The Green Bay Packers open the 2020 season on the road against the Minnesota Vikings. Check out these five players to watch during Sunday’s game.
The Green Bay Packers will begin the quest for their fifth Lombardi Trophy on Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings inside U.S. Bank Stadium. The Packers are coming off a 13-3 season and a disappointing showing in the NFC Championship game against the San Francisco 49ers.
In 2019 the Packers swept the Vikings. They defeated the Vikings 21-16 in week two and defeated them again 23-10 inside U.S. Bank Stadium.
The Green Bay Packers will look to make it three straight against the Vikings on Sunday. Here are five players that could play a vital in the Packers picking up the season-opening victory.
(1). Brain Gutekunst did little in terms of roster moves to improve Green Bay’s 23rd ranked rushing defense. Instead, the Green Bay Packers general manager is banking on second and third-year players taking a big step forward in 2020.
The move he did make was go out and sign free-agent linebacker, Christian Kirksey. Gutekunst signed Kirksey to a two-year, $16 million contract.
If Kirksey can stay healthy he’ll be a vast improvement over Blake Martinez. Kirksey’s health is a major concern. Over the last two seasons, the former Cleveland Browns linebacker has only played in nine games due to injury.
When healthy Kirksey is the type of player that the Packers haven’t had playing at inside linebacker for quite some time. Before he was snake-bitten by the injury bug, Kirksey recorded 286 tackles, 17 tackles for loss, and six sacks in 2016 and 2017.
By all reports, Kirksey had a strong camp. His play in camp led to some high praise from Gutekunst.
“He’s a very athletic player. He’s obviously proven a lot in this league. He’s healthy and I think he adds a little bit of dynamic ability that maybe we’ve been missing for a little while.”
The Green Bay Packers will find out how quickly how big of an impact Kirksey will have on their run defense against Dalvin Cook. The Vikings running back missed the second meeting between the two teams, but he rushed for 154 yards and a touchdown in the first meeting.
(2 and 3). The last time the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers met at U.S. Bank Stadium, Za’Darius and Preston Smith combined for four sacks, with 3.5 coming from Za’Darius.
They were in Kirk Cousins’ face all game. Cousins could face a similar fate Sunday afternoon in Minneapolis.
The Smiths combined for 25 sacks last season and caused constant pressure. The national media may not give the Smith Brothers the attention they deserve, but you can bet that Cousins is well aware of the impact they have on the game.
(4). Elgton Jenkins quickly turned himself into one of the best guards in all of football during his rookie season. According to Pro Football Focus, Jenkins 616 pass-blocking reps and gave up zero sacks.
The question is, where will he be playing on Sunday? Matt LaFleur didn’t rule it out that Jenkins could kick out to right tackle.
If Jenkins stays put at left guard, the Green Bay Packers have one of the best sides of any offensive line in the league with David Bakhtiari at left tackle and Jenkins at guard.
If Jenkins kicks out to right tackle it will be interesting to see how he holds up outside. The Vikings won’t have Danielle Hunter, but they’ll still have Yannick Ngakoue and Ifeadi Odenigbo.
(5). Aaron Rodgers is entering his 16th year in the league. Time flies when you’re having fun doesn’t it?
Nobody is probably more excited to just play football than Rodgers. He had to answer questions about Jordan Love everywhere he went. What does it mean for his future? Will you finish your career as a Green Bay Packer? The list goes on and on.
Rodgers is coming off a “down” season. A season in which he still threw for 4,002 yards, 26 touchdowns, and just four interceptions.
Rodgers will look to kickstart his “comeback” tour against a team that will be starting unproven cornerbacks and is missing one of its premier edge rushers.
On the other hand, Mike Zimmer coached defenses have always given Rodgers some fits. The Vikings also have a talented safety duo in Harrison Smith and Anthony Harris. Harris accounted for one of Rodgers’ four interceptions.
In year two of LaFleur’s offense will Rodgers look like MVP Rodgers, or will he look more like the 2019 Rodgers? Buckle up. It’s going to be a wild ride!