hesitant and inaccurate throughout his 2021 season debut. Even his completions required difficult catches. He killed any chance of a comeback with back-to-back interceptions in the third quarter, including a rare one in the red zone preventing a clear scoring opportunity and a second – the equivalent of an arm punt – handing the Saints seven points. Pressure affected him, especially once the offense turned one-dimensional. Sunday followed a similar script. The Packers got down early, abandoned the plan and then asked the quarterback to play hero ball. He's no longer capable. He hasn't been capable in years. Either Rodgers plays well from the pocket (especially clean pockets) and on play-action or this offense will suffer serious regression. LB Krys Barnes: What happens when the defensive line doesn't get knockbacks and the inside linebackers aren't instinctive or quick enough to make up for the play upfront? You get Sunday's effort against the run. Barnes got swallowed up by the Saints offensive line on too many run plays. Pedestrian play in the middle of the defense could be a problem all season. CB Kevin King: The two completions he allowed on Sunday sum up the King experience. On the first, he somehow got turned around by a deep out while playing off coverage. On the second, he got beat deep and didn't have the recovery speed. He can be disruptive at times pressing at the line of scrimmage but the Packers are asking for trouble every time he's in off coverage. Thanks to never-ending injuries, King no longer has the fluidity or the deep speed to consistently prevent big plays. He also collided with Chandon Sullivan on one of the touchdown passes, providing Winston with a wide-open target in the end zone. DL Kingsley Keke: He added weight this offseason to get better against the run, but it didn't show up Sunday. He got pushed around on the inside. Worse yet, he didn't have a single pressure on 11 pass-rushing snaps. He didn't look like a three-down player in his season debut. RG Royce Newman: Blocking Cam Jordan isn't easy for most experienced guards. The rookie was no match on a handful of snaps, including the game-changing interception on the first drive of the second half. Jordan gave him a quick swim move and killed the play, leading to the turnover. Newman didn't get push in the run game, either. He was dominant at times in the preseason but everything is moving faster in the regular season, and the opposition is better. The rookie must be better. OLB Jonathan Garvin: The second-year edge rusher played 27 snaps while the Packers rotated out players in the front seven and kept Za'Darius Smith on a pitch count. But No. 53 was pretty much invisible. He was a non-factor as a pass-rusher and did nothing of note against the run. His forgettable preseason carried over into the regular season.