Time to see what the Rams are really up against on Sunday. To get clued in on Aaron Rodgers and all things Packers, I linked up with Jason Hisrchhorn of Acme Packing Company, the SB Nation community for Green Bay Packers fans.
1.) How does Green Bay's offensive line look so far in 2015? Are you confident that they'll be able to hold up against the strength of the Rams' roster in the defensive line?
The interior of the Packers offensive line -- Josh Sitton, Corey Linsley and T.J. Lang -- have played at a high level through the first four games of the season. They have consistently given Aaron Rodgers a pocket to step up into when pressure comes along the edges.
The same cannot be said for the tackle position. Left tackle David Bakhtiari missed most of the preseason with a knee injury and doesn't appear to have fully recovered yet. Over on the right side, starter Bryan Bulaga missed the last two games with a knee injury of his own. His replacement, Don Barclay, struggles mightily in pass protection. Unless Bulaga can return for Sunday's game, look for the Rams to consistently exploit Barclay's weaknesses.
2.) Aaron Rodgers is hitting 72.4% of his passes with 11 TDs and no interceptions. Eddie Lacy is averaging more than 4.5 yards per carry. How would the Rams at least slow down the Packers' offense? San Fran at least held Green Bay to 7 points for a half. How can the Rams match that?
The 49ers certainly had the most success pressuring Rodgers of any Packers opponent this season. They established a pass rush without relying on the blitz and never fell for the hard count. The Rams certainly have the tools to get to the quarterback without sending extra men, whether they can stay onside is another matter.
Still, the Packers play better at Lambeau Field than at Levi's Stadium. Some of the issues they experience last weekend -- false starts, receivers lined up in the wrong positions -- are far less likely to happen again this week.
3.) Defensively, the Packers have held up well. What's the biggest change in the defense from 2014 to 2015? Do you expect it to continue beyond the first quarter of the season?
The change has occurred along the defensive line. Mike Daniels is playing at a Pro Bowl level in 2015, becoming the player the rest of the unit feeds off of. The unit also regained nose tackle B.J. Raji, who lost all of 2014 to a torn biceps. He has solidified the middle of the defense against the run and provided some pass rush to boot. The other end spot has thus far been a rotation between Mike Pennel, Datone Jones and Letroy Guion depending on down and situation. Outside of the team's Week 1 matchup with the Chicago Bears, the defensive line has helped keep opposing rushers in check. Marshawn Lynch finished with less than 50 yards, and both Jamaal Charles and Carlos Hyde had quiet days by their standards.
Overall, the unit probably can't maintain this level of play all year. Attrition will deplete their resources, and the run defense has not performed this well throughout an entire season since 2010. Still, for a unit that has often let the Packers down over the past few years, the improvement could realistically manifest as a title run later in the season.
4.) How are the Packers' rookies showing up in year one? I saw the Ty Montgomery TD drop...yeesh. Are the defensive additions showing up?
At least based on my anticipations, the rookie class has provided more early impact than expected. First-round pick Damarious Randall has become a heavily featured member of the secondary, playing 80 percent of the team's defensive snaps last weekend. For a converted safety, his coverage skills don't stand out negatively at corner. Ty Montgomery has effectively stepped into a starting role with Davante Adams sidelined, and while he dropped that easy touchdown as you mentioned, he has given the Packers at least acceptable play for a rookie wideout.
The rest of the group has remained quiet thus far. Quinten Rollins could see an uptick in play as he better learns the defense, but until then his contributions will mostly occur on special teams. Aaron Ripkowski may eventually replace John Kuhn at fullback, but that won't happen until after the season. Perhaps rookie tight end Kennard Backman has the best shot at making noise with Andrew Quarless sidelined, but he only played three offensive snaps in Week 4.
5.) Big picture time. The Packers have Aaron Rodgers at the peak of his prime. They've made the playoffs for the last six years running. They made the transition from the Mike Sherman/Brett Favre pairing into the Mike McCarthy/Aaron Rodgers era without missing a beat (....ok, 2008 existed, but anyway...). What do you think Packers fans expect or demand from this era? If Aaron Rodgers retires with just Super Bowl XLV offering the only ring on his finger, would that feel incomplete? Would another 5 or so years of annual postseason football suffice? Has Rodgers already accomplished enough in the Packers pantheon or is there something else left he has to do to really complete his career?
Winning championships is hard. Few teams ever win a title, and even fewer win more than one. As you mentioned, the Packers already have one championship during the McCarthy-Rodgers era, and while fans always want as many rings as possible, I think they'll ultimately understand if Green Bay doesn't win another.
Of course, 2015 might be the Packers' best chance for that second ring. The Seattle Seahawks don't look like the world-beaters of yesteryear, the Dallas Cowboys have already lost Tony Romo and Dez Bryant, and we need to see more from the two undefeated NFC South teams before they can be trusted. If Green Bay stays reasonably healthy, the path is open for another Super Bowl run.
Thanks to Jason for the time.