The Green Bay Packers gave up 34 points to the Vikings in their Week 1 matchup. How will a banged-up secondary fare this week against Adam Thielen and an emerging Justin Jefferson?
The Green Bay Packers bounced back in Week 7 with a win over the Houston Texans. The offense appeared to be in cruise control for most of the game, but the defense, once again, had some moments of weakness. Though the Packers were missing a few key players on the defensive side of the football, most notably cornerback Kevin King and safety Darnell Savage, they were able to neutralize the potentially explosive weapons of the Texans.
Even though the Vikings don’t possess the depth at wide receiver that the Texans do, they do have a very formidable duo in Adam Thielen and rookie Justin Jefferson. Luckily for the Green Bay Packers, the first matchup between these two teams was Jefferson’s first NFL game, and given that there was no preseason this year, it was the first time he had played at NFL speed. Since his first game in which the Packers held Jefferson to 26 yards on two catches, he’s scored three touchdowns while averaging just over 100 yards per game.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the field, veteran Adam Thielen has been having himself a very productive year as well, averaging 69 yards per game and leading the league in touchdown receptions with seven. However, that seems to be the extent of the production from Minnesota’s wide receiver group, as Bisi Johnson and Chad Beebe have combined for nine catches so far this season, one shy of Jefferson and Thielen’s total touchdowns. In fact, Kirk Cousins has only thrown one other touchdown pass this season, which was in Week 3 to tight end Kyle Rudolph.
While only needing to worry about two wide receivers might sound like a favorable matchup for the Green Bay Packers, injuries are still affecting the secondary. On his Zoom call Thursday, Head Coach Matt LaFleur said that Kevin King had a setback in his recovery and is expected to miss Sunday’s game. Josh Jackson has started in place of King the last two games, and though he hasn’t been a liability, he hasn’t had to match up against a receiver with the talent level of Thielen and Jefferson.
Darnell Savage has been limited in practice this week while also trying to bounce back from a quadriceps injury. Though his status is still unknown for this weekend’s game, if he’s unable to go, the Green Bay Packers will look to Will Redmond, Raven Greene (limited in practice with an oblique injury), or rookie Vernon Scott. With the caliber of wide receivers the Packers will face this week, communication will be vital in making sure Josh Jackson has all the help he needs. Rotating safeties won’t be ideal in making sure that happens seamlessly.
Obviously, the assumption is that Jaire will continue to assert himself as one of the game’s premier cornerbacks and lockdown whichever receiver he is covering. In the past three games, Jaire has held Calvin Ridley, Mike Evans, and Will Fuller V without a catch on only seven targets, so it’s a reasonably safe bet that Alexander won’t have any issues holding his own this week.
Back in Week 1, Thielen did have 110 yards and two touchdowns against the Green Bay Packers. Though the scores came in the fourth quarter of a game that the Packers were well in control of, it served as a reminder that he’s someone who demands respect from the defense. Combine his continued success with the emergence of Justin Jefferson and the injuries to Green Bay’s secondary, and there’s a chance the Vikings could make things interesting on Sunday. Fortunately, Minnesota’s secondary is dealing with more injuries than the Packers, which could lead to another high scoring affair between the two teams.