The Green Bay Packers have spent the first four games harassing opposing quarterbacks. Can the pass rush create enough pressure in Week 6 to lead the team to victory?
The Green Bay Packers are coming off their bye week and heading to Tampa Bay to face a talented Buccaneers team. At 3-2, the Tom Brady-led Bucs have had their share of ups and downs early in the season but are still poised to be a contender in the NFC. The Buccaneers are coming off a close loss to Chicago Bears last Thursday night and should be well-rested for this week’s matchup.
Allowing quarterback pressures has been an issue for Tampa Bay at times this season. Through the first five games, opposing defenses have hit Tom Brady 17 times and sacked him eight. While they do rank near the top of the league in pressure percentage at 15.5% (Green Bay leads the league at 12.3%), the Buccaneers are tied for fifth in passing attempts, meaning Tom Brady has still been forced to move around and make plays his 43-year-old body can’t do as easily anymore.
The Green Bay Packers’ pass rush hasn’t quite lived up to its hype yet this season, as they rank near the bottom of the league in pressures, hurries, and blitz percentage. The team seemed like they were starting to pick things up a bit in Week 4 against the Falcons, in which they sacked Matt Ryan four times and had nine pressures. Za’Darius Smith seemed to have his breakout game of the season, as three of those four sacks belonged to him.
While an early bye is not generally looked upon favorably, in the weird season that 2020, it just might be a blessing for this Green Bay Packers team. Not only has it allowed them to get several contributors healthy, but the early bye week also gives them the chance to look at the first four games and fix issues that would typically be addressed during the preseason. Obviously, with no preseason games this year, younger players and newcomers were forced into game action for the first time in meaningful NFL games.
One of the newcomers to the Green Bay Packers’ defense this season is inside linebacker Christian Kirksey. Though Kirksey had experience in Defensive Coordinator Mike Pettine’s system in Cleveland, his unfamiliarity with the other defenders seemed to have led to some fairly vanilla play-calling before his injury in Week 3.
Along with Kirksey being new to the team and “quarterbacking” the defense for the Green Bay Packers, they also lost fellow inside linebacker and fifth-round pick Kamal Martin and defensive tackle Kenny Clark earlier in the year to injury. The combination of injuries and a lack of experience playing together appears to have contributed to a less aggressive style of play than most were expecting. The Packers have had comfortable leads for the better part of three of their four games this season and have opted to play a softer coverage, dropping more guys into pass defense and showing less pressure upfront.
After a bye week to rest up, get healthy, and address the issues they’ve seen through the first four games, the Green Bay Packers look poised to make a run at a championship. While the Buccaneers haven’t looked like serious contenders to this point in the season, they’ve got a formidable defense, plenty of weapons on offense, and a quarterback who has made playing in Super Bowls a habit. Tampa Bay should be an excellent matchup for the Packers to measure themselves with coming out of the bye. If the pass rush can keep consistent pressure on Brady throughout the game, they should come out with a victory.